Making Numbers Count:
The Art and Science of Communicating Numbers
by Chip Heath and Karla Starr
After finishing this book in January of 2022, I wrote,
"I've always loved numbers and felt comfortable with them. This book showed me inspiring ways that numbers could jazz others too, as well as making them more fun to communicate."
My clippings below collapse a 198-page book into 6 pages, measured by using 12-point type in Microsoft Word."
Here are the selections I made:
[What's the difference between a million and a billion? Can you feel it?]
Consider this thought experiment designed to help people understand the difference between “a million” and “a billion.” You and a friend each enter a lottery with several large prizes. But there’s a catch: If you win, you must spend $50,000 of your prize money each day until it runs out. You win a million dollars. Your friend wins a billion. How long does it take each of you to spend your lottery windfall? As a millionaire, your encounter with runaway consumerism is surprisingly short. You go bust after a mere 20 days. If you win on Thanksgiving, you’re out of money more than a week before Christmas. (Sorry, Cousin Ana, the lottery money ran out before we bought your present, but we did get you the Orange Crush umbrella!) For your billionaire friend, resources would hold out a tad longer. He or she would have a full-time job spending $50,000 a day for… 55 years. Approximately two generations. Almost 14 presidential terms. One wait to hear your name called at the DMV. 1 billion—1,000,000,000—is a number.
We might think we understand it because it’s right there, in black and white, but it has so many zeros that our brains fog up. It’s just “lots.” When we see how much larger it is than a million, it comes as a surprise.
The U.S. government has a 5 A Day campaign that’s designed to encourage kids to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. McDonald’s alone outspends this campaign by a ratio of 350 to 1.
We know the fast-food companies have big ad budgets, we know that they outspend healthy messages, but 20 times more, 143 times more, 350 times more? What’s the big deal?
The higher numbers get, the less sensitive we get to them, a phenomenon psychologists have labeled “psychophysical numbing.” Moving on the number scale from 10 to 20 feels significant. But moving an equal distance from 340 to 350, even though it’s the same increase, we feel nothing… that’s “numbing.”
McDonald’s alone outspends the 5 A Day campaign by 350 to 1.
watching McDonald’s commercials, they spend 1 minute on 5 A Day.
If a child sees a McDonald’s commercial every single day, it would take them almost a year to see just one commercial about 5 A Day.