Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 6

[miscellaneous paragraphs]

« The 'sweating' system, » a correspondent writes, « is not altogether of recent introduction in the printing trade. I was publisher of the Wanganui Times for some time during the war. I was offered £16 a week, and was told that I could 'employ some boys.' I declined the offer. Shortly afterwards one James Fisher came from Melbourne, and in conjunction with Birchall, a compositor, accepted the terms, and I left. Their frequent quarrels shortened the life of the irascible editor. The number of boys employed on the Ballance papers even now, if known, would not be gratifying to the devotees of the 'labor' idol. »

In the old « science » of astrology, there is much of interest to the student of the past. But the pseudo-astrology of some of the newspapers is almost too absurd to be ludicrous. It is suggested by a West Coast paper that « the unusual activity of Tongariro may be due to the planets Jupiter and Venus being closer together just now than usual. » It is further of opinion that « the outbreak of la grippe two years ago may have been due to the juxtaposition of Jupiter and Saturn. » This latter conjecture is matched by the theory of a home « scientist, » that the influenza epidemic is attributable to the volcanic dust ejected from Krakatoa in August, 1883, and which he imagines is just beginning to settle down!

American papers seem to have definitely adopted the misleading French notation, in which a thousand millions is styled a « billion. » The confusion resulting from this misnomer is endless. We find it reported that 240 billions of cigarettes are annually manufactured in the United States. Even if 240,000,000,000 is intended, the number seems incredible. A Melbourne writer is indignant at some unknown colonist reporting to a Chicago interviewer that the aggregate indebtedness of the Australian colonies is « a billion sterling, » of which one-fourth has been devoted to unproductive objects. Reckoning the quarter as £250,000,000.000, he brings it to £28,574 each for every man, woman, and child in the colonies. On the basis of the Chicago billion, however, this stupendous sum is reduced 99·9 per cent., and becomes something less than £28 15s. We have met with only one English arithmetic book in which the French notation is followed, and that is an old one formerly in use at Sandhurst military college. No clearer-sighted mathematician than the late Richard Proctor ever lived, and he vigorously assailed the French scheme. As he pointed out, the « bi-, » « tri-, » a quad-, » &c., of the arithmetical series must indicate second, third, and successive powers, otherwise they are worse than meaningless. In the English scheme they are correctly applied—in the French they are altogether misleading. The English series proceeds—10, 102 = 100; 103 = 1000; 104 = 1002 = 10,000; 105 = 100,000; 106 = 10002 = 1,000,000. Then the second series begins: 1,000,0002 = 1 billion; 1,000,0003= 1 trillion, &c. The point at which the change is made is arbitrary—it is at the fourth appearance of a second power; but in no case can the French « billion » represent what its name imports—a second power in a decimal series. 1002 is ten thousand; 10002 is one million; 10,0002 is one hundred millions; and 100,0002 is ten thousand millions, or ten French billions. Instead of being a second power, the French-American billion is an anomalous number, the product of 106 × 103. It is difficult to understand where the alleged beauty of the French system comes in. The more it is examined, the more absurd, arbitrary and unscientific it appears. If British communities are wise, they will hold on both to their national notation and their national standards.