Sunday, 13 June 2004

Maybe if they squeeze up a bit...

Next Friday, 18th June 2004, will be a significant day in the history of both the Isle of Wight and the People's Republic of China.

A few years ago it was announced that the population of China, which had been increasing annually by 20 million, had reached 1.25 billion. On hearing it, the social historian Alan Coren remembered that he had been told as a child that all the Chinese, then numbering 400 million, could stand on the Isle of Wight, and, being also something of an arithmetician, immediately set out to find out whether this was still the case.

It is a known fact that the Isle of Wight covers 147 square miles, or 455,347,200 square yards. With certain assumptions, it was not difficult to establish empirically that three Chinese could stand within a square yard, so therefore the Isle of Wight can accommodate 1,366,041,200 of them.

Hence, at the time of the announcement the 1.25 billion would have had room to spare and could even, like Hancock's mother's gravy, have moved about a bit.

But for how long after that?

20 million per annum is 54,795 per day, so (taking account of the two intervening leap years) Coren worked out that the last day on which the population of China will be able to get on to the Isle of Wight (ferry services permitting) will be next Friday.

On Saturday, 54,795 Chinese will have to stand somewhere else.

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