Associated Topics || Dr. Math Home || Search Dr. Math

### What does 9,600,000,000,000,000,000,000 mean?

```
Date: 11/20/96 at 09:47:15
From: Anonymous
Subject: Imagining large numbers

Dear Dr. Math,

My class is trying to find out what this number means:

9,600,000,000,000,000,000,000

Thank you.
```

```
Date: 12/11/96 at 21:55:06
From: Doctor Daniel
Subject: Re: Imagining large numbers

Hi there,

That's a really big number!

First, we'll give it a name...

We call 1,000,000 a million,
1,000,000,000 a billion,
1,000,000,000,000 a trillion,
1,000,000,000,000,000,000 a quintillion, and
1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 a sextillion.

Your number is 9,600,000,000,000,000,000,000, so it's 9 sextillion,
600 quintillion. But that's not very helpful; I mean, what's a
sextillion?  To make things easier for me to write, let's say
it's 10 sextillion. Close enough, right?

Let's think in terms of things your class can maybe imagine. Right
now, there are about 5 billion (5,000,000,000) people on earth. If we
divided 10 sextillion by 5 billion, we'd have 2 trillion as the
quotient. So suppose there were something we all had 2 trillion of.
Then all people together would have roughly 10 sextillion of them.

But what do we all have roughly 2 trillion of? It'd have to be really
small, right? It turns out that we all have about that many nerve
cells in our brains. So your really big number is something pretty
close to the total number of nerve cells in people on Earth.  Wow!

That might give you a decent idea of how to imagine lots of big
numbers; you can divide by the 5 billion people on Earth or the
250,000,000 (250 million) people in the U.S.A. to get an idea of
"every person's share."  Then try to find something that we all have
that share of...

Here's another big number, to give another example: How much is
8,200,000,000,000?  The word for that is 8 trillion, 200 billion.
But if we divide by the number of people in the US, that's roughly
36,000.  That's not too bad a guess for, say, how much money the
average person makes in a year in the US (actually, it's a little
high).  So 8.2 trillion is then roughly the total amount of money from
everyone in America's annual paycheck.

Get the idea?  This trick works for a lot of "big, but not too big"
numbers.

at:

http://mathforum.org/dr.math/faq/faq.large.numbers.html

and

http://mathforum.org/dr.math/tocs/large.elem.html

-Doctor Daniel,  The Math Forum
Check out our web site!  http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
```
Associated Topics:
Elementary Large Numbers

Search the Dr. Math Library:

 Find items containing (put spaces between keywords):   Click only once for faster results: [ Choose "whole words" when searching for a word like age.] all keywords, in any order at least one, that exact phrase parts of words whole words

Submit your own question to Dr. Math
Math Forum Home || Math Library || Quick Reference || Math Forum Search