Teaching Physics with the Physics Suite

Edward F. Redish

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A trillion dollars!

When traveling through an airport early in 2009, I passed a billboard opposing government borrowing to revive the economy. The billboard stated something like, “If you took a trillion dollars in $10 bills and passed out one every second, it would take you nearly 2000 years to get rid of them all.” Given that a trillion is 1012, is this correct? On the other hand, there are a lot of people in the US. If you had 2000 years to meet them one at a time, how much time would you have with each person? Are either of these numbers relevant in evaluating how big $1 trillion is? Can you come up with a more relevant number? Be sure to clearly state your assumptions and how you came to the numbers you estimated, since grading on this problem will be mostly based on your reasoning, not on your answer.

Page last modified February 25, 2010: G41