This forum is about wrong numbers in science, politics and the media. It respects good science and good English.
The British government officially adopted the 'short-scale' system (one billion = 1x10^9) in 1974.
"The British government officially adopted the 'short-scale' system (one billion = 1x10^9) in 1974."
I think the British government has been using the short billion for most of the 20th century. They've certainly been using it for financial purposes since the second world war, and possibly even before that. You can't really do financial stuff on some sort of informal basis, so it would have to be regarded as 'official'.
The idea that it was adopted in 1974 comes I think (I've seen the BBC claim this) from a PMQ question answered by Harold Wilson:
Wilson states that a billion is understood internationally to mean a thousand million, but he accepts the idea that other people in Britain outside government (which could include the news media) might continue to call it a million million.
But if you go back to 1941, Winston Churchill, prime minister at the time, was asked about the definition of a billion and stated that "for all practical financial purposes a billion represents one thousand millions, especially in the case of anything we owe".
Many thanks, Dave. I stand corrected. (I'm glad we can blame the French, as usual >p) )
Interviewed on the BBC (yes, naturally the BBC has jumped straight on this new green scam bandwagon - see Davids post a little way down, remarkably prescient - and I fully expect to see population take over from climate change as the necessary inclusion in everything from Spring Watch to Antiques Roadshow; perhaps we ought to list all the key BBC programs and log the exact dates when population first gets mentioned in each and we need to search their pension funds to see where the in vestment goes now) they admitted there can be no precision and no one can know the exact numbers nor the exact date on which that 7 billionth person is born.
So one has to assume that since this is the new green scam (still waiting to see where the money is - apart from population research grants - and appointments to UN Intergovernmental groups) they chose the date for purely PR reasons.
I guess next question would be how they came about to this calculation of the earth's capacity to sustain human life, when it is considered 'over population' and whether milliards or millions were estimated to begin with.
I bet the way to estimate the population is way off and with a huge number of uncertainties.