On an average, a four-year-old asks 437 questions a day. An interesting fact. Precise and to the point. Says my dictionary, a fact is a “thing that is known to have happened or to be true or to exist”. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that. But one comes across so many fantastic-sounding facts in life that we find it nigh impossible to believe them. How many times have you said, “No way! That cannot be true.” But these do make us ponder hard.

Facts make conversations interesting, scholastic lectures realistic, evidence or findings concrete and tirades exciting. In short, it plays with our conscience and brings out our perspective on the issue. “An estimated 0.7 per cent of the world’s population is drunk at any given time.” Such a fact, if introduced in a conversation, makes the chitchat more interesting and peppy. Next time you’re out drinking, mull over the 42 million tipplers, then.

A statement of “around three babies are born every second” will certainly make more of a impression than a bland “thousands are born every day.” The more in-depth yet precise statement of fact, the better. What a great difference there is between saying “Kathmandu is highly polluted” and “The pollution level in Kathmandu is twice the internationally safe standard.”

In any discussion on AIDS, assumptions make little impact on the listeners. But when the conversation turns to the precise number of deaths caused by the disease, one is at once staggered and awe-stricken.

Consider a few more. “For every 10 successful attempts to climb Mt. Everest, there is one fatality”. If ten have made a successful climb on a trot before you, beware! But, in some cases, generalisations, in the garb of facts, can completely cloud the truth. For instance, nine out of 10 people believe Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, when, in truth, it was Joseph Swan who did.

Catchy headlines similarly distort many a fact. The trouble is, if they fail to draw people’s attention, the stories wouldn’t be read either. Hence there exists a thin line between a fact and a hint. By the way, can you tell me the original name of the glitzy LA, California? Simple. “El Pueblo la Nuestra Senora de Reina de los Angeles de la Porciuncula.”