Understanding Large Numbers
Date: 01/14/98 at 03:25:24 From: Elizabeth Wynn Subject: Making large numbers relevant Dear Dr. Math, I have a project for school where I need to make 30 billion (U.S.) relevant to everyday life. Do you have any suggestions?
Date: 01/15/98 at 16:01:36 From: Doctor Daniel Subject: Re: Making large numbers relevant Hi there, Large numbers are a pain that way--it's even more of a pain to deal with numbers like the number of atoms in the Earth (roughly 10^40, I think) or the universe (10^60?), but even numbers like 30,000,000,000 can be somwhat hard. I often try doing things like this: If it were U.S. Dollars, and I divided the amount by all of the people in my town (or state, or country, or on Earth), how much would we be able to buy? So, for example, I live in Ithaca, New York, which has roughly 50,000 people in it. That would mean every person in the city would get $600,000. That's still a lot more than I've ever had; if I use the entire State of New York (15 million people); then we each would get $2000. Another trick which can work reasonably well is to imagine a moderately large number as a fraction of the number of cells in your brain. Of course, I've forgotten how many brain cells the average person has [maybe that says something about me...], but you could look that up in an encyclopedia. Say it was 150 billion. Then 30 billion brain cells would be 1/5 of your total brain. Another trick I've used before is to figure out how many seconds there are in a given amount of time; I believe 30,000,000,000 seconds is roughly 1000 years! Maybe these will help? It's a fair question, but one that has no easy answer. Much luck with your project! -Doctor Daniel, The Math Forum Check out our web site! http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
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