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On Precision and Poetry

Charles Babbage is famous for designing one of the first computers in the 1820's and the Babbage principle that high-skilled workers should focus on tasks the need their skillset.

Babbage once read a poem by Tennyson that he felt was inaccurate, and wrote to Tennyson to correct it:

"In your otherwise beautiful poem, one verse reads,

Every moment dies a man,
Every moment one is born.
... If this were true, the population of the world would be at a standstill. In truth, the rate of birth is slightly in excess of that of death. I would suggest [that the next edition of your poem should read]"
Every moment dies a man,
Every moment 1 and 1/16 is born.

Strictly speaking, the actual figure is so long I cannot get it into a line, but I believe the figure 1 1/16 will be sufficiently accurate for poetry."


(This post is in memory of Shah Munjee, one of the many unsung engineering heroes that created the miracle of modern aviation, and a lover of such tales, may he rest in peace).

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