Suggestion: Count in terms of stadiums

You occasionally hear of weird ways of measuring things. Perhaps the best baseball example is the Altuve, which measures things based on the size of Astros 2B Jose Altuve. But one baseball-related unit of measure I sometimes use when I envision things is based on the capacity of stadiums.

It works to help give yourself some context. Stalin is said to have once quipped that “The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of a million is a statistic.” And, the sad thing is, that is more-or-less true: you may well cry your eyes out if you hear the story of a man dying of cancer, but when you hear that tens of thousands of people have died in a war, it’s far harder to quite grasp the magnitude. Thinking in terms of stadiums changes that, giving you an idea of scale, of just how many or how few of something there is.

For example, when one hears that there are, say 12 thousand Humpback Whales (I’m just guessing that number off the top of my head- it may well be fewer) left in the world, you have no idea of how many or how few that is. But when you consider that the top, standing-room-only capacity of your local AAA ballpark is only a little greater than that, you realize just how few Humpback Whales there are.  Suddenly, you have that perspective

Take a look at some of the numbers in the news recently, for example:

For example, the American economy added 155,000 jobs in December (source), which is sort of a weird number to think about. So, instead, perhaps it’s a better idea to imagine that as about three Yankee Stadiums worth of newly employed people (it’s actually a little more than that as Yankee Stadium’s baseball capacity is 50,287).

Between 600,000 and 800,000 are expected to attend the inauguration in Washington. Or, to put it another way, that’s between 14 to 20 Nationals Parks.

Of course, it gets a little more difficult the higher numbers go. 19 million people watched last night’s Big Bang Theory, and saying that that is the equivalent of a little more than 339 Dodger Stadiums doesn’t quite give a good idea of scope, does it? I mean, other than it saying that a lot of people watched it.

Still, a good way of getting your head around big numbers: use stadium capacities as a guide!