Senator We Have a (Math) Problem

Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) has his math wrong. I just heard him on Morning Edition dramatizing the trillion dollar price tag for health-care reform.

"If you converted dollars to seconds and you said how many years will it take for a trillion seconds to pass its 317,097 years 11 months and 2 days."

He's off, by a lot. Isakson is describing what a much more expensive, 10 trillion dollar program would be.

And he forgot about leap years.

According to the U.S. Naval Observatory which maintains our atomic clocks, a year is 365.2422 days. So a year has 31,556,926.1 seconds in it. Which would mean that a trillion seconds is about 31,688 years 270 days.

Here's our podcast on the large numbers popping up in the financial crisis.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.