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How many zeroes are there in a trillion?

I was talking to Roger recently and neither of us were sure how many zeroes there are in a trillion.  Its sounds like there’s a lot but we struggle with billions so getting our heads around a trillion is a bit like looking at the night sky and wondering how far it all goes.

The night sky with comet

Night sky with comet 2007

I looked it up on wikipedia and found out that the way we talk about trillions means there’s 12 zeros in the number.  A million has six zeroes and a billion has nine zeroes.  Adding another three takes us up to a trillion.

Mind boggling as they say.  And this is in a world where worry about one or two zeroes is never far from many people’s minds.  The way our economy is managed is making a mess of many people’s lives and they are struggling to cope with the daily bills which only have one or two zeroes on them.  Power bills are growing ever more expensive and if there’s one thing that represents the worst of the market economy it has to be the way essentials like power and telecommunications have been managed.

This Government is hell bent on worshiping market forces.  We see it with the current debacle over land in Canterbury.  “Leave it to the market” to sort out supply and demand they say.  But its mot a normal market and those fortunate to have parcels of land and the developers are laughing all the way to the bank.  The number of zeroes on their bank accounts will increase while others are left to fend as best they can.

As the USA struggles to get to grips with its multi-trillion debt and countries like Greece find it difficult to make the change thats needed in its economy, its important to remember that at the bottom of the pile, not seen under the  zeroes, are people.  Their lives are touched in many ways by the decisions of all these politicians yet the politicians seem to be oblivious to anything but the vote, the number of zeroes on the score cards from the ballot boxes.  They do and say whatever it takes to grab another tick against their name.  Regardless of the impact on people they do the popularist thing.  To me thats unethical and reflects the worst in our political system

Until they can get over their fascination with all these zeroes our country, in fact the western world, will struggle to make headway against the looming tidal wave of zeroes in our debt.

Trillions?  Whats the next big number after a trillion?  Did you know that the biggest number listed on wikipedia is a centillion which has 303 zeroes in it?  Perhaps another taste of Trillian (from the Hitchhikers Guide) might get me over my current grumpiness.


Joseph’s techno i-Pod

Young Joseph was having a hard time.  His many older brothers and sisters were always picking on him and making life miserable.  He wasn’t sure how many family members there were but when they had pizza he was lucky if there were  enough slices in two pizzas for him to get a piece.  Life at school wasn’t much better but he stuck with it and eventually through study and hard work became an accountant.

One of his strong points was economics and over the years he watched as the people around him got increasingly into debt.  More and more material possessions but only possible through mounting debt on credit cards and bank loans.  He was uneasy as this didn’t seem to be the way things were meant to be and he recalled the biblical story of Joseph who had a coat and was a man of dreams.  It seemed to the modern day Joseph that there was a historical precedent to where the world was heading and he worried.

In his job he was given a new fangled thingy to let him stay in touch when he was away from the office.  The boss thought he should keep up to date with the action and this i-pod would let him do that.  Joseph enjoyed being able to surf the net while he was out and about in his job but still he worried that all the news he was reading was just the same – nations spending more than they could afford, getting further and further into debt, and people in those countries becoming more and more poverty stricken and losing control of their destinies.

He decided to post a post on a blog site of the Prime Minsiter.  They wanted feedback and so he would give it to them.  Would they listen?  He didn’t know but Joseph felt he had something to say and he would say it.  Here’s what he posted.

My name sake Joseph predicted seven good years for Egypt followed by seven bad years so he urged the leaders to store the surplus from the seven good years to tide them over in the bad years.  They heeded him and disaster was averted.

It seems to me (said the modern day Joseph) that we have had seven good decades since the end of the second world war.  Nations have propspered and the standard of living has improved for many.  For some nations the good times have been slow coming and for some the greed of the wealthy has kept them in poverty or deprived them of their resources.  In those nations that have prospered people haven’t been storing the surplus to help in the future, instead they have been gorging themselves, becoming fat and idle, ignoring the pain and anguish and desperation of many so that the few can live in luxury and excess.

The seven good decades are ending and I am predicting that we face seven decades of famine – famine not only in terms of food but also in resources and in spiritual well-being of the people of the world.  Starvation for many and a life of misery when dust is all that children and mothers and fathers have to eat.  Water taken from their lands by the greedy nations will leave them dying in the sun.  The people of the so called developed nations will reap what they have sown.

By ignoring the plight of the poor and needy in their communities they will face an increasing tide of people wanting to breakdown their doors to plunder their mansions built from greed and immorality.  The police, increasingly expected to keep the haves safe from the have-nots, will be overrun by the sheer scale of the breakdown of law and order.  Governments will find themselves isolated and overrun by the people wanting a share, anything at all to keep them and their families alive.  Governments will scratch their heads and wonder why is this happening, blind to their indifference about what sort of society they have created.

Joseph hit the send button and it wasn’t long before his boss was on the phone.  “What have you done Joseph?  What is this blasphemy you are preaching?  Don’t you know the best interests of our company and therefore your position depend on the benevolence of the nation’s leaders?  And here you are, predicting doom and gloom?  That’s not what they are all about, they are there for the fat cats, the greedies, the well-off and we get our cut from their good fortune.  I’m sorry you are banished, exiled, outcast.  Oh, and I want that i-pad thingy back please.”

With that, Joseph was without a job, cast on the heap of the unemployed.  And what was worse his link with the internet was gone too.

Of course that’s not the end of Joseph’s story so, just like his Biblical namesake, Joseph will be back with further installments in his story.  Meanwhile, do you think he was right?  Was his boss right to sack him?  Should those in leadership positions be heeding his warnings?  Are we really in for seven decades of “famine”?


Why? Thats a good question (no the answer is not 42) and one that I will try to answer over the next few weeks, but meantime it’s enough to say that I’m here, in this blogspace, and I’m groping my way round to find out how it all works. I presume many of you have been at this point before me so I’ll explore and see how you’ve coped with blogging.