What’s in a trillion?

Millions, billions, trillions, zillions — it all starts to sound quite similar, doesn’t it. After reading in the Washington Post this morning (House Passes Iraq Pullout Timetable) that the House is demanding “…an end to a conflict that has cost more than 3,200 American lives, countless Iraqi dead and nearly half a trillion tax dollars”, I became curious about this number: how many millions does it contain? How many zeros does it have?

It is one million times one million, or a one plus 12 zeros, or


How long would it take to write “1,000,000” one million times? How many pages of paper would it cover? One shudders to think about doing this by hand, but I had to find out using copy/paste and a standard text editor: with a 1-inch margin and Times New Roman size 12, it would require about 4,831 letter-sized pages, or almost 10 reams of paper.

A New York Times article from January of this year illustrates this subject from a more practical angle: What $1.2 Trillion Can Buy. Be sure to check out the graphic comparing the annual cost of the war with alternate ways to spend the money.

Yeah, right. Fat chance.


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