From 1 to 1,000,000

Look. I don’t know what you’re over there thinking about. It could be simple or sophisticated, mundane or whimsical, practical or creepy.

But I’m over here thinking about numbers. Again.

I’ve never been especially impressed by words. They’re mushy and sometimes pleasant and sometimes annoying. They’re subtle and subjective and rambly and flowy. Words are okay. Whatever.

But numbers. Numbers are fascinating and precise and satisfying and delicious and whatever it is you’re thinking about at any given time, there’s at least a 60% chance that I’m over here thinking about numbers.

So I’ve decided to do not one, but two consecutive posts on numbers, during which we’ll start at 1 and end up in a very scary place. Today, we’ll keep things in the realm of the ordinary and the conceivable, capping ourselves at a million.

The numbers between 1 and 1,000,000 are everywhere in daily life. 1, 10, 100, 1,000, 10,000, and 100,000 are our friends—we get them, they get us, and in this post, we’re basically gonna just hang out with them and catch up, since you probably haven’t been good at keeping in touch.

Let’s start at the beginning—

One-Digit Numbers

We’ll lead off with the extraordinarily dull 1.

1 dot

1 likes to masquerade as this poetic and profound thing, getting used in sentences I don’t really understand, like “the oneness of all” or something annoying like that. But then anytime you actually spend time with 1, you end up bored.

1 is also no fun to play with. Multiplying or dividing things by it is an incredibly underwhelming experience, and it manages to be such a dud that somehow, it’s not a prime number even though it only has one factor.

As for the rest of the one-digit numbers, I enjoy 2, 4, and 8 because when I was seven I became obsessed with saying “2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1,024, 2,048, 4,096” before hitting a wall,1 and I have an affinity for prime numbers, naturally, so 3, 5, and 7 fall into my favor. Not thrilled with 9, but at least it’s a perfect square. The only thing 6 offers my life is annoying the shit out of me every time I have to tell someone my phone number—(xxx)-666-xxxx—and they can’t help but have some reaction to that and then we end up in this little song-and-dance interaction about it.2

Let’s move on.

Two-Digit Numbers

10 dots

Getting to the two-digit numbers, interesting things finally start happening. 10 itself is a big one, because our entire base ten existence stems from it. Why did we end up in base ten (instead of something like base 8, which would go 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, etc.)? Because we have 10 fingers. It seems intuitive that only with base 10 could you multiply and divide so easily and simply add zeros or move a decimal point when shifting by multiples of 10, but that would be the case with any number system.3 Let’s look at some bigger numbers—

12 has the dozen thing going which is something, as well as factors up the dick. It’s also the number of people who have been on the moon.

Moon

Let’s pause for a second to acknowledge how ridiculously impressive it is that humans got humans onto the moon and safely back. And how lucky are those 12 guys? Could any life experience be more desirable than getting to bounce around the moon while looking at the Earth hovering out there in space?

Continuing along, I don’t know whose sister 13 slept with, but somewhere along the way it pissed off the wrong person and managed to become the only number with a legitimately bad reputation.

20’s worth mentioning just because I read during my research that only about 1 in 20 men in the US is 6’2″ or taller. So if you’re 6’2″ or taller, you’re the tallest of this average sampling of 20 American men—4

1 in 20

33 is relevant because of Larry Bird and because that’s what I turned on Wednesday thanks for wishing me a happy birthday none of you.

You might be surprised to know that only 1/43 Americans openly identifies as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, but that when asked in an anonymous and veiled survey, that number jumps to 8/43:

gay lesbian bisexual

There are 41 Disney princesses and 48 real-life princesses, none of whom is Kate Middleton.

princesses

Not much else happening with the two-digit numbers until we arrive at sleazy 99, the price tag whore who’s made its whole living being the guy next to 100.

Three-Digit Numbers

100 dots

100 is a big deal and clearly knows it, but that’s fair. It’s the first three-digit number, but in our world, 100’s main role is being the overlord of the one and two-digit groups—it’s a century of years, the official “okay you win” age to reach, and the whole concept of percent is just comparing a part of 100 to all of 100. 100 is also a perfect square of another one of these fundamental numbers (i.e. 10, 100, 1,000, etc.), which is satisfying.

Being in the top 100th of a group in some way is also a thing. It looks like this:

1:100th

If you’re in the red dot when it comes to wealth, you’re the notorious 1 percent and a lot of people will make signs that are mean to you. To be in the red dot among Americans, you need to make almost $400,000/year, but only about a tenth of that ($39,000 in 2011) to be in the red dot worldwide.

On the SAT, you’d be the red dot if you scored a 1480 out of 1600 or a 2200 out of 2400, and on the ACT, you’d need a 33. A Stanford-Binet IQ of 137 will make you the red dot too and would mean 99% of people are stupider than you.5

After 100, we’re about to get into superbly random number territory, but first we hit 101, a C-list number celebrity for a handful of small claims to fame, like 101 Dalmations and beginner courses and the West Coast US highway.

Continuing along, while about exactly 1 out of every 100 dots speaks sign language (70 million people worldwide),6 1 of every 179 living humans (39 million) is blind:

blind

There are 444 Apple retail stores in the world:

apple

If you deal five cards 508 times, you’ll average one flush:

flush

And there are 12 million US dollar millionaires in the world, or 1 out of every 583 people. If your total assets (in excess of your total liabilities) add up to over $1,000,000, you’re the red dot in this diagram:

millionaires

Four Digit Numbers

1,000 dots

1,000 is also a huge deal in our world and has a bunch of nicknames, like a grand, a G, a kilo, and k. It’s also part of the elite chain of numbers in the “order-of-magnitude” chain, which we know as million, billion, trillion, etc. Million is actually the third number in that chain, with the dud 1 as the first number and 1,000 as the second number. And 1,000 is the key multiplier that defines the whole chain.

That said, 1,000’s dirty secret is that it’s a fraud like 10 and can’t be made into a square. The square root of 1,000 is an embarrassing 31.62277660168 etcetera without even a vinculum.7

Anyway, let’s look at some four-digit numbers and odds:

Here’s how many times a neutron star spins around every second:

neutron star

And here’s how many minutes there are in each day:

minutes in a day

A genius-level IQ of 150 will earn you red dot status on the thousand-dot intelligence diagram, but that doesn’t mean you got a perfect 1600 on the SAT—only the red dot in a 1,489-dot sample aces the SAT:

perfect SAT

There are 1,811 large US corporations (over 10,000 employees), and astronomers have identified 1,849 planets outside our solar system:

exoplanets

On a perfectly clear night, we can see about 2,500 stars in the night sky:

stars

And there may be only 2,800 living people over 7 feet tall (213cm), but they each have a 17% chance of making the NBA.

Here are all the seconds in an hour:

seconds in an hour

And here’s the number of religions in the world:

religions in the world

So there are more religions than the stars we see in the night sky, and you could name a religion every second and it would take you over an hour to name them all.

We’ve identified over 400,000 species of beetle in the world, but only 5,416 mammal species.

And here’s how many living languages there are in the world:

languages

Finally, this is how many medium-sized (.5mm in diameter) grains of sand you could fit in a cubic centimeter box:

sand

Five-Digit Numbers

10,000 dots

If 1,000 is a little overrated, 10,000 is underrated. No one talks about 10,000, but unlike the square rootless 1,000, 10,000 a perfect square of 100 100s, and 1% of a million.

Stephen Hawking’s IQ is supposedly 160, which would just qualify him to be the red dot in a 10,000 dot average sample of human intelligence. And just so you know, in an average group of 17,000 people, one will be an albino.

This is how many people fit in a sold-out Fenway Park:

Fenway

Larger than the number of people in Fenway are both the 41,821 airports in the world and the number of buildings in manhattan:

manhattan buildings

The 55,030 Google employees would fill up a large stadium, as would Apple’s 50,250. Facebook is considerably smaller, with a staff of 8,348, while Wikipedia is running with only 208 people. You could fit the Craigslist team in a small bus:

Craigslist

And here’s how many seconds tick by every day:

seconds in a day

Six-Digit Numbers

100,000 dots

100,000 is the most random main category number of this post. In life, it mostly comes up as a salary most people would really like to be making. It’s also getting very close to the largest number of people I can actually picture all together in one place. Michigan Stadium (The Big House) is just under 110,000, and the largest stadium in the world is India’s Salt Lake Stadium, with a capacity of 120,000. North Korea claims that its Rungnado May First Stadium holds 150,000 people, but North Korea also says that Kim Jong Il shot 11 holes-in-one on his first time trying golf so we’ll be sticking with Salt Lake Stadium as the world’s largest.8

Equal to the capacity of the world’s largest stadium is the number of abortions that happen in the world every day, on average:

abortions

That’s about 1/3 the amount of worldwide births per day, meaning a quarter of all pregnancies that don’t end in miscarriage end in abortion. That’s about the same as the rate in the US, but in New York City, 41 of every 100 non-miscarried pregnancies are aborted. And no, this isn’t meant to be a political statement of any kind, just an interesting (and to me, surprising) statistic, so just settle down.

One Million

Good luck. See you at the bottom—

Million Dots

Sorry. A million dots is a lot of dots.

And how small are one-in-a-million odds? How much of a long shot is one-in-a-million? Just try to find the red dot in the million dots above.

This image is the only way I can think of to visualize what a million or what one-in-a million actually means.

A million is interesting because it’s huge—but it’s also the smallest of the big boys, just small enough that you can still picture it or depict it on a diagram. It’s right on the border between the world we can wrap our heads around and the world of the totally inconceivable.

That red dot, if you found it, is a good thing to keep in mind next time you buy a 1-in-146 million Powerball ticket, or anytime you hear facts like one out of every 11 million airplane flights crashes. A one-in-a-million long shot is the same as rolling three 100-sided dice and trying to hit the number 63 with all three of them in one roll.

If you want to play around with taking a one-in-a-million shot at something, pick a number between 1 and 1,000,000, say it out loud, and then click Generate below and try to hit it (or two other ways to do it: 1) Change the max number to 1,000 and try to hit the number you say with the next two clicks; 2) Change the max number to 100 and try to hit a chosen number three times in a row):

The Million-Dot Poster

I like both the number 1,000,000 and the number 1/1,000,000, and I love any chance to visualize them. A blog post that can only fit 200 dots horizontally isn’t an ideal way to visualize a million because it makes a 1 x 25 rectangle you have to scroll down for an hour to see all of. So we’ve made a million-dot poster.

The poster is, satisfyingly, a square. A 24″ x 24″ (61cm x 61cm) poster with a 1,000 dot x 1,000 dot square of a million total dots. This allows you to most effectively visualize the number one million (it also helps to visualize 5 or 10 or 100 million, or even a billion, by picturing multiple posters next to each other).

And, of course, one of the dots is red. It takes a hunt to find it,9 but once you do, you can understand exactly what 1/1,000,000 means. So one poster, two extreme numbers to visualize. You can check it out here.

Here’s what the plain one looks like:

Full poster:

million-poster_large

A closer shot, showing the red dot in the middle:

Closer up

And a close up shot, showing the red dot:

Up close

 

And here’s numbers post #2: From 1,000,000 to Graham’s Number

Related Wait But Why Posts

Putting Time In Perspective
What Could You Buy With $241 Trillion?
What Does a Quadrillion Sour Patch Kids Look Like?


  1. The other children were playing outside.

  2. At least at some point I’ll have a new phone number—oh wait, whatever your first smartphone number was is now your number for eternity.

  3. And other systems have been used, like when the Mayans used a base 20 system.

  4. Yes, that was kind of a random fact to have brought into this—get used to it cause this whole post is just gonna be me throwing haphazard shit at you.

  5. IQ is kind of a fake concept, but quantifying everyone’s intelligence with a number is fun anyway.

  6. I’m not sure how many of those people are deaf, but there are 600,000 functionally deaf people in the US, or 1 out of every 454 people.

  7. The WordPress spellchecker underlined vinculum even though it’s a word, because WordPress is appalled by where I’ve gone with this post.

  8. I’ve also been in that North Korea stadium (where I took this video), and it seemed about the same size as a typical NFL stadium. I originally had this note as part of that last sentence, but it seemed one notch too braggy for a non-footnote.

  9. Bonus points to anyone who can figure out why the dot is where it is on the grid.

  • Anupama

    Belated Happy Birthday Tim!! I hope you had a blast. 🙂

  • Jan Sjögren

    That million dot image is not good for your eyes/brain if you stare at it intently for to long. When my eyes started to hurt I actually opened it in Photoshop and erased all black dots just to find the red one. I am not proud of what I did, but sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do, which means cheating. Also, happy birthday Tim.

    • Tim Urban

      I’m disappointed in you, Jan. But yeah my eyes are a disaster after this post.

  • jonathan

    Happy Birthday. 🙂

  • Gretchen

    As a number nerd I loved every part of this. Can’t wait for next week for the “scary place” you referred to. I have some ideas where this might be going.

  • Nouman Khan

    I’m gonna stop being so liberal with the term “one in a million” now.

  • Carly

    “The other children were playing outside” hahahahaha best footnote note ever.

  • RyanLammi

    Found it, and I know what number it is, but I can’t figure out why you chose that number………

    • RyanLammi

      After extensive Internet searches, I can only assume you inexplicably wanted us to all see this video.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QNoD-7w6D0

      • RyanLammi

        After further review, I miscounted.

        THIS is the video you wanted us to see. Though I think I liked the first one more.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4y2p90t9G3Q

        • Tim Ryan

          Answer this man!

        • wobster109

          Mystery solved. Take the nth letters of the alphabet.

        • TB

          Nailed it. He wanted us to see a video of his Bar Mitzvah.

        • Amr Marghany

          It’s WBW – Wait But Why. The number is 230223 –> 23 | 02 | 23 –> the 23rd, 02nd, and 23th letters of the alphabet.

          Answered by the poster above

  • manny

    Base 8 would go 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,21 etc..

    • Freddy

      Nope. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,20,21 . . .
      Base 8 goes to two digits after 7 just like base 10 goes to two digits after 9, and so forth.

  • Valeriu

    I wonder how much in cents a dot costs, given that the 24×24 inch poster is $18. Tim, why didn’t you make the poster 25×25 inch?

  • Erik

    Great post. I especailly enjoyed the foot notes. A perfect place for something that is “a notch too braggy”. So great.

  • Brien McGuire

    I’ve always thought of orders of magnitude as increasing by multiples of ten (rather than 1,000). Are these alternate definitions, or have I been using the term incorrectly the whole time?

    • Ethan Olabode

      They’re talking about the scientific prefixes, kilo-(1000), mega-(1,000,000), giga-(1000,000,000), tera-(1,000,000,000,000) etc. The same things you see when it comes to digital memory.

      • Scott Clark

        Sure, but that doesn’t make the given definition of “order of magnitude” any less incorrect. They are multiples of 10.

        • Ethan Olabode

          You’re not wrong. But it’s those that are used when talking about large numbers to make it easier/faster to say/write. The values I wrote before go up in orders of magnitude by 3 each time
          10^0 =1
          10^3=1000
          10^6=1000000

          Ie. Instead of writing 325,000,000,000bytes you’d write 325GB.

          I apologise if im missing your point or being condescending. I never was too great at explaining… Anything!

  • David McWilliams

    Why does my brain keep adding lines between the dots in a grid pattern whenever I scroll the page?

  • Georg Tres

    And sure, now, for a billion, just imagine that every dot in the 1,000-diagram is one of your 1,000,000-posters. It’s just ridiculously huge. As the old “saying” goes: 1,000,000 seconds is about 11 days; 1,000,000,000 seconds is about 32 years.

    It took me 4,58 seconds to scroll through your block of 1,000,000 dots. If you’d made a block with 1,000,000,000 dots it would’ve taken 4,580 seconds, or 76,3 minutes (thanks for not making me scroll for more than an hour : )).

    I liked this post. Yay numbers!

  • Richard

    Two things. I’m color-blind (red/green) and one of the oddities is that I can’t see red on a black field. I don’t know if this is common as I’ve never discussed this with other color-blind people, but I hope it is common as I wouldn’t want to have some really weird thing that no one else has. There was a restaurant that we used to pass on the road called, or so I thought, “dam.” The restaurant had a sign with a large black field on the left and then a white field with “dam written on it in black letters. Eventually my wife let drop that there was a very large red “A” on the black field, and the restaurant was called “Adam.” I mention the Adam restaurant thing because I will never be able to find your red dot in a sea of black dots. Just something to keep in mind as you create new things to illustrate.
    The other thing is visualizing a billion. Although I’ve never seen it, I can easily imagine a cube, exactly one meter on a side, with each side scored into one millimeter segments. Each side would have one million little squares. The whole one meter cube would have one billion of these one millimeter cubes.

  • Sara Thompson

    Numbers make me very happy. I like yours. Happy birthday. 🙂

  • Mike

    Someone has to say it…. you should have given an honorable mention of the number 69 in the 2 digits section. Seems it’s pretty universally known enough (infamous?) to get a mention….just sayin’.

  • Yoyo Go

    You were born on Wednesday?

  • Dimitris Theos

    I’d love to read a post on note 5. An approach to the IQ concept in a waitbutwhy style! I think you can nail it Tim…

  • Bird

    I feel compelled to note that your link about the 7 footers specifies each 7 foot tall American has a 17% chance of making the nba, not 17% of 7′ men worldwide.

    Also your link states that Kate is a princess. It’s her occupation, and she can be referred to as ‘princess’ with her husband’s name. It’s just not her official title, and she can’t be called ‘princess Catherine’.

    Regardless, both fun stats!

  • AWD

    Actually, not everyone hates 13. Chinese people hate the number 4 because it sounds similar to the word “death”, likewise, they like 8 because it sounds similar to the word “fortune”. The Canton region, which is incredibly superstitious, has elevators that go: 1,2,3,3A,5,6…11,12,13,13A,15,16…23,23A, etc.
    There are actually 2 thirteenth floors.

    I was just in a hotel that only had wifi on 13th floor. (WTF)

    There was an American official who was visiting China and was extremely upset when he was put up on the 13th floor. It was a hassle cuz the whole floor had been cleared but then the hotel had to shuffle to clear a different floor.

  • wobster109

    6 is a very special number. It’s a perfect number, you know. 🙂

    • hi-endian

      Yeah, I was going to point out the same thing. I was a little disappointed that numbers give the author such a nerd boner, but he totally missed 6. They have an interesting relation with Mersenne primes.

  • wobster109

    It’s WBW – Wait But Why. The number is 230223 –> 23 | 02 | 23 –> the 23rd, 02nd, and 23th letters of the alphabet.

    • Yelena

      I almost wish that happened by accident! And would give new meaning to the movie “The number 23!” But damn it, Tim Urban would do something like that, I just didn’t even think to think that way about it! Thanks for pointing that out! I can go to bed now!

    • TB

      Nicely done. And Dee Dee frightens me.

      • DeeDee Massey

        Relax. My powers can only be used for good.

    • Truliner

      Nice. I didn’t solve the riddle, but I’m happy that I at least got the right sequence number for the red dot. My efforts weren’t for naught.

  • DeeDee Massey

    So last year, your birthday was 11/12/13? Cool!

    You didn’t mention what time of that day you were born, so I assumed 11:12:13 for the sake of this sample calculation. If you know the official time, you could reset the calculator for more precise results. Anyway, you reached your 1,000,000,000-second birthday sometime around 7/21/13. Gosh, you’re old. 🙂 By the way, in 2016, you’ll be due for your 300,000-hour inspection.

    http://www.timeanddate.com/date/birthdayresult.html?m1=11&d1=12&y1=1981&h1=11&i1=12&s1=13&type=0&gran=5

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  • Samat Ryskulov

    Yeah, dude: Happy Birthday!

  • Wendy!

    Happy Birthday, I adore you!

  • Pam

    6 is the sum of its divisors. Be cool with the 6

    • Cliff

      That means it’s a *perfect* number. I don’t know if I’m cool with numbers someone else calls “perfect.” That seems subjective to me.

  • TimmyB.

    This post really brought the nerds out in droves. If you listen carefully, you can hear a combination of spit being slurped off of headgear and the timid knocking coming from inside a locker.

  • DrSuess

    What blows my mind about current global population is that if you are “1 in a million” good at something, like a massive tiddlywink competition, there would be just over 7200 just as good as you. And yet, even out of those 7200, there would still be someone who is the best of the best.
    – It just probably isn’t you. Or me. I’m not very good at tiddlywinks.

  • KCfan

    What about 555, the standard phone extension in the films and on TV?

    • Alejandro Rojas

      555 main importance is the timer IC ! …heretic
      (just ask google)

  • Krattz

    I’m going to be disappointed if the next post doesn’t talk about Graham’s number XD

  • Armin Fouxemes

    Interesting article, I think the following one has a potential to be really good. Have you read the essay about big numbers by Scott Aaronson? http://www.scottaaronson.com/writings/bignumbers.html

  • marisheba

    Yay numbers! Awesome seeing one million dots laid out side-by-side, it definitely brings out the largeness of 1 million.

    Tim, in terms of other ways to visualize: I made this pdf just last week for a student I am working with on place value, visualizing numbers up to 10 million in a different kind of way from Tim’s: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0VTFxbkwZLDZmlDa0NwMWlBTE0/view?usp=sharing

    The first page visualizes a set of cubes we actually work with day-to-day, and the rest visualizes what it would look like of we had loads and loads of those 1,000-cube blocks. You have to download and zoom in a bit on the last two pages, but the
    hash lines showing the tiny individual cubes are there throughout the
    visualization.

    Incidentally, the small individual units are 1cm cubes, meaning that the big 1 million cube block is only 1 cubic meter–while the fact that 1,000,000 cubes is = to 100^3 cubes is pretty self-evident when you do the math, it still astounds me that a million of those things could so easily fit on my dining room table!

  • Bristol Motor Speedway has a few thousand seats less due to reducing seats. But three years ago it had 150,000 seats and 36,000 skybox seats for 186,000.

  • klajs, Sweden

    My eyes hurt from looking for the red dot. I had to abort the mission before I found it out of fear from losing my sight forever.
    (HAPPY BIRTHDAY TIM! You’re the best!)

  • marisheba

    Okay, just went back and read through the most thoroughly. Slander! What do you have against 9, such a beautiful number?! While 10 (incredibly useful as it may be) is kind of an awkward number, 9, next to it, is so svelte and beautiful. It’s mysterious and bold; harmonious and unconventional. Being the perfect square of 3–another lovely, spirited number–It manages to combine the surprise and quirkiness of an odd number with the orderliness and balance of an even number, but without the boring predictability of an even. (4, 8, 16–these numbers are very handy, certainly, but they’re so stayed, so….EVEN through and through. I much prefer a 12 or a 24, with all of their many factors, and some nice refreshing 3s thrown into the mix.) 9 is also a really beautiful shade of blue (synesthete here).

    And then it’s so mathematically cool as well! There’s the magical finger method for any multiple of 9 up to 90. And there’s the mind-blowing fact that the digits of any multiple of 9 will add up to 9 themselves. Amazing and mysterious. (I’m sure there’s some technical explanation out there, but this is a rare case where I prefer not knowing, retaining the mystery). And thinking about it further, I do think that I think of 9 as a very feminine number, another thing I identify with about it that Tim probably does not.

    Okay, done with nerdscreed. I guess it’s good there’s enough of us out there to give each number its due time in the sun!

    • Justen

      I’m a big 9 lover too. I turned 9 on 9-9-1989 and 19 on 9-9-1999. But I think 9 is just on the masculine side of metrosexual.

      • hi-endian

        The Dreamcast also came out on 9-9-99 haha

  • Brunno

    Happy birthday Tim! Thanks for another fun post

  • Nerissa

    Bon anniversaire Tim! Thanks for all your great posts.

  • Rodrigo Gomes

    If somebody had consulted me before stablishing the decimal system, that is what I would say:
    We have ten fingers, five in each hand, and for this reason the number base should be SIX.

    Here is the explanation:
    Each of the two hands would be able to reproduce the six digits (0,1,2,3,4,5). With the first hand representing the units and the second hand representing the “sixens”, one could do the following combinations with two hands:

    00 – 01 – 02 – 03 – 04 – 05
    10 – 11 – 12 – 13 – 14 – 15
    20 – 21 – 22 – 23 – 24 – 25
    30 – 31 – 32 – 33 – 34 – 35
    40 – 41 – 42 – 43 – 44 – 45
    50 – 51 – 52 – 53 – 54 – 55

    It is by far the most optimized system for finger-counting, and converting to our decimal system it allows to count from 0 to 35 (again, with only the hands!).

    • Walker Brault

      If you think base 5 is good, you’ll think binary is brilliant. Holding the finger up =1 holding it down = 0.
      With one hand you can count up to 31, with both you can count up to 1023.

      • Rodrigo Gomes

        haha who would think that there are so many numbers in our hands?
        But I stick to the base 6 system, because in my opinion it is the best balance between “efficiency” and simplicity: we still only count fingers, no need to analyse combinations.
        Of course this perspective could change dramatically if we were taught in binary base since childhood…

  • Berwyn

    Was this whole post about flogging a 1,000,000 poster? Don’t get me wrong i enjoyed the read…….

  • GemmyB

    Even your silly posts are enjoyable 🙂 Happy belated birthday!

  • Maxwell Brenton Markusen

    And when you think that the average human lifespan is 28,740 days… Things really start getting put in perspective..

  • a lesbian commoner

    So we must have 8 lesbian real-life princesses, or more!! Nice!! 😉

  • jaime_arg

    If you don’t reference the Rent song in your next post I will be very disappointed. And I don’t even like that song.
    PS: happy birthday!
    PPS: your birthday in UNIX time is 374371201 (not accounting for your actual time of birth)

  • bbroome62

    Happy belated birthday Mike, Steve, uh, whatever your name is. 🙂
    I am getting you the same thing I got you last year.

  • hayley

    I just changed it to 100 and got 26, 24 and 24. Almost had it.

  • FYI

    Your ideas of what are important numbers are because of those silly words in your native language. In Chinese they don’t care about million for example – instead the important words are 10 (十), 100 (百), 1,000 (千), 10,000 (万) and 100 million (亿). Million is just 10 10,000s. Also note that in China they count to 10 on one hand with fingers and then various 2 finger combinations, so 2 hands gives you up to 100 (it’s a very simple learning curve but much better than the base-6 suggested earlier.)

    In India as well, they use numbers like lakh (100,000) and crore (10,000,000) but as the standard language is English (now) they also use million instead of discarding it altogether.

    As usual, great and thought provoking post though!

    • Adam

      Just a note on the counting thing – and I’m blatantly stealing this from a Dinner Table comment (thanks, Remko Tronçon) – you can get up to 1023 (an order of magnitude above China’s 100) on your hands if you know binary.

      Basically, your first finger is worth 1, your second worth 2, then 4, 8, 16 etc. For each finger you hold up, add those values together.

      So if I have all 5 fingers on my left hand held up, that 1+2+3+4+5 = 15.
      If I have my third finger on my right hand (2^(8-1) = 128), right hand thumb (32) and little finger on my left hand (16), that’s 176.
      All fingers on both hands is 512+256+128+64+32+16+8+4+2+1 = 1023

  • Nitya

    Damn it Tim! You just had to put in that red dot somewhere in the 1,000,000 _and_ tell us about it, didn’t you? My eyes are sore now. >.<
    But…wish you a very happy birthday! May you have a great year ahead!

  • Bruce

    Order of magnitude includes 10 and 100, it doesn’t go straight from 1 to 1000.

    • DreadPirateZed

      I had the same reaction, but then I re-read it and noticed that he’s saying it’s part of the “elite chain” of order-of-magnitude numbers; he simply means that it’s one of the marquee names.

  • andrea

    Question- how can 1 in 583 people be millionaires? I must not be doing the math right. 7 billion people in world 12 million millionaires….this driving me nuts, but I do not see how the 1 in 583 is figured out. I think you pulled your source from the yahoo answers?

    • some dude

      So…

      12 M / 7000 M = 12 / 7000 = 1/583.33~
      😀

  • chandu

    can someone plz make me understand this??

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  • Jillian

    “Let’s pause for a second to acknowledge how ridiculously impressive it is that humans got humans onto the moon and safely back.” And they did it with the technology they had at the time… which is extremely different from the technology we have at this time…

  • JustMike

    About the “666” phone nbr. Mine ends in -0666. I’m sooo tired of the weird looks and awkward laughter that ensues.

  • 12centuries

    Wow, 120,000 children murdered each day. One death is a tragedy. 120,000 is a statistic.

  • Xwing

    Did you add the new Princess of the Kingdom of South Sudan?

  • R W

    scrolling down 1 million dots made me realize how dirty my screen is

  • Sjoerd van Driel

    I don’t know what you are doing over there, but over here I am kicking myself for not knowing about your site before today

  • Ted Sheridan

    I use this trick to visualize how big one million is when teaching powers of ten to students: Imagine an empty plastic box, one cubic meter in volume (1m x 1m x 1m). Start filling it with small cubic centimeter blocks. You’ll be able to fit 100 blocks on each side, and it takes exactly one million blocks to fill up the whole box. It allows you to visualize a million in terms of things that are easy to grasp visually. On top of that, if you can convince people to buy your small blocks for $1 each, you’d have a million dollars sitting right in front of you.

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  • Matt

    Great article. Really helps put things in perspective for us visual learners. I came across a website years ago that was similar in theme. It had a stick figure for every dead/missing person from the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. It was pretty shocking to say the least and really brought home the scale of that tragedy.

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  • Austin M.

    Holy crap I guessed the number 550,546 and the number that came up was 556,433…

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  • David D.

    I did the exact same doubling from 2 thing when I was younger, and it made my day to know I’m not the only one.

    I’m not sure if you know about this, but here is a fascinating tool to compare the size of things in the universe: http://htwins.net/scale2/

  • Mark Monnin

    I’m trying to figure out who the 41 Disney princesses are… Wikipedia has a list of 11 with the 2 from Frozen soon to join, which would make 13. Does 41 include other female characters like Alice (in Wonderland), Minnie Mouse, and Esmeralda?

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