Thursday, May 13, 2010

Got Some Time On Your Hands?

One of the problems for the average bear these days is his inability to relate to numbers in current usage. Oh certainly, our elementary school teachers did their best to encourage us to understand the relationship but they were hampered. We were unable to take the huge sums and relate them to practical application. We lived in a world of a dozen eggs, nine innings, a hundred yard football field and a nose that grew one additional inch if we told a lie. Even our age was in the high single digits.

As time went by, our numerical concepts increased as well. Dad bought the “new” place and that “section” was 640 acres, an area we knew well from plowing a single acre with a mule. It was also one square mile. The talk around the grange hall in 1940 was about the disgrace of the reported national debt of $42 billion, nearly a three time increase from the $16.1 billion just a decade previous. If you had it, you could buy a decent pick-up for $800.

Nothing has changed much in the intervening seventy years; teachers still teach, farmers still farm and Congress continues to increase the national debt. The major difference is the steep increase in the size of the numbers. For the teachers, the alarming drop in the level of educational achievement is the story. For the farmers, it is a combination of huge increases in yield per acre along with the constant battle against governmental controls. For the congress, it is a race to achieve whatever number it is which marks the next milestone after “trillion.”

Just exactly what do these “-ion” numbers mean? They are certainly not something you can count on your fingers. Why don’t we look at what it would take to count, out loud, to the easiest of the group—the million? As a standard, we shall assume that a workable situation would allow us to comfortably speak a single number per second on average. One person doing this would require sleep, sustenance, response to nature’s calls and other occasional refreshment. Therefore, our enumerator will work 12 and half hours a day, seven days a week, saying the numbers and have 11 and a half to take care of maintaining his health. By so doing, he would finish his assignment in exactly one year.

The next challenge is a little tougher. Using the same standard, counting to one billion would then require the next 1000 years. Had that person started counting in 1010 AD, he would now be finished and also be older than Methuselah. (ED. Perhaps, even older than Robert Byrd.)

Accomplishing this exercise with the increasingly popular trillion would take exactly one million years! By then the national debt, at its current rate of increase, would require a time frame older than the universe to express. Let us then be reminded that $1,000,000,000,000.00 is not just another 13 digit number but a practical example of government gone mad. By the way, can you say, “nine hundred ninety nine billion, nine hundred ninety nine million, nine hundred and ninety nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine” in one second. I tried it and it took 7 seconds so my examples may be a little shy of the actual requirements. You know, maybe a few million years short.

Hey, it’s only money—right?

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

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