Monday, March 23, 2009

From Millions to Trillions

When I was introduced to the concept back in grade school, I had a hard time grasping the idea of a million somethings. The number is so large that I couldn't get my mind around it. That's back when we still called rich people millionaires.

Most of the examples my teacher used focused on the distance a million objects would cover--like back and forth to the moon three times. I have a hard time estimating when I've walked, biked or driven a mile. These distance examples didn't do much to improve my understanding of very large numbers.

Fortunately I found other examples. A million seconds is about 12 days. The refrigerator-sized container pictured here holds one million pennies. A million is a huge quantity, no doubt about it. But you can get a handle on how many somethings a million is.

I didn't pay that much attention when the government started talking billions instead of millions. A billion is a much larger number than a million, though exactly how much larger depends on where you live. Believe it or not, some countries define a billion differently. Anyway, in the U.S., a billion seconds is about 31 years.

I can sorta get the concept of one billion when you're talking about seconds. I will have been alive for two billion seconds in another 11 years or so. Talking about anything else, like say dollars, is just mind boggling.

Now our elected officials are talking about trillions. A trillion seconds is a bit less than 32,000 years. Again, I can relate when you're talking about seconds. But they're talking about dollars. And not just any dollars, but taxpayer dollars. Mind boggling. For every trillion dollars spent, think about a dollar per second for 32,000 years to pay it back--not including interest.

It's enough to make just about anyone....

The Crotchety Old Man

1 comment:

MadeMark said...

Thanks for putting a million into perspective, and commenting that it 'used to' mean rich. Now it's not so much, but I'd still be happy with a million $$.

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