One Million

How much is one million?
Can you see a million things all at once?
How big a space would one million things take up?
Can you count to one million?

We'll try to answer these questions here!

One million looks like this:
It is exactly one thousand 'thousands'.
It is also 106, or 10x10x10x10x10x10

The number 'one million' is very familiar. You hear it mentioned all the time... a million dollars ... a million years ... a million reasons ... but how big IS one million??

Can you count to one million? How long would it take?

Imagine you start counting. You say one number per second. (Maybe you think you can count faster than this. On the small numbers, you probably can. But just try to say one number every second beginning at 'three hundred ninety seven thousand, four hundred and twenty seven'! Perhaps one per second is a little over-optimistic!)
At one number per second, it will take one million seconds to count to one million. (That was a tough calculation!) One million seconds is about 16,667 minutes, or 278 hours.
Suppose you consider it your job to count to one million. You are going to spend eight hours every day, just counting! Those 278 hours will take almost 35 days to complete.
So I guess the answer is ... YES, you could count to one million. At eight hours per day, it would take you 35 days!

We've just answered another question ... how long is a million seconds! It's 278 hours, or almost 12 days of continuous time.

What about one million years? Unfortunately, there is no way to visualize this number. If you are 10 years old, you've only been alive for one-thousandth of one percent of a million years! Hardly noticeable at all! In fact, the entire recorded history of mankind (back to about 5000BC) is only about half a percent of the last million years. A million years is a long time!
(Never mind 5 billion years, which is the age of the earth ... a billion is one thousand millions!!)

O.K., enough big numbers. Can you actually see one million things in front of you ... things that you can see individually? In other words, one million of something that you can hold in your hand. One million bacteria don't count. Nor do one million grains of sand. They're too small to see easily.
What is big enough to hold in your hand, that you can visualize one million of??
Consider a sugar cube:
It is close to being one centimeter long in all directions, or one cubic centimeter in volume.
One million of these would take up a volume of 100 x 100 x 100 = 1,000,000 cm3. But this is in centimeters. In meters, this represents a volume of 1 x 1 x 1 = 1 cubic meter.
.. or, a box from a large TV!
Imagine filling this box nearly to the top with sugar cubes. The first layer on the bottom would be about 100 cubes long, by 100 cubes wide. This means there will be 10,000 sugar cubes on the bottom layer alone!
It will take about 100 layers to fill the box:
100 x 10,000 = 1,000,000 sugar cubes!!
Can you picture a TV box full of sugar cubes? Sure you can! That's one million!
(Give it a try. You'll probably run out of money before you run out of patience!)

Money? Did I mention money??
Just how much is one million dollars, anyway?

One million dollars could buy you:
  • 20 full size 4WD pickup trucks
  • 5 houses (depending on where you live, of course)
  • 2000 TV's
  • 67 fancy snowmobiles
  • 60,000 music CD's
  • 30 university educations
  • Half a Lear Jet airplane
It's also the amount of money you will earn after working for 20 years. A million dollars is a lot of money!

What else could you hold in your hand that represents one million? Well, the average best-selling paperback novel has close to 500 pages. There are close to 2000 characters on a page (counting punctuation).
500 x 2000 = 1,000,000!!
So that book contains 1,000,000 printed characters ... and you can look at every one!
(It will take you 35 days, of course!!)

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