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In early May, news raced around the world that the population of India had crossed the one billion mark, making it officially the world's second most crowded place (beaten only by the 8:15 from Central). While reading or watching this news, it may have occurred to you to wonder: how exactly do they know that? Well, it crossed our minds at Bytesback, anyway. We pictured teams of people in white coats combing the country with abacuses, notching one down, two up, until the magic number was reached.

Much to our disappointment, this was not the case. In fact, the billion mark was based on UN estimates of when India would have 1000 million people, going on the trends of the past few years of population growth. A digital display was set up in the heart of New Delhi, counting up the estimated numbers until, at 12:56 p.m. on 11 May, it would cross the billion.

Problem: it didn't. A few days before the happy day, the clock stopped suddenly, and refused to proceed. We hesitate before sharing with you the image that popped into our minds then: of thousands of pregnant women being asked to "hold it in" until a new clock could be located.

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