[Math Lair] How Big is a Million?

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A display of 1,344,000 clementinesIn a nutshell, a million is a really big number. If you were to count at the rate of one number a second without any breaks whatsoever, it would take you 11½ days to count to a million. It can be hard to visualize a million of anything. The photograph on the right shows a display of 1,344,000 clementines (not all of which are visible in the photo); there's some larger photos at the bottom of the page. Think about how small a clementine is; a million of even such a small fruit can take up a large amount of space.

If you're interested in really, really big numbers, think about a billion. A billion is a thousand times larger than a million. If you were to count to a billion at the rate of one number a second, it would take you more than 31 years, quite a sizeable chunk of a lifetime...

When I originally wrote this page, on June 16, 2001, I said that "If all of the images and Java applets on this site were converted to an equivalent size of text, there would not be one million words on this entire site. There wouldn't even be one million characters." This actually isn't true anymore; the site has grown since then, and there are now over one million bytes (one megabyte) of text and over a megabyte of images.

Here are some larger pictures of the display of 1,344,000 clementines (this was at Dutchie's market, in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, on November 29, 2012, and supposedly set some world's records). Sorry the pictures aren't any bigger than this, I didn't have my best camera with me that day.

Picture of some of 1,344,000 clementines Picture of some of 1,344,000 clementines