Irony, Thy Name Is Approximately Irony.

Read this at http://www.sciencedaily.com/videos/2007/1012-alice_teaches_kids_to_program.htm (sorry — the news is almost 8 months old):

The demand for computer programmers has never been greater, yet there has been a 50-percent drop in the number of computer science majors over the past seven years — especially among women.

How can a 50-percent drop be “especially” anything? Let me re-order this sentence, so the grammar problem is more offensive: “Among women, there was an especially 50-percent drop.”

You can’t… you can’t use an adverb there, people.

Is it because a computer scientist wrote this article? Like, maybe it’s a press release, so some programmer was tasked with cranking the story out, rather than a real journalist? But then, why would a math-and-language-minded person have such a blind spot to grammar? Maybe they’re too dependent on debuggers for correcting their linguistic errors?

Whatever the case may be, I find it ironic that the error is in an article about simplifying programming languages.

Now it has me thinking about a programming language construct for “approximately”. How would a language interpret

x ~= 50

Maybe the tilde says “within 1% of the last significant digit,” so that if you want 49-51%, you say ~50, but if you want 49.9-50.1%, you say ~50.0. 

I don’t know where it would be useful, except as a shorthand method of saying 49 <= x <= 51. And with the latter you can specify your own approximation.

Or maybe the tilde says “within the first standard deviation”, and if you want “within X standard deviations”, you just use more tildes, like

 x~~~= 50

Whatever. “Especially 50-percent.” Sheesh.