Monday, April 02, 2007

Attention Math Geniuses
Browsing a new Newsweek magazine poll on religion in America, I see that 3% of the country identify themselves as atheist, while 49% of the country claims to personally know an atheist. So, if true that means that 3% of the country is personally known by 49% of us. I'm no math guru but this seems impossible. There are some obvious explanations - atheists tend to underreport because of social stigma, or perhaps 49% of people know people they generally consider heathens and have labeled them atheists, maybe unfairly. Or, perhaps atheists are simply the most popular people in any given social setting, so everyone knows them.

But really I'm posting this with another question - could this be one of those unintuitive mathematical realities, like the unexpectedly high odds (over 50%) that 2 people in a random group of 23 will have the same birthday? Could 3% of the population be personally known by 49% of it? Or something close?

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