We tend to remember more when things are connected. We tend to remember more when there is a story.
For instance, about 1,000 ants equal the length of one beetle. Rather, one Beetle, 1,000 of which lined end to end equal about the length of Central Park. Imagine that. One-thousand VW bugs lined up along the length of Central Park with one-thousand ants lined up along each bug.
Now another step, 1,000 Central Parks is about the width of Australia, ten of which is about the length of the equator.
That’s a nice story and it gives us some Landmark Numbers.
“What I mean by landmark numbers is something that sticks in your brain, you don’t set out to memorize it but it sticks in your brain as a reference point. It becomes a ready reference for you to relate to. These are numbers where, if you have them ready, they help you make yardstick comparisons of the things you hear about. It’s something where you hear a number on the news you go: ‘Hold on.That’s not a big number because it compares to this landmark number in some way.'” – Andrew Elliott, Talks at Google, December 2018
Another landmark number is 4 million. That’s about the number of Americans of any single age. That’s via Tim Harford.
Landmark numbers fit nicely with Maxims for thinking analytically. Richard Zeckhauser suggests that simple cases, extremes, and everyday analogues help us think better. A basic understanding needs context though, and landmark numbers provide just that.
Similar to Landmark Numbers is thinking like Fermi.