Big Numbers (3/18/09)
Part of this is a repeat from a February 2008 email on the word billion, thanks to What's the Good Word. I'm repeating it since I can't seem to ever remember it.
Meaning: Well, it depends on where you live. 1. In the US billion means 1000 million. 2. In the UK and countries that follow the traditional UK numbering system, it means a million million (a US trillion).
The traditional UK system runs million, milliard, billion, billiard, etc., not million, billion, trillion, quadrillion, so that a US trillion equals a UK quintillion. The good news is that the UK is in the process of changing to the US system.
In Spanish, a billion (1000 million) is mil millones (thousand million) and billón means a trillian; in French a billion is a milliard and a trillion is mil milliard. Ay! I'd write the numbers out if I weren't sure I would make an egregious error.
Since billion doesn't seem so big anymore, how about a trillion/quintillion/billón/mil milliard?
To see what a trillion looks like, visit Pagetutor. In a previous life as a math teacher, one of my favorite books had a million dots. It's cover didn't look like this one, but the idea's the same. So a trillion would require a million copies of that book.
To get even more real, I've been listening to NPR's Planet Money podcasts, which is what inspired this post. As with strenuous exercise, I recommend that you consult your physician before you listen to the introduction to this their March 2 podcast #12.