Here's a tasty measurement tidbit for you public relations measurement and social media measurement types. Did you know that human beings naturally think of numbers logarithmically? Today's delancyplace.com excerpt is from Alex Bellos' book "Here's Looking at Euclid: From Counting Ants to Games of Chance -- An Awe-Inspiring Journey Through the World of Numbers."
In it we learn that certain Amazonian Indians and kindergarten-aged children in the U.S. think of measurement as a logarithmic scale, rather than a linear scale. (Recall from your high school math that a logarithmic scale is a scale of measurement that displays the value of a physical quantity using intervals corresponding to orders of magnitude, rather than a standard linear scale.) Even though children in the U.S. begin to think of measurement as a linear scale by the time they are in second grade, in some instances adults still think of numbers logarithmically.
Here's a quick summary, (read the whole excerpt at delancyplace.com):
Even though most of us have learned to think about numbers as evenly spaced, as if on a ruler or number line, it has long been more natural and common for people to think about numbers logarithmically...
"Why do Indians and children think that higher numbers are closer together than lower numbers? There is a simple explanation... The Munduruku [Amazonian Indians] and the [kindergarten] children seem to be making their decisions about where numbers lie by estimating the ratios between amounts. In considering ratios, it is logical that the distance between five and one is much greater than the distance between ten and five. And if you judge amounts using ratios, you will always produce a logarithmic scale...
...understanding quantities in terms of exact numbers is not a universal intuition; it is a product of culture... Our deep-seated logarithmic instinct surfaces most clearly when it comes to thinking about very large numbers. For example, we can all understand the difference between one and ten... Yet what about the difference between a billion gallons of water and ten billion gallons of water? Even though the difference is enormous, we tend to see both quantities as quite similar-as very large amounts of water... The higher numbers are, the closer together they feel."
--Bill Paarlberg, Editor
(Thanks to Kate Fletcher for the image!)