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Young Astronomers

Millions, Billions, and Trillions!

8 May 2011, 18:31 UTC
Millions, Billions, and Trillions!
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

*This post is specifically written for starters and does not contain challenging Astrophysics’ facts/theories.*
Like nothing else in human existence, astronomy encompasses distances, ages, and sizes so enormous that it is almost impossible to form a mental image of any of them. The numbers alone are enough to overwhelm the imagination. And I have seen many students struggling with the basic conceptions and/or misconceptions of distance related issues. Like how big is a million or a billion? A million sheets of paper about the thickness of the pages of any normal notebook would form a tower as high as a 30-story building, but a billion page stack (1,000 million) would soar more than 10 times higher than Mount Everest. And a trillions pages? (One trillion is a million million, or 1,000 billion.) The pile would reach more than one quarter of the way to the Moon!
Another way to think of it is that a million seconds is 12 days, but a billion seconds is more than 31 years, and a trillion seconds is 300 centuries, longer than the history of civilization. Yet even with these analogies, it is often less than edifying to rely solely on huge numbers. Sometimes, ...

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