Jan 10, 2012

How big is big?

Count to a million. Go ahead. I'll wait.

When I was in fourth grade, my teacher did an amazing experiment. I have never forgotten it. She had each student in her class count to fifty. I think the fastest person did it in about 10 seconds. I just tried it myself and it took 13 seconds. So, if I were able to count to one million, how long do you think it would take?

Well if you do the math, it turns out that it would take three days! Three days without eating, sleeping, or anything else. This of course assumes that you can continue adding 50 numbers every 13 seconds. But in reality, it takes a really long time to say, "four hundred thirteen thousand, nine hundred and twenty two". Counting to one million at one number per second would take 11.5 days.

Once I learned this fact, I was amazed. When my mother told me, "I've told you a million times...", I replied. "Oh yeah? If you told me a million times it would take..." She was not impressed.

I think we get lost in the concept of large numbers. Perhaps it's because there are large numbers that are thrown around all the time. The population of the US is 350 million. The population of the world is at seven billion. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the US Economy in 2010 was $14 trillion. These are numbers that we hear, but don't really understand. Just think of it this way. A trillion is one million times one million. It's a really large number. At one second per number, to count to a trillion would take ...32,000 years.

I was thinking about this because of a man who decided to use his new-found wealth. Michael Fuller went into the Lexington North Carolina Walmart and tried to buy a vacuum cleaner with a $1 million bill. Forget for the moment that the largest US bill in circulation is $100. Think about the whole concept of his change of $999,524. In dollar bills it would weigh 2,200 pounds! In $20 bills, it would be over one hundred pounds.

I am guessing that you don't want to know how much $14.5 trillion weighs in twenty dollar bills. (OK, for those who are curious it is 55 tons)

There is one large number, though, that I think we can get excited about. It is infinity. It is also the number that represents God's love for you. It goes on forever. It never stops. That's something that you can hear a million times and it never gets old.


Pastor David Hook

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