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Writer offers visuals for ‘parts per million’

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Posted: Saturday, February 23, 2013 12:00 am

Advances in analytical equipment technology and in measurement techniques allow us to detect and trace elements in "parts per million," "parts per billion" and even "parts per trillion." The following comparisons help put these numbers in better perspective.

We can think of "one part per million" as one inch in 16 miles, one minute in two years, one penny in $10,000, one ounce of salt in 31 tons of potato chips, one baby in 57 million abortions and one bad apple in 2,000 barrels.

We can imagine "one part per billion" as one inch in 16,000 miles, one second in 32 years, one penny in $500 million of Planned Parenthood public funding, one pinch of salt in 100 tons of potato chips, one baby in 100 million abortions and one bad apple in 2 million barrels.

We can see "one part per trillion' as one postage stamp in an area the size of Dallas, one inch in 16 million miles, $1 in a $16 trillion deficit, one second in 320 centuries, one gnat on 360 million camels, one baby in one billion abortions or one bad apple in two billion barrels.

These comparisons bring to mind some things my dear old dad used to say: "Give them an inch and they'll take a mile; if they'll privatize our gain, they'll socialize their loss; life is precious and time is of the essence; a hundred pennies saved is a dollar earned; knowledge is salt to our words; we'll swallow a camel and gag on a gnat; one bad president is the proverbial 'bad apple.'"

William Van Amber Fields


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