Hear: Godzillions On Parade : Planet Money On today's Planet Money, the science of understanding big numbers. Plus: China chart wars.

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On today's Planet Money:

-- China's foreign reserves dropped by \$32.6 billion in January. The New York Times suggests that because America's biggest creditor was selling off its bonds. Economist Brad Setser sees another explanation (and adds more).

-- Millions, billions, trillions, godzillions. There's a reason you can't keep it all straight. With help from Wisconsin school teacher Bob Peterson, the Planet Money Players calculate their way, in dollars per second, to the AIG bonuses.

Bonus: Find your NPR name, plus a listener calculates \$1.7 trillion.

Lianablog posts the secret formula behind NPR names.

And listener Will Cramerotti writes (with pics on Facebook):

By most of the estimates I've seen, the projected US deficit for 2009 will be somewhere close to 1.7 trillion dollars, which probably does not yet include the off-book accounting for Iraq and Afghanistan (perhaps one of you has the answer?).

I have been trying to wrap my head around exactly how much money that is. It seems that after about a hundred million or so, the zeros just sort of blend together and I stop being able to perceive the physical reality of the sum. So I did a little 3:00am math...

A single US treasury note measures 6.6294cm x 15.5956cm x 124 micrometers. I'm doing this in metric, you'll understand why in a bit.

A stack of \$10,000 in \$100 notes is 1.24cm in height. A case of \$1M is 5x2x10 stacks, measuring 33.15cm x 31.19cm x 12.4cm. It weights approximately 10kg (22.04 lbs). A room of one billion dollars is filled with 10x5x20 cases, and measures 3.31m (10'11") by 1.56m (5'1") by 2.48m (8'2")

\$1.7 trillion requires a different scale...

An American football field is 160ft wide (48.77m) by 360ft (109.29m). If you were to cover the entire field with stacks of \$100 bills, it would fit 700 stacks wide by 735 stacks long with a little bit of white line around the edges.

If you were to fill that field with \$1.7 trillion in freshly minted stacks of \$100 bills, they would rise not less than 409.72cm (13'5") from the ground.

The displacement of \$1.7 trillion is 21,794.5 meters cubed, enough to fill 8.72 olympic swimming pools and would weigh approximately 17 million kilograms, or 37.48 million lbs.

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The Economy Explained