16 Trillion

English: The United States' debt ceiling was r...

I’ve decided that’s how I’m going to respond to everything the next time I have a “debate” with a liberal. It doesn’t happen very often (the debate, that is), but it always frustrates me to no end. More than once I’ve had to deal with responses like, “You obviously know your facts and figures, BUT (there’s always a “but”) I’m happy that millions of people have insurance that didn’t have it before”. Or, “Obviously you’ve studied this at length, BUT I still feel good about __________ (insert your favorite liberal cause here)”.

So, the next time I hear about some program or pet project that will cause another increase in the federal debt (intentionally not capitalized), I will simply and succinctly answer, “16 trillion“. It will be confusing at first, but there is NO legitimate retort that can be made to that comment.

The problem is that we humans have difficulty with big numbers. It is said that before we, as a species, “invented” numbers, counting was accomplished using rocks or stones in a counting bag. The extent, for most individuals, was something like “One, two, three… many”. Many was handled for them using a counting bag (and then later using devices like the abacus).

Modern, educated individuals, even though we “know our numbers”, still have issues with very large numbers. To us it’s more like “One thousand, one million, one billion… a whole bunch”. We know that number is out there, but we just can’t wrap our minds around it. There is simply nothing to compare it with.

Plastic bottles before processing

To illustrate my point I did a fun little calculation. A couple months ago I was visiting some relatives and a Brita water filter commercial came on TV. I’m sure you’ve seen it – it’s the one where they say that all the discarded plastic water bottles could circle the earth 31 times (at least I think they said 31). Almost immediately both my brother-in-law and father-in-law said, “I don’t believe that”. I said I did, but I couldn’t defend my position at the time.

So, here’s how to calculate and support the claim that Brita made.

First, the circumference of the earth is 24,901 miles. Taking that number and multiplying by the number of feet in a mile (5280) gives us 131477280 feet. Assuming the average water bottle is six inches, or a half a foot, we multiply by 2 and get the figure of 262954560. That should be the number of plastic bottles is takes to circle the earth once.

Seems like a pretty big number, right? But now we have to determine how many of these bottles are discarded in a year. A quick internet search reveals that 1500 water bottles are used in the U.S. every second. Wow. That’s a lot. Calculating that out (1500 x 60 x 60 x 24 x 365) = 47 billion water bottles are used each year! That’s billion with a “B”.

47 billion divided by 263 million = 179, a number “slightly” larger that what Brita came up with. Assuming that some bottles are larger, and that some bottles are not discarded, we can forgive Brita for being somewhat conservative in their estimate.

So, why are these numbers so hard to “get”? Well, as humans, we tend to just think about ourselves and our own little world – that part of life that has a direct impact only upon us. Our minds normally work with numbers in the hundreds or thousands – those numbers are easy to “get”. So what, you might think, I only use a couple bottle each day or each week. That can only add up to 50 or 100 bottles each year. And if I include my circle of family/friends/acquaintances, that can only add up to a few hundred at most. How can the world possibly use 47 billion (or enough to circumnavigate the globe several times)?

16 trillion is even harder. How many seconds have passed since humans have been civilized? About 315 billion. That’s not even a third of one trillion. “Modern” humans (homo sapien) have only bee around for maybe 2 trillion seconds. In fact, you have to go back in time a half a million years to reach 16 trillion seconds. A half a million years!

Is it any wonder we just kinda ignore the 16 trillion number? It’s quite simply unfathomable. We might as well be dealing with infinity.

16 Responses to “16 Trillion”

  1. Impactofreasons Reply

    Will A Brita Water Filter Filter Out The Alcohol In Mouthwash? I know that those brita filters can filter out impurities in cheap booze and make them taste alot better. I was wondering if it could filter out the alcohol in mouthwash?
    I guess I phrased my question wrong.

    I want the alcohol seperated from everything else in the mouthwash. So I want everything else filtered out.

    • No because alcohol isn’t the only liquid used in mouthwash. Also filtering doesn’t separate liquids only removes the solids. Oh and please don’t follow up with a question asking if you can filter NyQuil. LOL!

  2. Impactofreasons Reply

    Will A Brita Water Filter Filter Out The Alcohol In Mouthwash? I know that those brita filters can filter out impurities in cheap booze and make them taste alot better. I was wondering if it could filter out the alcohol in mouthwash?
    I guess I phrased my question wrong.

    I want the alcohol seperated from everything else in the mouthwash. So I want everything else filtered out.

    • No because alcohol isn’t the only liquid used in mouthwash. Also filtering doesn’t separate liquids only removes the solids. Oh and please don’t follow up with a question asking if you can filter NyQuil. LOL!

  3. Impactofreasons Reply

    Will A Brita Water Filter Filter Out The Alcohol In Mouthwash? I know that those brita filters can filter out impurities in cheap booze and make them taste alot better. I was wondering if it could filter out the alcohol in mouthwash?
    I guess I phrased my question wrong.

    I want the alcohol seperated from everything else in the mouthwash. So I want everything else filtered out.

    • No because alcohol isn’t the only liquid used in mouthwash. Also filtering doesn’t separate liquids only removes the solids. Oh and please don’t follow up with a question asking if you can filter NyQuil. LOL!

  4. Llama Reply

    How Long Does A Brita Pitcher Water Filter REALLY Last? How many months can the Brita pitcher water filter last?
    how many cups or fluid oz, or how many refills does it last?

  5. Chipmunk Reply

    Brita Water Filter Help? I’ve used a water filter for years, but yesterday when I replaced the cartridge the water was coming through almost black on the first run-through. I thought it must be a dodgy cartridge so I took it out and put another one in but the same thing happened again. The water came out clear on the second run-through though and seemed okay. Whenever I have changed the cartridge before the water has always come out clear straight away so it has me puzzled, does anyone else get this? The cartridges are Brita Maxtra by the way.
    Scarlett – you’re a charmer aren’t you – like I said I have been using a filter for years now and it doesn’t usually run through dark which is why I found it odd. I know you have to let it run through three times thanks.
    I don’t actually have the instruction booklet anymore, the husband chucked it, which is why I thought I would come here and ask for your kind and insightful help.

    • I have used one for years as well, and this has happened to me a few times, I have looked on their website and can find no explanation as to why this happens try running water through it a few more times and see what happens I would err on the side of caution and discard them If I wasn’t happy.this is Brita website you may find something I have missed.
      http://www.brita.net/uk/faqs_household.html?&L=1#9

  6. NetJones100 Reply

    Has Anyone Seen Brita Water Filters New Filtertaps? Where Can I Get One?

    • I actually work for United Utilities, the Water Board in the North West. To be honest, for the price your gonna pay for a Brita filter, the actual difference you’ll taste in your water, is minimal, if not non existant. Basically, your water is treated on at least two occassions – once upon first being gathered from the resevoir / borehole that feeds you, and secondly, once it enters your local treatment works by the water board – all impurities are removed, the colouration is checked, the acidity is checked, the hardness is checked and also minimal levels of Chloring are added to kill any Germs (I stress Minimal – dont go thinking swimming pools on me!). The pipes feeding you water are either Cast Iron / Alkathene – which due to the high water pressure are amazingly clean. In most cases Brita / other filters predominantly only act as a ‘Placebo’ whereby just because you have a filter – it appears to taste better.

      Honestly… it’ll do sweet FA for the Taste / Purity / Hardness / cleanliness of your water – save your money

  7. Me Reply

    Brita Water Filter Systems? Do you think they really work well?? i got the water pitcher..you just fill it with tap water and there is a filter that supposedly cleans the water…has anyone used one of these before and what did you think of it?

    • Britta is adequate if you only want to improve water taste and odor and don’t care about any other health concerns. That is all basic filters like Brita and Pur are good for. If you actually want clean water then step up to a purification system.

      I use the highest rated system available. Ironically enough by year 2 it is cheaper per gallon than the cheap and basic Brita is. Therefore between overall price and performance I would NEVER recommend a Brita to anybody.

  8. NetJones100 Reply

    Has Anyone Seen Brita Water Filters New Filtertaps? Where Can I Get One?

    • I actually work for United Utilities, the Water Board in the North West. To be honest, for the price your gonna pay for a Brita filter, the actual difference you’ll taste in your water, is minimal, if not non existant. Basically, your water is treated on at least two occassions – once upon first being gathered from the resevoir / borehole that feeds you, and secondly, once it enters your local treatment works by the water board – all impurities are removed, the colouration is checked, the acidity is checked, the hardness is checked and also minimal levels of Chloring are added to kill any Germs (I stress Minimal – dont go thinking swimming pools on me!). The pipes feeding you water are either Cast Iron / Alkathene – which due to the high water pressure are amazingly clean. In most cases Brita / other filters predominantly only act as a ‘Placebo’ whereby just because you have a filter – it appears to taste better.

      Honestly… it’ll do sweet FA for the Taste / Purity / Hardness / cleanliness of your water – save your money

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