What's a billion?

Example 1:

A billion is a 1 with 9 zeros after it >>  1,000,000,000

So, 9 zeros.  What does that mean?  We call a very wealthy person a millionaire, which means that they are worth a million dollars or more.  A million is a 1 with 6 zeros after it >>  1,000,000.   A thousand is a 1 with 3 zeros >> 1,000.

A thousand times a thousand is a million.  1,000 x 1,000 = 1,000,000

Notice that if you take the 3 zeros of 1 thousand and add them to the 3 zeros of the 1 thousand that we are multiplying it by we get 6 zeros, which is the number of zeros in 1 million.

Well, if we multiply 1 million (6 zeros) by 1 thousand (3 zeros) we can add the zeros and get 9.  That's how many zeros in 1 billion.  So a billionaire is someone who worth 1,000 millions.  That's a lot of millions.

The next jump is 1 trillion (12 zeros), then 1 quadrillion (15 zeros).  And it goes way up from there.

Let's get back to "What is a billion?"

If you go to the bank and get a bundle of 100  $1 bills that bundle has a paper band around it that has "$100" printed on it.  That bundle is 0.4 inches thick, not even half an inch thick.

Ten of those $100 bundles stacked on top of each other would be $1,000 and it would be 4 inches high.  If we put 1,000 of these 4 inch stacks on top of each other we have a stack 358 feet high and it would contain $1 million dollars.  Well of course a stack that tall would fall over, so let's lay the stack on its side.  Now we've got a stack of $1 bills 358 feet long.  That's almost as long as an American football field including the end zones.  About 120 yards.   Now we've got a stack of 1,000,000  $1 bills and it goes from goal post to goal post.

But we asked "What is a billion?".  As we said above, a billion is 1,000 millions.  So a horizontal stack of 1 billion $1 bills would be almost 1,000 football fields long.  Actually it comes out to 67.9 miles. 

Here's where it gets very graphic.  If we were to lay this stack along side the freeway, these 1 billion $1 bills, stacked face to face, NOT end to end, and started driving along, watching the stack out the side window as we drove 60 miles per hour, it would take us 1 hour and 8 minutes to drive end to end.

Now that's a lot of dollar bills.  Doesn't this help us to get a hold of what a million and a billion is?  These are huge numbers and we see and hear them so often that they sound so ordinary, as though they were no big thing.

Example #2

What would a billion pennies look like?

Each of these 5 blocks is 9x11x41 feet and is as big as a school bus.

If you were to stack all these pennies in a single pile, one atop the other, the stack would reach nearly one thousand miles high.

Note:  This penny diagram is from an excellent website called the MegaPenny Project.  It uses the very familiar penny, LOTS of pennies, to help us understand the scope of very large numbers. (You can visit the site on the LINKS page / VERY INTERESTING tab.)