One in a Million

“Orders of magnitude” is a mathematical way of understanding the world around us.  For example, Earth is seven orders of magnitude (7 powers of ten) larger than the man asleep at the picnic in Chicago; a human is three orders of magnitude bigger than a bee. In Powers of Ten , exponential growth (by powers of ten) shows how rapidly things change from one perspective to the next.

Looking at the image of Earth (10+7), suppose global population growth increases at a faster rate than usual; how would that impact related issues like food production, urban planning, and education in each country?  Basically, if one factor changes then everything starts to change, since they are all interrelated.  Or as Charles Eames once said: “Eventually, everything connects.” An example of how we fit in with the world around us can be viewed in the Scale of the Universe.

When things reach a tipping point (“how little things can make a big difference,” as Malcolm Gladwell put it) things seem to happen quickly because they are happening exponentially. The expression “one in a million” doesn’t quite have the special ring to it as it used to.  As explained in Did You Know We Live in Exponential Times?, if you are “one in a million,” then there are 1,300 people just like you in China alone. The expression may need to change to “one in a billion”!

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