Sorry, I’ve been ranting about the money issue forever. But currently, the quantity “a trillion dollars” keeps getting thrown around as if people understand the magnitude of the number. Let’s see if we can gain insight together. (I’ve just ground out the numbers, and I can’t believe the results…) Suppose we were to lay one trillion dollar bills on each other and see just how high the stack goes…

The rascal below is my digital caliper measuring the thickness of a dollar bill. It’s coming up with a thickness of 0.0045 inches. (In fact, a dollar bill is supposed to be around .0043 inches thick, but whatever.)

The point being that a dollar is around four one thousandths of an inch thick. Now, imagine laying that single dollar bill nice and flat on your living room floor and then carefully laying another on top of it… Wait! Wait! Wait! That won’t work – the stack will be too tall. So instead take the dollar bill out on your deck, and again lay it flat and rest another on top of it… No… That won’t work either – your deck would never be able to hold the weight. Alright, put the dollar on a nice flat piece of earth and cover it with another, and then another, and then another… Do that a trillion times creating a tall stack of money. But how tall? Well, here’s the math. (Please Lawd, find a mistake in my math!)

- A trillion is 1×10^12 (That’s one times ten raised to the twelfth power.)
- 0.004″ is the same as 4×10^-3 inches.
- So the pile would be this high: (1×10^12)x(4×10^-3)=4*10^9 inches. Read that 4,000,000,000 inches high.
- Since there are 12″ in a foot, we have to divide 4*10^9 inches by 12 to get the height of the stack of bills in feet… That numbr is 333,333,333′. Sounds like a tall stack… How many miles is that ?
- There are 5,280 feet in a mile. So, if I divide 333,333,333 feet by 5,280 I’ll get the height of the stack in miles… And that number is 63,131 miles. (This agrees in magnitude with the link above.)

I told you that we’d have to work through this together…

Well now! There you are in your back yard with a stack of dollar bills roughly **60,000 miles high**. *How high is that?* Let’s see… The International Space Station orbits at 220 miles, and the moon is 240,000 miles away, so your little green monolith would soar past the ISS and stretch one quarter of the way to the moon. But that’s only *one* trillion dollars…

Next, imagine a *$50 trillion* stack. (That’s roughly where we are in national debt and obligations.) Some basic math shows that that grows our tower to 3,000,000 miles high. Gee look… I can barely see the moon in the rear view mirror! (Seriously… I’m begging you… Someone check my math and show me where I’m wrong…) A $50 trillion column would be long enough to wrap around the earth 120 times.

There… Now you have a sense of just how huge a trillion is. MREs anyone?

*Alan Speakman*