Fellow freelance science writer Russ Swan emailed to bring a significant figure to my attention. He’s just been reading the #1 New York Times bestseller Book of Useless Information and in it learns that China produces 278,564,356,980 eggs per year. Not only is that a lot of chickens, but that’s a lot of omelettes, scrambled eggs, meringues, sunnyside ups, over-easies, cake mixtures, chucky eggs, eggs Benedict, curried eggs, deviled eggs, egg and cress sandwiches, French toast or eggy bread, pickled eggs, and good-old boiled egg and soldiers, .
But, it’s not the recipes nor the chickens that concerns the Sciencetext site, oh no! It’s the precision with which that egg count is given. With more than a billion people, keeping essentially countless chickens, in a vast nation, who managed to count the egg output to twelve significant figures? If they’d said about 300 billion, that estimate would have been clever enough, but this number gives a count down to the last egg.
I’d hate to have been the guy ticking off the tally, especially if I got interrupted because of a bird flu outbreak just as I was approaching egg #278,564,356,900 or thereabouts.