Views: We have entered the percent-age


Commentary By Melkote Ramaswamy

Life was pure and simple when shirts were made of cotton, skirts of wool and scarves of silk.

Then came polyester to mix things up. Shirts now come in all percentages of cotton and polyester – 65/35, 60/40 and 50/50. Polyester and cotton have made alliances with wool and nylon and rayon.

Time was when milk meant just that – cow’s milk in the U.S. and cow’s or buffalo’s milk in India.

A trip to the grocery stores tells us that percentages have taken over. You now have a choice of getting fat on 3.5 percent milk or slimming down on 1 percent milk. On top of this, you have a choice of 2 percent and skim milk. Coffee lovers want nothing less than Half and Half.

Paper has its own percentage, depending on whether it is newsprint, parchment or wrap. What varies is the proportion of cotton fiber. While the common man may not be fussy, this very much matters to the printer.

Nobody has profited more from percentages than the TV weatherman. Now, it is no longer whether it will rain or not – it is a matter of probability anywhere from 0 to 100 percent. If the forecast doesn’t come true, blame it on the computer model!

Other percentage examples abound: if you are an American male, there is a 5 percent chance that you will live up to 100 years; a U.S. tax-payer has a .01 percent chance of being audited by the Internal Revenue Service; the probability of our being hit by a meteor is 0.0000001 percent; and there is a 50 percent chance that the Nobel Prize in physics in 2018 will go to an American scientist.

With the rapid growth of market research companies and more and more Americans willing to offer their opinions, one can expect percentages to figure in all kinds of surveys and situations.

Unwittingly, we all have entered the Percent Age.