June 27, 2009

The Tipping Point

Can anyone guess what this is? It's a graph. At first glance it looks like something increased gradually for a while then suddenly increased a lot, right?
Interestingly enough, the rate of change used to generate this graph was completely constant. I used 5%, a modest increase, and I started with the number 1, a pretty small number. Until the x-axis reaches about 76 you don't really notice much change then suddently between 76 and 96 things get crazy.
Weird, huh? Who'da thunk increasing the number 1 by 5% a few times would do that? Besides trained statisticians, that is.
I leave it to your imagination what that 5% represents. Spread of AIDs? Population growth? Health insurance costs? In the context of green energy legislation, it could represent global warming or how much energy is required to maintain a certain standard of living for a fixed percentage of the world's growing population.
And that's just if you start with number 1. The results are even more dramatic if you start with a less lonely number.
The House passed the renewable energy bill yesterday. I am pleased about this. Of course, it still has to get through the Senate and then I think it has to go back to Committee or something (I'm trying to remember from that 'I'm Just a Bill' song in Schoolhouse Rock but it was never my favorite) and then we'll see. There are some valid objections to this bill, and other objections that are pure fabrication, but I look at this graph and know it's time to make a change.
If any of you made a call yesterday, or faxed, or emailed your Representatives, or even spent a moment in contemplative silence wondering about the future, thanks.
See you in the future.


  1. Finally, the US is catching up on clean energy! Hurray!

  2. I have no idea what your first paragraphs even mean.

  3. Here's the other interesting numeric fact that you may have stored away somewhere. If, at the start of the month, someone gives you a penny and then, on each subsequent day, gives doubles the gift (i.e., 2 cents on day two, four cents on day 3, and so on), by the end of the month you'll have some ridiculous multi-million dollar total. The wonders of exponential growth! Math is my life! (PS: I'm an English teacher.)

  4. Oooh I like that way better! And Kristina don't be so modest!

  5. Yeah, this post might be too smart for me. BUT... I did understand the last one which was basically "go call someone". Talking and also inciting riots are two of my specialties. Just don't make me do anything involving numbers.

  6. Is it the curve showing the increasing the U.S. personal savings rate?

    Nah, just kidding! I'm sure it has something to do with carbon emissions. Tomorrow's debates in the Senate will be worth watching.

  7. I'm pretty sure the graph is about the temperature in my un-air conditioned kitchen during dinner. As the temperature increases, my sweating and discomfort also increase until it's hard to determine whether the steam is coming off of me or the food.


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