An otherwise-excellent article in the Business section of the Saturday New York Times contained a howler that Paulette spotted and pointed out to me:

... On a per-capita basis, that means Japan consumed the energy equivalent of 2.8 million tons of oil per person in 2004, in contrast to 5.4 million tons per American. Germany, another energy-conscious country, used 3.2 million tons per person. ...

A quick calculation suggests that the author (and editor, and proofreader) erred by a factor of about a million. At the quoted rate of consumption every wasteful American would use a barrel of oil (worth several tens of dollars) every second. Whew! And later in the same piece there's a freshman-physics dimensional error, confounding kilowatts (power) with kilowatt-hours (energy). Times editor Greg Brock responded to my gently prodding note — which began, "Howdy! I presume that you have already heard from many technically-literate readers about the huge mistake ..." — with:

Indeed, we have. Dozens. Ugh. And it is being corrected.

Thank you for reading The Times, Mr. Zimmermann, and for taking the time to write and point this out. (Sometimes it is the opposite — only one reader writes. So don't ever hesitate to alert us to an error.)

... a graceful response to an unfortunate slip.

(cf. "The Land of Rising Conservation" by Martin Fackler, 6 Jan 2007 New York Times)

TopicScience - TopicHumor - 2007-01-08

Comment 9 Jan 2007^ at 14:16 UTC

Seems likely they were using the same math principles as the RIAA or MPAA use when calculating "lost revenue". Hope for the Times' sake the *AA haven't patented the method.

(correlates: BiggerPictures, EvolvedDeceivers, MagneticStuds, ...)