Thursday, March 16, 2017

Working on My Third Billion

by Pa Rock
Rock of Ages

I subscribe to a free e-newsletter entitled "What I Learned About Today" which showcases interesting information that might prove to be of value should I ever make it onto Jeopardy.  Today's focus article concerned ways that humans can get a grasp on the actual size of really big numbers:  millions, billions, and trillions.  A million, for instance, was presented as seconds where a million seconds equaled roughly eleven-and-a-half days - and a million pennies stacked one atop another would form a column nearly a mile high.  Most days I walk four to five miles, so I can readily see that four to five million pennies would be a mess of coinage.

A billion, being a thousand millions, is even more challenging to comprehend.  A billion seconds amounts to thirty-one-and-a-half years, meaning old Pa Rock has completed two billion seconds on this relentlessly spinning mud ball and is now working on his third billion.  A billion pennies stacked up neatly in a single column would top out at almost 870 miles in height.  (Nobody sneeze!)  The entire population of the world is currently estimated to be 7.5 billion.

One thousand billions make a trillion.  That means if every man, woman, and child on the planet took off their shoes (for those fortunate enough to have shoes) and counted all of their digits, including fingers and toes, one by one, the total would be a paltry 150 billion, far less than even one trillion.  One trillion seconds would eat up almost 31,000 years, and one trillion very carefully stacked pennies would be about 870,000 miles high, or the equivalent of a trip to the moon and back to the earth and up to the moon a second time.

Trump says that he wants to pour one trillion dollars into improving our nation's infrastructure over the next decade - that would be in addition to the two-and-one half trillion dollars already budgeted for infrastructure improvements over the next ten years.

A segment on NPR this morning looked at what that would actually look like when the rubber hit the road, so to speak.  A mile of highway in an urban area costs eight to ten million dollars to construct, and somewhat less in rural areas.  NPR postulated that the Trump budget for infrastructure could rebuild all of the nation's roads, with some left over.  Trump, however, is boasting of updating roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, and hospitals.  The NPR piece quickly showed that would not happen with a paltry trillion dollar increase in spending.  An airport alone can run six to eight billion, and an additional three subway stops in New York City would cost at least four-and-a-half billion.  The NPR segment concluded that necessary infrastructure improvements in New York City alone would total one hundred billion dollars a year.

Clearly Donald Trump will not be able to get all he wants with his trillion dollar infrastructure investment.

So, when it comes to pennies, a trillion dollars is yuuuge - but with infrastructure, not so much!

And through it all Pa Rock keeps on a-tickin':  2,187,946,878 - 2,187,946,879 - 2,187,946,880 . . .

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