One-upping Charles Babbage

I’d forgotten about Randall Munroe’s “What-If?” series. Reading through the recent ones, I noticed that one addressed death rates, a subject Mr Munroe seems to be somewhat of an expert on (more so than most people, anyway). He begins,

Every second, 1.8 humans die and 4.2 humans are born.

So it appears we can update Charles Babbage’s quip:

… it is said that he [Babbage] sent the following letter to Alfred, Lord Tennyson about a couplet in “The Vision of Sin”:

Every minute dies a man,
Every minute one is born

I need hardly point out to you that this calculation would tend to keep the sum total of the world’s population in a state of perpetual equipoise, whereas it is a well-known fact that the said sum total is constantly on the increase. I would therefore take the liberty of suggesting that in the next edition of your excellent poem the erroneous calculation to which I refer should be corrected as follows:

Every minute dies a man,
And one and a sixteenth is born

I may add that the exact figures are 1.167, but something must, of course, be conceded to the laws of metre.
Charles Babbage and his Calculating Engines

(the source, which has a few other good ones as well)

I’ll just end by noting that the revised revision would read, “And two and a third are born”, which has the added benefit of actually having the same number of syllables as Tennyson’s original.

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