Posted by: rfgarcia | October 9, 2008

Email Forwards and Bad Math

For me, the most terrifying aspect of the internet is the world of email forwards. Unlike newspapers and other legitimate sources of information, the seedy world of email forwards can get away with pretty much anything. As long as the targeted audience of recipients finds it agreeable, a mindless email forward can spread like wildfire.

One group of people that seems particularly susceptible to clicking the “Forward” button is the older generation– namely, my parents. Whether it’s right-wing propaganda from my step dad or terrible jokes from my mom, I usually make a point of trying to reply with a message along the lines of “this isn’t funny,” or “whoever wrote this has half a brain.”

A forward came across my inbox the other day that was particularly interesting:

“I’m against the $85,000,000,000 bailout of AIG. Instead, I’m in favor of giving $85,000,000,000 to America in a ‘We Deserve It Dividend.’ To make the math simple, let’s assume there are 200,000,000 bona fide U.S. citizens 18+. Our population is about 301,000,000 +/-, counting every man, woman and child. So 200,000,000 might be a fair stab at adults 18 and up. So divide 200 million adults 18+ into $85 billion. That equals $425,000. My plan is to give $425,000 to every person 18+ as a ‘We Deserve It Dividend.’

Yeah! Why are we giving $85 billion away when we could each have $425,000 instead? Sounds like a good idea, until you look at the math:

\frac{85,000,000,000}{200,000,000} = \$425,000~\text{?}

Chopping off some of the zeroes and performing a bit of mental math,

\frac{85,000,000,000}{200,000,000}=\frac{85,000,000}{200,000}=\frac{85,000}{200}=\frac{850}{2}=\$425

Finally! An email forward that was provably dumb.

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