Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Million Billion Trillion

Million, Billion, Trillion.
Similar sounding words that have very different meanings.

With these numbers being tossed around a lot these days in financial, statistical and general media reports, the general public could be forgiven for dismissing or not really understanding the impact and implications these similar sounding words really represent.

I remember in the late 80s reading a publication about the then U.S. national debt and seeing that dollar amount compared to seconds in time.
My memory of the exact time, numbers and publication has escaped me now but I do remember being very surprised by the results.

So today I decided (with help from Google) to do my own research and number crunching and I have to admit, the results have once again surprised me and in fact, seem a lot more daunting than they did back then.
Not just because the current U.S. national debt is a LOT more substantial, but because my calculations differ a lot from my memory of the article.

So, all though they sound similar, that's where the similarity ends.

One Million:
If you started counting every second of time from now, you will reach one million seconds in approximately 11 days and 20 hours. Or 11.575 days.
Likewise, you could blow a million dollars by spending $1 every second, 24 hours a day, for 11.575 days.
Doesn't sound that long does it! Lets replace the M with a B.

One Billion:
The difference between an M and a B is substantial. Instead of taking 11.5 days to count or spend $1 every second, you would need to count or spend $1 every second for approximately 31.71 year’s o_0
The difference between an M and a B is enormous, from under 2 weeks to over 30 years.
What will replacing a B with a Tr do?

One Trillion:
Now this is where the mind starts to boggle and the head starts to hurt. Replace B with Tr and the scale in time moves from taking 31.71 years to an amazing 31,688 years.
Yes, that’s "thirty one thousand six hundred and eighty eight years"

To make sure I had the right "Trillion", I turned to NASA for the answer.

"In the U.S., one trillion is written as the number "1" followed by 12 zeros (1,000,000,000,000)."

So I recalculated it in Google, this time using the numerical form of one Trillion and got the same result.

According to the "US Debt Clock", the current U.S. national debt sits at 12.1 Trillion dollars and steadily rising (which is twice what I thought it was).
Assuming their correct, if the US were to start paying $12.10c every second, 24 hours a day 7 days a week 365 days a year, it will take 31,688 years to pay it off. (Not taking into account added interest or future debt).

A couple of other numbers I found interesting while researching this article, is that light travels at approximately 186,000 miles per second and there are approximately 32 million seconds in a year.
12 Trillion divided by 186,000 = 64.5 Million.

So if the US were able to pay $186,000 dollars towards their debt every second, and kept it up 24/7/365; they would clear the U.S. national debt in 64 million seconds which is around 2 years. :D

With that in mind, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

PS: With the way my mind is currently boggling and head hurting, quad checking my figures for accuracy has been halted. If you spot any mistakes in my number crunching, please let me know and I will adjust them accordingly. TIA

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