Saturday, December 20, 2008

Understanding 0.02 Parts per Billion

Some measures are so extreme that the numbers are hard to grasp. For example:

The chemical that provides the dominant flavor of bell pepper can be tasted in amounts as low as 0.02 parts per billion.

A fraction of one-billionth? Perhaps an analogy would help.

One drop is sufficient to add flavor to five average-size swimming pools.


[The quote is from Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, excerpted in The Atlantic magazine. The original link on The Atlantic’s site is dead, so here is an alternate. For another variant of this theme, see How Big Was That Squid?]

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