Reading Week #5

Large numbers are difficult to comprehend.  The national debt for example is kind of mind numbing.  The fun article this week is about insane numbers; imagining the unimaginable..

Insane, Mind-numbingly Huge Numbers

If you are lucky enough to live for a century, you will have lived only a little over 3 billion[1] seconds.  Think about that.  Some billionaires have made the equivalent of, often many dollars for every second they’ve lived..

In the other direction, another way to think about that number is that common processors today are executing cycles at about 3 billion per second, or about as many seconds as there are in a century.  Amazing.

Anyway, back to bigger numbers..  One of the more fun treatments of large numbers was from Tim Urban, on the “Wait, but Why?” website.  The article is From 1,000,000 to Graham’s Number[2].

There are a few other descriptions of Graham’s number here[3] and another fun treatment was in Scientific American’s blog.[4]

Realistic Goals

On a more down-to-earth note, I liked Baron Schwartz’s article on Realistic Goals.  Goals should be achievable, or they become demotivating.  His blog is always thoughtful and worth a read btw.

“When you reach a goal, everyone should celebrate it. It should bring people together around a sense of accomplishment, shared purpose, teamwork. There should be a sense that we pushed ourselves to do what we weren’t sure we’d be able to do. It should be motivating; it should reinforce the team’s momentum and energy.”



  1. I’m using the short scale “billion“, which is a thousand million.
  2. From 1,000,000 to Graham’s Number
  3. Wikipedia Graham’s Number
  4. Graham’s Number Is Too Big for Me to Tell You How Big It Is