Contest: worst math-related election metaphor

Just kidding: there’s not going to be a contest, because nobody’s beating Andrew Sullivan:

In one simple image, America’s soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm.

What th-?

Googling reveals that I am not the first mathematician to read this sentence and say “What th-?”

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4 thoughts on “Contest: worst math-related election metaphor

  1. Michael Lugo says:

    i’ve seen this before. (Not this exact text, but people seeming to think a “logarithm” is some big unit of measurement.)

    My theory is that “logarithm” is something that writers can assume their audience has heard of, but that sounds complicated and technical.

    It is possible to have an even worse error, though; “ratcheted down a logarithm” would be worse, because it doesn’t even get the sign right.

  2. John Cowan says:

    Long ago at a small liberal arts college, the faculty were meeting to decide which students would and would not graduate that year. The professor of Latin pointed out that a student named Cicero had failed his class. Everybody naturally laughed: not to know that Cicero was the greatest of Roman orators would be to be an ignoramus indeed. But then a professor of mathematics retorted that a student named Gauss had failed calculus.

    Only the mathematics and science faculty laughed that time.

  3. Jim says:

    If you squint your brain, you can kind of imagine how “going up a logarithm” could mean going up by one order of magnitude.

  4. Lisa Carbone says:

    It’s very good to hear that the notion of exponential growth has come into common usage…or is that reverse exponential growth…? Hmmm, confused.

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