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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 10^{12}, 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