22 Words

Saved so far. Join the Cause!

Sufficiently accurate for poetry — A scientist’s funny critique of an imprecise poem

Sep 25, 2012 By Abraham

Charles Babbage was an English mathematician, engineer, and inventor known for being one of the originators of the computer. Sometime in the 1840’s he read Alfred Tennyson’s poem “The Vision of Sin,” and, though he enjoyed it in the main, he noticed an error buried in the middle of the work.

Not one to let niggling annoyances go, apparently, Babbage wrote the following letter to Tennyson, suggesting an improvement to the couplet in question. We may assume (I hope!) that it was composed tongue in cheek…


In your otherwise beautiful poem “The Vision of Sin” there is a verse which reads – “Every moment dies a man, Every moment one is born.” It must be manifest that if this were true, the population of the world would be at a standstill. In truth, the rate of birth is slightly in excess of that of death.

I would suggest that in the next edition of your poem you have it read – “Every moment dies a man, Every moment 1 1/16 is born.”

The actual figure is so long I cannot get it onto a line, but I believe the figure 1 1/16 will be sufficiently accurate for poetry….


As seen on Huffington Post, CNN, BuzzFeed, New York Times, Scientific American, Mentalfloss, USA Today, Funny or Die, Gawker, Gizmodo, Laughing Squid, Boing Boing, Hot Air, Jezebel, Neatorama

About 22 Words

22 Words collects a blend of everything from the serious and creative to the silly and absurd. As your source for the crazy, curious, and comical side of the web, 22 Words can be counted on to share funny and fascinating viral content as well as more obscure (but equally interesting) pictures, videos, and more.

© 2016 | 22 Words

Privacy Policy