Million Vs. Billion

Categories: Fact Check
Comments: 7 Comments
Published on: 2017.02.12

“Million” and “billion” get thrown around a lot in science and economics. It can be difficult to grasp the difference. “Just add three more zeroes” doesn’t quite get the gist of it.

Here are a few concrete examples to keep in mind, to help picture the difference between a million and a billion:

1 million seconds = 11.57 days
1 billion seconds = 31.69 years

1 million miles = 40.1 trips around the Earth, at the equator
1 billion miles = 40,100 trips around the Earth, at the equator

1 million miles = to the Moon and back, twice
1 billion miles = to the Moon and back, 2,093 times

1 million dollars = enough to buy nine houses exactly like mine*
1 billion dollars = enough to buy 9,009 houses exactly like mine*

(* At the original, new price in 2010.)

1 million pounds = about 250 automobiles, enough to fill a high school parking lot
1 billion pounds = 250,000 automobiles — all the cars in Killeen, Texas

  1. Dana says:

    “1 million dollars = enough to buy nine houses exactly like mine*”

    Not the point of your blog entry but my goodness, that’s a striking figure. 1 million dollars in my neighborhood is almost enough to buy a two bedroom apartment.

    • Wil C. Fry says:

      LOL. Certainly, it’s a region-specific figure. :-)

      Our builder (Centex) is probably considered low-end (it’s the least-expensive of the four builders in our development: Yowell Ranch). Prices have risen a bit since we moved here in 2010. Currently, they’re listing homes in our neighborhood starting at $130,000. When we built in 2010, the bottom was $109,000.

      Right now, the *highest* priced Centex home in our neighborhood is the Chandler, starting at $173,000 (could be as high as $200,000, with high-end options).

  2. U.S. debt is at 19.8 trillion dollars.
    19.8 trillion miles is over three light years.
    19.8 trillion seconds is roughly 628 thousand years.

    • Wil C. Fry says:

      Indeed, trillion is another ballpark altogether.

      $1 trillion = enough to buy more than 9 million houses just like mine.

      1 trillion pounds = the combined weight of every registered automobile in the U.S.

      • Wil C. Fry says:

        And 9 million houses would house the entire population of Texas, three people per house (or 2.2 people per house for the entire population of New York).

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