Visualizing Large Numbers

Category: Philosophy

Pile of Money

I'd like to share an exercise that will help you visualize large numbers.

We rattle off numbers like one million and one billion all the time, and with today's government budgets, even one trillion. But for most of us those are just numbers.

I'd like you feel just how big these numbers are.


Pretend that you've been given a building with a billion one dollar bills in it, and to claim them all you have to do is vacuum them up.

Your vacuum cleaner can pick up four dollars a second. You vacuum for eight hours straight. How much money are you making?

$4 a second x 60 seconds = $240 a minute x 60 = $14,400 an hour x 8 = $115,200.


$115,200 isn't bad for a day's work, but working 40 hours a week, it's going to take you 69.4 hours, or 8 and 2/3 days before you make your first million.

Here you thought you were raking it in, didn't you? At the end of your first year you have $28.8 million dollars, if you took a two-week vacation and worked 50 weeks.

That's a lot of money, but hardly a dent in the billion.


To vacuum up the entire billion dollars, working 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, with two weeks of vacation and no sick days, it's going to take you...

Are you ready for this?

Are you sitting down?

It's going to take you 34 years and 9 months to vacuum up a billion dollars.

That's a career, not a windfall!


Let's look at that again. You're making $4 a second, $14,400 an hour, $115,200 a week, and $28.8 million a year - $28,800,000.

At that rate it's going to take you almost 35 years to make a billion dollars.


OK, let's talk about a trillion.

A trillion is 1,000 times a billion.

1,000,000,000,000 = 1 trillion.

So if it takes you 34.72 years to pick up $1 billion, how long will it take to pick up $1 trillion?

That's right - 34,722 years. Now that's a BIG number.


For Bonus Points: At $400 a second, working 24/7, how long will it take to vacuum up enough money to pay the United States' National Debt?



Sit with this article a while. Think about it. Visualize it and try to wrap your mind around it.


A billion seconds ago it was 1980.

A billion minutes ago was the time of Jesus.

A billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.

A billion days ago no one walked on the earth on two feet.

A billion dollars ago was only a couple of hours ago, at the rate the US government is spending money.


When you think you're ready, go to our next exercise, Planets and Stars.

Dr. Jim

Google+ info about the author

My hosting company - we try harder!
2011 Visualizing Large Numbers. Some of the links on this website may generate a commission for me. Thank you. (c) 2011-2019 by Jim Carey -
Powered by Joomla 1.7 Templates

Find me on Google+

DMC Firewall is developed by Dean Marshall Consultancy Ltd