Oops, my error in the trillions

Published 1:41 pm Tuesday, March 30, 2010

To the Editor:

With respect to my March 17 article, How large is a trillion? I received a call from Meg Duncan of Green Creek saying some of my math didnt exactly add up.

I had tried to use the math that Congress uses, but unlike Congress I couldnt get away with it. Meg was on top of things so accordingly I will have to publish a retraction 63,360 times two is not 12,720 as stated in the article but rather 126,720. My figure was off by a factor of ten, not bad by congressional standards.

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And as a further embarrassment my friend Jackson Smith pointed out that a quarter has a diameter of one inch, not one-half inch as I had stated. This would mean that a trillion quarters lined up side by side would extend for a distance of 15,720,000 miles, a distance equal to 67 one-way trips to the moon rather than 67 round trips.

Once again, unlike Congress, I could not even get away with an exaggeration of the benefits as small as a factor of two. This is unfair and I protest.

Nevertheless, in the future when I use numbers, especially big ones, I will ask my wife to proof read the paper before I send it in. That way I wont be wrong less often, but at least I will have the opportunity to place the blame on someone else.

Jim Cooper