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How Long is a Trillion Seconds?

The New York Times published an article explaining large numbers like a million, billion, and trillion. The article was titled “Just how long is a trillion seconds?” In a letter to the editor, Dorothy C. Morrell from Seattle explains a trillion in terms of time.

I asked myself, why not think of it in terms of seconds? A trillion seconds would have to be years, probably many years. I made a wild guess. As it turned out, I wasn't close. I found that 1,000 seconds ago was equal to almost 17 minutes. It would take almost 12 days for a million seconds to elapse and 31.7 years for a billion seconds. Therefore, a trillion seconds would amount to no less than 31,709.8 years. A trillion seconds ago, there was no written history. The pyramids had not yet been built. It would be 10,000 years before the cave paintings in France were begun.

Was I alone in not knowing how long ago a trillion seconds was? I asked some of my neighbors what they would say if they were told they could have $1 trillion in one-dollar bills, so long as they agreed to initial each bill. Their answers were very similar. ‘No!’ they said. When I asked why, they said, almost without exception, '’Because it would take me the rest of my life!’”

Preaching Angles: 1) Forgiveness; Justification; Redemption - This illustration is good for explaining just how much we have been forgiven by Christ Jesus as in the story of the ten thousand talents (Matt. 18:21-35). 2) Debt; Finances; Money - It can also use it to explain any type of large number, like the national debt. 3) Eternity; Heaven; Time – Our short time in trials on earth will fade compared to the eternal rewards that are to come.

Source: Dorothy C. Morrell, “Just How Long is a Trillion Seconds?” Opinion, The New York Times (9-28-86)

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