James Carroll: Making sense of $700 billion
By James Carroll
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
How much is 700 billion? The mind registers the number with such imprecision as to make it meaningless. One blogger proposed this way of grasping the figure: As a stack of $100 bills, it would reach 54 miles high. But who can imagine that? On the other hand, someone at the Smithsonian once calculated that counting to one billion, at the rate of one digit per second, would take 30 years. By that scale, counting to 700 billion would take 21,000 years.
Come again? That stretch of time takes us back to the cave painters of Lascaux, the glacial age, the last Neanderthals. The mind is not helped.
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