Saturday, May 23, 2009


This article asks what is one trillion? A trillion is a million million, or 1,000,000,000,000. A one followed by 12 zeros. Or 1e12 (1 times 10 to the power of 12) for mathematicians. Can we image what this is? The US $1 note has the following dimensions: 155.956 mm × 66.294 mm x 0.10922 mm. That got me thinking and getting out the calculator I reached the following facts. Here are some guiding examples to stir your imagination of what 1 trillion is:
  • $1 note is 0.10922 mm thick. = 0.00010922 m = 0.00000010922 km = 1e-7 km. Hence, 1 trillion $1 notes stacked are: 10,922 km = distance from London, UK to Seoul, Korea = 2.5 times the distance from LA to NYC. In short, the stack would run from LA to NYC, back to LA again and one more time from LA to Oklahoma.
  • $1 note is 155.956 mm long = 0.155956 m = 0.000155956 km = 1.55956e-4 km. Hence, 1 trillion $1 notes lined up are: 1.5e8 km = 155,956,000 km = 4000 times around the earth = 500 times the distance earth to moon = a bit more than the distance earth to sun. In short, one trillion dollar bills placed end to end would reach 96.9 million miles, far enough to reach the sun.
  • $1 note surface size is 155.956 mm × 66.294 mm = 0.155956 m × 0.066294 m = 0.000155956 km × 0.000066294 km = 0.00000001033894706 km² = 1.033894706e-8 km². Hence, 1 trillion $1 notes have a surface size = 1.033894706e+4 km² = 10338.947064 km².
  • One trillion seconds equals 31,546 years; that's 315 centuries;
  • The average new car costs $28,400. $1 trillion would buy more than 35 million cars.
  • India has a population of 1,096,000,000. 1,000 times the people in India make 1 trillion people.
  • The world population in 2007 was 6,587,890,000. 1 trillion is 150 times bigger. So if we hand out $150 to each person on this planet we hand out 1 trillion dollars.
  • There are an estimated 306,507,000 US residents in 2009. If we split 1 trillion dollars across all US residents we can hand each one $3,262.
  • There are 3e9 base pairs in the human genome. 1 trillion is 300 times bigger than the base pairs in the human genome.
  • As of 2003 there are 5e10 observable galaxies. 1 trillion is 20 times bigger.
  • The human brain has around 1e11 neurons. 1 trillion is 10 times bigger.
  • There are 4e11 stars in our galaxy, the Milky Way galaxy. 1 trillion is 2.5 times as big as all stars in our galaxy.
  • There are an estimated 3,500,000,000,000 (3.5 trillion) fish in the ocean.
  • The human body consists of roughly of 10 trillion human cells.
  • If you are born on Jan 1, year 0 (like the year of the birth of Jesus), and you spend $1 million every single day up to today (2009 years later), then you have spent only 733,285 million dollars, and you have still 266 thousand million dollars left to spend before you reach the $1 trillion limit. You can spend $1 million every day for 2,740 years to spend a total of $1 trillion.
  • Likewise, if you spend a generous $1,000 a day (that is a high income salary of $365,000 a year), you can spend $1,000 a day for 2.7 million years before you spent $1 trillion. A dinosaur with $1 trillion in his pocket, who spends $1,000 daily for more than 2 million years would still have money left in his wallet today.
Sources: a and b and my calculator.

The current crisis of the financial sector and their bailouts will cost 4 trillion dollars (and counting, because the crisis is not over). Some people put a total figure of 15 trillion dollars on the total cost. The US budget deficit in 2010 will be close to 2 trillion dollars. Everything is in the trillions now.

If we take a family with 2 adults and 2 kids, then the 15 trillion cost for this single family is: $195,754. How is the average family going to pay back $200K?

And with trillions of debt and the chosen quantitative easing there is only one possible outcome: inflation.

PS: Have a look at this great visualization of a million dollars, a trillion and the US debt.

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