Posted by: ktzefr | June 9, 2010

Say it with Numbers…

I bought a new bookcase for my study last week to handle the overflow of books piled on the floor and the dining room table and the dresser and any number of other places throughout the house.  I had books double-stacked in one bookcase — the ones in front standing, the ones in back lying flat (I had forgotten all about these; out of sight, out of mind).  I have hundreds of books — in the living room,  study, bedrooms, kitchen, and basement.  I have no clue how many books I own.  To guess would be like gazing at one of those huge jars of pennies.  Maybe someday, when I have nothing better to do, I’ll count them.

I’m a word person; I don’t have much use for numbers.  But, in the process of cleaning and reorganizing, I was drawn to the accumulated junk — old journals, writing and research notes, pictures, odds and ends — and was amazed by the way so much information can be expressed in numbers.  Sometimes it makes sense, other times it seems unbelievable, and occasionally the numbers shock.  Here are a few of my discovered tidbits (and, I’m sorry to say, I don’t have a clue where I got any of these “facts,” but they obviously caught my attention at some point and seemed important enough to record and keep).


— The universe is a BIG place.  There are perhaps nine galaxies for each one of us — roughly eighty billion galaxies.  Each galaxy has at least one hundred billion suns.  In our galaxy, the Milky Way, there are four hundred billion suns — give or take 50% — or sixty-nine suns for each person alive today.

— There are 270 million Americans, 19 million people who live in Mexico City, 16 million in greater New York, 26 million in greater Tokyo.  Every day 1.5 million people walk through Times Square in New York; every day, almost as many people (1.5 million) board US passenger planes.

— Lightening strikes somewhere on earth about one hundred times — every second!

— For every one of us living people, including every newborn at the moment it appears, there are roughly one thousand pounds of living termites.

— Our chickens outnumber us four to one.

— We drink more than a billion cups of tea a day (I don’t know how much coffee).

— We speak 10,000 languages.

— 100 million children live on the streets.  120 million live in countries where they were not born.  23 million are refugees.  12 million fish for a living from small boats.  2,000 each day commit suicide.  More than 2 million die each year from diarrhea.  800,000 die from measles.

— Stalin starved 7 million Ukrainians in one year.  Pol Pot killed 2 million Cambodians.  The flu epidemic of 1917-18 killed 21 million.

— Los Angeles airport has 25,000 parking spaces.  At 5 people a car, almost all of the Inuit people in the world could park at LAX.  You could fit into that lot all of the world’s dead from two atomic bombs or the London plague.  But you could not fit America’s homeless there — even at nineteen people to a car!

— 1/5 of us are Muslims.  1/5 of us live in China.  Almost 1/10 of us live in range of an active or temporarily dormant volcano.

— A ton of micrometeorite dust falls on earth every hour.

— On April 30, 1991, a single day, a tropical cyclone hit Bangladesh.  138,000 people drowned and 10 million were left homeless.


As I said…I’ve never had much use for numbers.  But I have to admit that sometimes a number can tell a story that’s too difficult to put into words.


  1. I’m always enthralled by facts and figures like the ones you cited, Katie, as you are so right that they oftentimes tell a story all by themselves. Unfortunately, when it comes to sharing these fascinating tidbits of information, my memory always seems to take a vacation. Try as I might, I never am able to remember the numbers (this, from someone who in 8th grade wanted very much to be a math teacher!), which of course is what makes these stories so compelling . But, hey, all is not lost. Since I subscribe to your blog, I can pull up all these facts and figures on my cell phone via the email link! Phew. Admittedly, not as good as instant recall, but it works for me!

    • I’m a total pack rat. I keep everything in notebooks, on scraps of paper, files, etc. Most of it, to be honest, is worthless. Occasionally, something is amusing or comes in handy.

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