Millions and Billions

So the world now has 7 billion mouths to feed; when I was a kid in the 70’s it only had 3.5 billion. We also need to bail out Greece again by December to the tune of 8 billion euros. And finally when UK social security payments go up by inflation in April, that will add £1.8 billion to the existing £35 billion bill. It has been a week of billions and we all nod. This weekend Lucy told me that DNA is a combination of 3.2 Billion pairs of bases. I didn’t understand that and when I thought about it, I didn’t understand any of the other three previous facts either. You see, like you I can’t understand a billion. I know it’s big, but I have never given any thought to just how big.

So I worked it out with Lucy and tried to make it easy for me to understand. I know there are 60 seconds in a minute, making 3600 seconds in an hour. That makes 86,400 seconds in a day. So far so good. If I started counting now 1 million seconds will have ticked by on Sunday, 20 November 2011. To be precise 11.57 days from now. When will 1 billion seconds have elapsed? Well I’m 50 in less than a million seconds time; in a billion seconds time I will be almost 82 if I’m lucky. 82!

Astonishingly an individual is almost 32 years old before they have lived for a billion seconds, but they passed a million seconds in only 11 days! So next time you hear a billion remember it’s not just bigger than a million, is massively, hugely, stupendously larger than a million. Now the question is; how big is a trillion?