Monday, January 30, 2012

Imagine 200 Billion Dollars - or 200 Billion Stars

In another post I stated that our own galaxy, which we humans have named the Milky Way galaxy, consists of over 200 billion stars. That's a very large number, so large that it's hard to comprehend. The other day, as I tried to fall asleep, instead of counting sheep I tried to visualize 200 billion stars. I wasn't getting anywhere. The exercise was keeping me awake, not putting me to sleep.

NASA photo, M81 spiral galaxy, similar to our Milky Way galaxy
So instead I tried visualizing money. After all, $200 billion is only a fraction of the annual budget for the U.S. military. Here's what I came up with...

Start with something relatively easy. Imagine a stack of dollar bills - 1,000 of them. I'll make it easy for you. The stack will be between four and five inches high. No problem.

Now imagine that this stack of bills is on a large table with 99 other identical stacks. Visualize that and that's what $100,000 looks like.

Now say this table is in a tent with nine other tables, each holding 100 stacks of dollar bills. That would be $1 million cash. So far, so good? You got the one tent with ten tables?

Now, imagine that this tent is one of 1,000 tents in a massive open field, each tent protecting a million dollars cash. Try to imagine walking around the field, peaking into each of the tents and seeing the ten tables and all that cash. That's a billion dollars worth of one-dollar bills. Wow, huh?

Now, it's time to stretch your mind. Imagine that there is more than one field with 1,000 tents. Imagine that there are 200 fields where 1,000 tents are pitched, each tent holding ten tables of money. Imagine that you're in a hot air balloon and you can see these 200 fields stretching in all directions, each one covered with 1,000 tents. 200,000 tents. And don't forget that there's $1 million in each tent.

If each one of the dollar bills on the tables in the tents in all those fields represents a star, that's how many stars there are in the Milky Way galaxy. And our sun is only one of them.

These very large numbers are hard to comprehend, but maybe the money image helps. It's the best I can do. It helps make something mind-boggling seem a little less abstract, a little more real, which helps make all those stars out there seem more real and more awe-inspiring.

By the way, scientists estimate there are about 200 billion other galaxies in our universe. Now that IS mind-boggling!

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2012. Building Personal Strength .

No comments: