How Much Is a Trillion?

The 2009 budget proposed this week by President Bush weighs in at $3.1 trillion. But just how large is a trillion, anyway?

One trillion is 1,000,000,000,000 — 10 to the 12th power, or a thousand, thousand, thousand, thousand. To put things in perspective, current estimates put the number of stars in the Milky Way at somewhere between 100 and 400 billion. The U.S. population is slightly over 303 million, and the world population is around 6.6 billion.

$1 trillion would be enough money to buy about a 1,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies for every person in the United States. A trillion barrels of oil would — at current consumption levels — fuel the world for about 33 years.

Author David M. Schwartz talks about other ways to visualize a trillion, and how to wrap our heads around really big numbers.

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