“In your otherwise beautiful poem, one verse reads, ‘Every minute dies a man, Every minute one is born;’ I need hardly point out to you that this calculation would tend to keep the sum total of the world’s population in a state of perpetual equipoise, whereas it is a well-known fact that the said sum total is constantly on the increase. I would therefore take the liberty of suggesting that in the next edition of your excellent poem the erroneous calculation to which I refer should be corrected as follows:
‘Every moment dies a man, And one and a sixteenth is born.’
I may add that the exact figures are 1.067, but something must, of course, be conceded to the laws of metre.” - Charles Babbage to Tennyson
“Passages from the life of a philosopher” is the highly eccentric quasi-autobiography of Charles Babbage which dedicates a chapter – 25 pages, with tables – to how much he detests street musicians, and another to an analogy between the origin of the universe and the manufacture of Gloucester cheese. He discusses descending into the fuming caldera of Mt. Vesuvius, his ambitions to solve chess by searching its entire game tree using the Analytical Engine, and attempts to summon the devil as a youth.
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