Friday, November 14, 2003
Journalists and math: Vanity Fair's Graydon Carter illustrates why most journalists shouldn't be allowed anywhere near numbers.
We'll start with an absolute oh-my-God-what-was-I-thinking howler. Surely by now someone has told Carter of this utterly astounding error he (and his fact checker, if he even has one) has made here: not knowing the difference between a trillion and a quadrillion. He'll never live this one down.
- $6.84 quadrillion (yes, quadrillion) -- Current national debt.
- $9.3 quadrillion -- Estimated national debt by 2008.
This puts Carter off by a factor of 1000. The Office of Management and Budget's Midterm Update for 2004 confirms that it's actually trillion (yes, trillion), which is 1000 times smaller than quadrillion (yes, quadrillion). Quadrillion (yes, quadrillion) means one followed by 15 zeros, while trillion (yes, trillion) means one followed by only 12 zeros.
What I'm curious to see is what next month's correction looks like.