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  • What is a Trillion Dollars, Anyway?

    This week’s bloggers’ briefing brought the biggest crowd yet; standing room only. What was the draw? Matthias Shapiro, mastermind of the 10,000 pennies videos that have become a viral sensation, showed the eager bunch how to utilize the overused rhetoric and statistics of the day to instead communicate the numbers coming out of Washington in a way that people can digest.

    Through his use of visualizations, Shapiro puts real value to seemingly unfathomable amounts of money like millions, billions, and trillions of dollars. We’ve posted these videos before, but they deserve a second look:


    10,000 pennies is like a real world bar graph, Shapiro explained. He strays away from bar graphs and other computer-generated images, because they lose their meaning in the same way as mere numbers do.

    Going a step beyond the visualization, Shapiro has also created the visual metaphor.


    Shapiro quickly creates the recognizable and approachable ratio of miles per hour that the majority of us experience on a daily basis. Not only that, but it also allows us to perceive the speed in how far we would travel across the country, another characteristic that people can understand.

    “When building a visual metaphor the most important this is to give the viewer an experience that they can latch onto. People understand what it’s like to drive 60 miles an hour. People may not have individual experience with 174 miles an hour but they know that is really, really fast,” said Shapiro.

    Posted in Economics [slideshow_deploy]

    3 Responses to What is a Trillion Dollars, Anyway?

    1. Stanfordgym says:

      Mint.com created an animation to visualize a trillion dollars:


    2. Pingback: » Financial News Update - 07/24/09 NoisyRoom.net: Where liberty dwells, there is my country…

    3. HawkWatcher, Michiga says:

      Here's another "mental metaphor", influenced by my interest in astronomical observations, especially all things Hubble.

      To grasp the enormity of the 2010 federal budget, let's make one US dollar equal to one star.

      The generally agreed upon estimate of the number of stars in our Milky Way galaxy is 200 to 400 billion. Let's use the higher number in this analogy.

      The estimated 2010 federal budget is 3.55 trillion dollars.

      3.55 trillion divided by 400 billion is 8.875.

      It would require all the stars in almost nine galaxies the size of the Milky Way to equal the dollar amount of the tax-payer funded 2010 federal budget. With the costs and related taxes of energy bills and healthcare reform not even included, toss in a couple more colossal star systems of hardship and debt for already hapless citizens to absorb, and you get an idea of our predicament. There is irrational, out-of-control, and harmful spending in Washington on a galactic scale.

      Can you imagine what could be accomplished by the American people with four galaxies worth of dollars in our hands? I imagine the current recession would be most expediently dispatched.

      We must fight this near-incomprehensible budget by calling for immediate reduction in the size and scope of the federal government. Washington is on the path to bankrupting the nation by doing the opposite of what will work. Entire departments and federal bureaucracies must be eliminated right now, and responsibilities and powers transferred or returned to the states and people.

      Current legislation is shown to be harmful to us all. The US Constitution demands that we the bosses protect our liberty when it is threatened by enemies foreign and domestic. Going to Washington and physically throwing out the irresponsible enemies and usurpers is not yet an option, so reject them at the ballot box next year, and help elect reasonable conservatives who will act on the Constitution.

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