More than a *$&#ing shitload

China produces 56,432,811 tons of tomatoes annually.

What are you picturing when you read this sentence?

And would it have been different if it were 28,216,405 tons of tomatoes?

A difference of 50% is huge. Yet our brain doesn’t necessarily experience it that way with large numbers.

An episode of the TV show Bullshit! explains this nicely.

Penn, an overweight American in a suit, stands behind a table. On that table are cups with chocolate candies: N&N’s.

His producer doesn’t allow him to mention brand names.

The first cups contain 1, 2, 3 and 4 N&N’s. Penn eats them and explains that he understands this well. 3 is 3 times as much as 1. But still, it’s not much.

5 to 8 N&N’s is already better: he calls them ‘a few’. And 10 to 30 N&N’s are ‘a bunch’.

There are many things Penn would like to eat ‘a bunch’ of.

Then we come to ‘a lot’ (10 bunches). And after that it’s just a big pile. An assload, a shitload, etcetera.

On the table is a cup with 2347 N&N’s. Penn explains what that means for his ‘monkey brain’: ‘more than a mother*$&#ing shitload’.

Do you ever communicate about large numbers? Try to make them relative. Or to relate them to something your audience can imagine.

For example:

Facebook has 2.9 billion users. About a third of the world’s population logs in monthly. If Facebook were a country, it would have the most inhabitants in the world.