Sunday 7 September 2008

Probability of the end of the world

From The Independent on Saturday (in the print edition, I can't find it online):
The Large Hadron Collider...the possibility that it could create an apocalyptic black hole... . One estimate has put the chance at 1 in 1,019. To put that in context, you have a one in 1,011 chance of spontaneously evaporating, while you shave.
I trust that is wrong about the probability of the end of the world, and, as to the spontaneous evaporation, with millions of people shaving each morning thousands of them must be disappearing each day. I've never seen that reported in The Independent!
I presume the numbers should have been 1019 and 1011, and the superscipt formatting has got lost - a common enough event. But, clearly someone has at a later stage put it the commas for the thousands, unaware of the meaning or significance of the numbers.

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