Exact count of the number of trees on the planet was only off by a factor of 8

Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

In need of a hearty laugh? Consider this:

9/4 – Los Angeles Times – We finally know how many trees there are in the world – Until this week, scientists knew there were 400.25 billion trees on the earth. That level of precision tells us the scientists knew to within one-hundredth of one percent how many trees exist. They are confident of their count plus or minus one tree out of every 40,000.

Except they were wrong.

New analysis with much more detailed technology allows calculation that there are 3.04 trillion trees. That would be 3,040 billion. Not 400B, but 3,040B.

An increase by a factor of 7.595. Let’s just call that seven and a half, or round off to 8.

Scientists are now certain there are eight times more trees on the planet than they were certain of before.

Other articles:

9/3 – ABC News – The Number of Trees on Earth May Surprise You – Knowing their colleagues were off by a factor of 7.5 up until today, the arrogant scientists conducting the study have been able to precisely calculate the number of trees has dropped exactly 46% since humans started cutting trees to cook dinner.

Not half.

Not somewhere between 40% and 50%.

Exactly 46%.

9/2 – Nature – Global count reaches 3 trillion trees – Again, a 46% drop in 12,000 years.

There were precisely 5,630 billion trees on the earth 12,000 years ago. That’s 5.6 trillion.

Silly me. I didn’t realize modern satellites and ground-based sensors had a way-back feature reaching to 11,940 years before space travel was possible.

Or maybe it is just a completely wild guess. Nah. It is an exact, precise calculation.

Let me think through what this long-running error rate based on lack of knowledge by scientists might look like in other areas of life…

How many bedrooms does my home have? Four. No, wait. Just counted again and I have 30 bedrooms. Sorry ‘bout that. Must have forgotten about the third through tenth floor. All that construction over the last several years just slipped my  mind.

How many sales reps does  your company have in the field? I’d say 50 based on how many chairs we set up for our all-hands-on-deck, company-wide sales meeting last Friday. Oh, wait. Didn’t look at last month’s sales reports before answering. Actually we’ve had 375 great sales people since the first of the year.

How many grandchildren do you have?  Eight. … Hold on a sec. What’s that honey? … Oh, right. She just reminded me we sent out 61 birthday cards to the grandkids in the last 12 months. Sorry ‘bout that. Huh? … Oh, she says we are up 5 grandkids in the last year who obviously haven’t had a birthday yet.

Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com
Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

After you stop laughing, try to remember this story about the exact number of trees on the planet the next time scientists or researchers tell us some tidbit about nature with absolute precision and complete confidence.

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