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Sufficiently Accurate for Poetry: Charles Babbage and the Analytical Mind


So doing research for an alternate history I’m working on, I read through the Wikipedia entry on Charles Babbage and was particularly struck by the following passage:

Babbage once contacted the poet Alfred Tennyson in response to his poem “The Vision of Sin”. Babbage wrote, “In your otherwise beautiful poem, one verse reads,[43]

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 version of your poem should read]:

Every moment dies a man,
Every moment 1 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 made me LOL, and I thought I’d share.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. What an awesome moment. Perhaps Mr. Babbage was a stranded, time-traveling Vulcan.

    April 28, 2011

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