Experiment: What 1 Million Actually Looks Like

One Million PeriodsYou know, people always talk about a million as if they actually know what it would look like if they were actually staring at one million things. But for most of us, we’ve never actually seen a million of anything!

So, I decided to take a look at one million, and to do so I created a document that has one million periods in it. It’s attached here.

The file is a 976kb download, and if you open it in Word it takes 254 pages in single spaced format.

Now, one million is interesting, but what interests me even more is one billion. In order to get an idea of what that looks like you’d need to open this document 1,000 times and stare at every scrolling page. In MS Word, that would mean you’d have to stare at 254,000 pages of periods to see what one billion looks like.

So, for grins why don’t you click on the document link above and after the page has downloaded try holding down your right arrow key and scrolling all the way to the end. Personally I haven’t done it because it takes way too long and I don’t have the patience for it.




There are 10 comments

Add yours
  1. GB

    My imagination can’t quite be stretched to visualize a billion, but I can get a rough glimmer of it if I try.

    Start with a ten-cube, then change each unit into a ten-cube itself.

    Then, zoom out, as if you’d been looking at one unit of a ten-cube.

    Unless you have a very vivid and multiprocess-capable imagination, this one’s a toughie.

  2. Gaybag

    I imagine cube lattices, ten units to a side, to visualize thousands, millions, and, with difficulty, billions.

    One thousand is one cube, ten to a side.

    One million is one cube, ten to a side, where each unit is one of the above.

  3. Luke

    people always talk about a million as if they actually know what it would look like if they were actually staring at one million things

    I completely agree with you on this statement. Infact, I’m sure both you and I have done it many times before. Sometimes I have actually looked into it more deeply, as you have demonstrated, and am often astonished to see the results. Although, I can’t say I creae a document with X Million periods to give myself an idea, I usually just use my imagination :P

  4. Damian

    sorry for double posting, but it dodn’t do the code part


    for ($i=0; $i

    job done

    and if you want a billion, just change the number.

    and if your too lazy to copy the output to a file, do


    for ($i=0; $i

  5. John P.

    Damian,

    I considered writing a little script to create the file, but then I decided I could do it with C+V just as fast. Here is what I did (roughly):

    • First I typed and counted 20 periods.
    • I copied and pasted them 5 times, so now I had 100.
    • I copied and pasted them 10 times, so now I had 1,000.
    • I copied and pasted them 10 times, so now I had 10,000.
    • I did the same thing 2 more times to get to 1,000,000.

    In fact it was so easy that I was going to keep doing it, but the document size was getting HUGE, so I decided that a nearly 1 MB download was enough for just about everyone, and also I didn’t want to tax my server too much in case everyone started downloading it at once.

    :-)

    John

  6. Damian

    Now the question is, did you manually type 1 million periods? (and using ctrl C + V counts as manual) or did you at keast have the common sense to use a while loop to write to a text file? =P


Post a new comment