On really BIG numbers

When I give my introductory neurobiology lecture, I usually try to impress upon my students how really complex the human brain is. It is very easy just to say “the brain is made of about one hundred billion cells, called neurons”…

If I just say that, I will get the most inexpressive blank faces you would ever see. I know this from experience… You see, all of us talk about millions; for many people nowadays, 1 million dollars is not a huge amount of money anymore (it is for me… (:-)…). So, with the economy and all that, we are used to talk of billions, and even more. However, have you ever thought exactly how much a billion of anything is?

Let’s suppose that you want to count a billion of anything, how long would it take, at one number per second?

Anyone?

It is actually a simple calculation, the kind of calculation that can be done (literally) on a napkin while having a coffee at Sta… I mean, a coffee shop:

Yep, it would take you close to 32 years… that is just 1 billion… more on really big (and small) numbers in future posts!

**If you feel like sharing this post in you favorite social media outlet I would appreciate it; thanks!

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