Friday, July 09, 2004

Inflationary Theories

Yesterday I picked up a copy of the free weekly paper. One of the letters to the editor was by a very impassioned man who was vigorously defending the decision to go to war in Iraq. In addition to the flaw in his main premise (He claimed that if someone or something was likely to kill Americans, then we were obligated to devote all our resources to its defeat.), one of his supporting arguments showed a lack of number sense.

He stated that chemical weapons could be hidden in three or four tanker trucks buried in the desert and that one tanker truck could hold ten million gallons of WMD. That number seemed really large to me. Really, really large. So I worked it out. If you have a rectangular container which holds ten million gallons and your container is 10 feet wide and 20 feet high, do you want to guess how long it is? A little over a mile.

It seems that estimation is a lost art.