About

I'm Mike Pope. I live in the Seattle area. I've been a technical writer and editor for over 30 years. I'm interested in software, language, music, movies, books, motorcycles, travel, and ... well, lots of stuff.

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On two occasions I have been asked, "Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?" I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.

— Charles Babbage



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Blog Statistics

Dates
First entry - 6/27/2003
Most recent entry - 7/16/2018

Totals
Posts - 2509
Comments - 2574
Hits - 2,063,655

Averages
Entries/day - 0.46
Comments/entry - 1.03
Hits/day - 375

Updated every 30 minutes. Last: 10:04 AM Pacific


  08:45 PM

In the book Innumeracy, John Allen Paulos suggests an exercise that illustrates the scale between a million and a billion. A million seconds, he explains, is about 11-1/2 days. A billion seconds is almost 32 years.

Our economic woes, it is estimated, may reach the point of a trillion-dollar meltdown. (And that's hardly the most imaginative estimate.) And that's the size, to use a round number, of the government's proposed bailout.

How long is that in seconds? Well, let's look at it this way, working backward from today:
  • A million seconds ago: Feb 9, 2009. I was preparing for the recent office move.
  • A billion seconds ago: Feb 9, 1977. I was a junior in college.
  • A trillion seconds ago: Upper Paleolithic, aka Stone Age.[1] 30,000 B.C. Our ancestors were painting on cave walls.
Does that help you picture the size of a trillion dollars? Hard to grasp, isn't it? If this doesn't do it, here are some further resources that might help:
Update 23 Feb: I've been alerted to another quite popular way to grasp the size of these numbers, which is the "spend since the birth of Christ" comparison. If you had started spending $1/day since Christ was born, you'd still be only about 2/3 of the way to a million dollars. For a billion dollars, you can been spend $1000 per day until the year 2734. And the mind bender, again, is that to spend a trillion dollars, you can have been spending $1 million per day since 0 A.D., and you'd still be only about 2/3 done. (video) Dunno about you, but I find this sort of amazing.

[1] Perhaps we'll be returning to this, given the current state of the economy. Haha.

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