"The Piraha tribe is a group living in the jungles of South America. They are well known because they do not have a way to count past two. Studies have shown that tribe members cannot tell the difference between a pile of eight rocks and 12 rocks. They have no number words to distinguish between these two numbers. Anything more than two is a 'big' number." Most of us, frogs and humans alike, are very much like the Piraha tribe. While most of us can count way past two, there does come a point where we lose our grasp of numbers. When numbers get really big, we lose our intuition and all we can say is that a number is really, really BIG. If you look at the English words for million and billion, only one letter is different. yet a billion is a thousand times bigger than a million. I know. It's a tough concept to grasp.
The trick to thinking about large numbers is to relate them to something meaningful. Here a few examples.
- One million is a thousand thousands.
- One million seconds is about 11 and a half days.
- One million pennies stacked on top of each other would make a tower nearly a mile high.
- If you earn $45,000 a year, it would take 22 years to amass a fortune of one million dollars.
- One billion is a thousand millions.
- One billion seconds is about 31 and a half years.
- One billion pennies stacked on top of each other would make a tower almost 870 miles high.
- If you earn $45,000 a year, it would take 22,000 years to amass a fortune of one billion dollars.
- One trillion is a thousand billions, or equivalently a million millions.
- One trillion seconds is over 31 thousand years.
- One trillion pennies stacked on top of each other would make a tower about 870,000 miles high — the same distance obtained by going to the moon, back to Earth, then to the moon again.
- If you earn $45,000 a year, it would take....forget it. Not even worth mentioning!
- One trillion dollars divided evenly among the U.S. population would mean that everyone in the United States would receive a little over $3,000. (This gives a whole new perspective to a budget with a trillion-plus dollar deficit!)
I hope you found this interesting and helpful when you do need to think in terms of large numbers. I do want to apologize here, I incorrectly told you yesterday that today's blog would be on time. Obviously, it's on numbers and that's what is what I meant to type yesterday. Perhaps I was running short on time and that is what was on my mind. I dunno. Anyway, sorry for the confusion.
Please come back by tomorrow for a lesson from Dharma Frog. Whatever it's on, it'll be worthwhile, I have no doubt. Until then,
Fleming, Grace. "Understanding Very Large Numbers." ThoughtCo, Mar. 25, 2019, thoughtco.com/bigger-than-a-trillion-1857463.