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Analytical Engine

The English mathematician Charles Babbage, famed for his invention of an early mechanical computer (the so-called "Analytical Engine"), once took issue with one of Tennyson's poems. The poet soon received a letter from the logician:

"In your otherwise beautiful poem," Babbage wrote, "one verse reads,

Every moment dies a man,
Every moment one is born.

"If this were true, the population of the world would be at a standstill. In truth, the rate of birth is slightly in excess of that of death. I would suggest:

Every moment dies a man,
Every moment 1 1/16 is born.

"Strictly speaking," Babbage added, "the actual figure is so long I cannot get it into a line, but I believe the figure 1 1/16 will be sufficiently accurate for poetry."

[If the population of the Earth were to increase at its peak rate indefinitely, by the year 6800, the total mass of human flesh and blood would roughly equal the mass of the known universe.]

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