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Robert Andrew
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Just How Big is a ‘Billion’?

09 February 2014, 18:52

The term ‘billion’ is used more and more today. A lot more people are becoming billionaires, the bonuses of top executives are often expressed in billions, profits of large companies or corporations and the gross domestic products (GDP) of most countries are usually expressed in billions of dollars; stars and galaxies are numbered in billions, or billions of billions, as are the number of neurons in the human brain. We are becoming quite familiar with the term, but just how big is a billion? The following might help you get a ‘feel’ of how big a billion is.

A billion seconds ago it was 1982 and apartheid was in full swing.  Civil disobedience, arrests demonstrations, and other acts of protest were increasing. It was not a good time

A billion minutes ago, it was 114AD and the Roman Empire was flourishing, with Hadrian as the Emperor. Famous for building Hadrian’s Wall to mark the northern limit of Roman Britain, he is regarded as one of the Five Good Emperors, and was part of the period when considerable expansion of the Roman Empire took place, from northern Britain to Dacia and to Arabia and Mesopotamia[1].

A billion days ago, it was 2.7 million years ago and our ape-like ancestors were roaming on the plains of Africa.

A billion years ago, it was 82 million years ago and dinosaurs walked the Earth. It would be about another 20 million years before they became extinct (believed to have been caused by a massive meteorite)

A billion years ago, the first multicellular organisms appeared on the Earth, which according to Charles Darwin, were among the first participants of the evolutionary process as explained in detail in Darwin's On the Origin of Species (1859)[2]

While many of us will survive for another billion seconds, it is a sobering thought that hundreds of generations of people will live and die during the next billion minutes.



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