Don't mind me… just here to take over the world…

How big ARE those numbers?

So, I was on my way home and noticed a nice storm cloud ahead with some pretty lightning. Oooo Ahhh. But what really got me going was looking up at those clouds and wondering, “How much water is up there anyway?” So I googled it.

Not a lot of great results off that initial search, but it was done by voice search on my Android so I’ll let it slide. The answer I decided to go with was from answers.com.

According to that answer, 36 trillion gallons of rain fall every day from the sky to the earth. I did not check anywhere else for a more accurate answer as, honestly, my thoughts then went elsewhere and I no longer cared.

I began to think about trillions. Millions of millions. We hear these words spouted all the time and, at least for me, they don’t really carry the weight they really should to support the numbers behind them.

I thought to myself, “How can I get a grip on the magnitude of these numbers?” The only real way is to count them out…. I did not count to one trillion. Or even one million. In fact, I only counted to one hundred. I timed how quickly I could do so, and I extrapolated at best case from there. I counted out loud as quickly as I could, and I did three test runs to get an average. I allowed that the numbers did not have to be particularly distinguishable, just audible enough that I could hear them in my head and somewhat out loud. I caught myself cheating a few times trying things like repeating 1-20. Whenever I did this, I stopped and started over. So here are the results.

I can verbally count to 100 in about 26.6 seconds.

Below is a table describing how long it would take, at this excruciating pace, to count to various other numbers:

Counting to takes (seconds) or
1 thousand 266  4.433 minutes
10 thousand 2,660  44.333 minutes
100 thousand 26,600  7.3888 hours
1 million 266,000  3.078703703 days
10 million 2,660,000  ~ 1 month
100 million 26,600,000  ~ 10 months and 1 week
1 billion 266,000,000  8.4348 years
10 billion 2,660,000,000  84.348 years
100 billion 26,600,000,000  843.48 years
1 trillion 266,000,000,000  8,434.8 years

Anyway, I think that illustrates my point well enough. If you would like to extrapolate further, just multiply by 10.

The magnitude of some of these numbers is made that much more awe-inspiring when you realize that, if you were able to count to 1 million in just over 3 days (counting at full speed, non-stop, mind you), it would take you well over 8,000 years to count to 1 trillion. Your journey would still be just beginning at only one 1-millionth of the way done.

Maybe this post has blown your mind and given you a new respect for the truly breath-taking size of some things. Maybe you already had this kind of respect for magnitude and see this post as child’s play. Or maybe you could care less and this has been a total waste of your time. Whatever it is, let me know your thoughts below.

And as always, have a great day!