Tuesday, October 26, 2004


Our ability to intuitively grasp numbers doesn't go very far. Studies have shown that are ability to make rough intuitive estimates of quantities reaches its limit at a few dozen.

Mathematics have given us a good set of cognitive tools to acturately deal with larger values but we still have a hard time grasping what those values mean. It is easy enough to see, for instance, that a multi-trillion dollar national debt involves a hell of a lot of money, but what is a trillion of anything actually like?

The Megapenny Project is a site that helps us to intuitively visualize large numbers by building larger and larger sets of numbers using pennies. A trillion, for instance, is a block of pennies 273 feet on a side — conveniently illustrated next to representations of various sky scrapers and monuments.

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