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How Much Is a Trillion?

Everett Dirksen, a Republican Senator from Illinois in the 1960’s, is generally credited with the quotation, “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you are talking about real money.” Today we are well beyond that. The Bush administration set up loans of a trillion dollars to support the mortgage and banking industry. The Obama administration is asking for a “stimulus” package that is also approaching a trillion dollars. How much is a trillion?

The first issue that needs to be determined is where you are when you are counting the trillion. In the US numbering system a trillion is a thousand billion or 1,000,000,000,000. In the British numbering system a trillion is a billion billion or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000. Now that is a lot of zeroes.

Let’s say you wanted to earn $1,000,000,000,000 (US). How long would that take? Let’s assume you make $1,000,000 a day. There are 365.25 days in a year. If you started earning your money the day Christ was born, you would not have earned a trillion dollars until the year 2737.

In July 2008 the world population was estimated to be 6.7 billion. Assuming that a box of Girl Scout cookies is $3.50, with a trillion dollars you could buy everyone in the world 42 boxes of Girl Scout cookies.

Let’s now assume that our universe is a track filed and we are going to run a universal track meet. The sprint distance is from the earth to the moon; the middle distance is from the earth to the sun; and the marathon distance is from the earth to Pluto (some of us still consider Pluto a planet).

Although the distance to the moon varies, the average distance is 384,403 km. To cover a trillion kilometers, you would have to race to the moon and back 1,300,718 times.

The middle distance run is from the Earth to the Sun. This distance is 149,597,892 km and is also known as 1 “Astronomical Unit (AU).” AU’s are used for calculating the vast distances between objects in our universe. To cover one trillion kilometers you would have to run to the Sun and back more than 6,684 times.

Last is our long distance run to Pluto. This is a tougher question because Earth is much closer to Pluto when they are on the same side of the Sun compared to when they are on opposite sides of the Sun. Pluto’s minimum distance from Earth is 4.28 billion kilometers. You would have to go from Earth to Pluto and back more than 116 times to cover a trillion kilometers.

A trillion is an enormous number. Thinking about the Gross Domestic Product of a trillion dollars is mind boggling. Talking about spending trillion dollars on a mortgage/ banking bailout or a stimulus package is beyond comprehension.

One of the links below will take you to a site that is the Windows of the Universe. It's pretty neat.


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