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The complete history of the Universe -- from the Big Bang to 200 my into the future

History of the Universe eBook. 398 pages, 300 illustrations only £5.99

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Large and Small Numbers

There are three large numbers which are often used in this story.




Let's try to get some idea of how big these numbers are.


A thousand is written as 1,000 or 103 (one followed by three zeros). If you start counting the seconds it will take about 17 minutes to get to a thousand. There are about 1,000 people in a village.

Now let's try to give a picture of a thousand. Let's start with an average grain of sand (which is about a millimeter cube).

A grain of sand is about 1 cubic millimeter in volume

Now consider a sugar cube which is about ten times as large as a grain of sand in each direction (about one cubic centimeter). A thousand grains of sand would fit into the sugar cube.

A sugar cube could hold about one thousand grains of sand


A million is a thousand times bigger than one thousand. It is written as 1,000,000 or 106 (one followed by six zeros).

It would take you about 12 days to count a million seconds. There are about a million people in a large city.

A liter of milk can hold about one million grains of sand

One liter of milk (1000 cubic centimeters) can hold one thousand sugar cubes or one million grains of sand.


A billion is a thousand times bigger than a million. It is written as 1,000,000,000 or 109 (one followed by nine zeros).

It will take you about 31 years to count a billion seconds.

There are about a billion people in a very large country.

A double wardrobe could hold about one billion grains of sand

Now consider a double wardrobe, which is about one cubic meter. It can hold one thousand boxes of milk, one million sugar cubes or one billion grains of sand.

Scientific Notation

The words million and billion are not used by scientists. Instead they have given special names for a wide range of very large and small numbers. I include a list for reference.

Occasionally I will use a special way of showing very large or very small numbers. This is called scientific notation and is explained in the Reference Section of this website.

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History of the Universe eBook. 398 pages, 300 illustrations only £5.99

eBook only £5.99
398 pages, 300 images

"I find the science fabulous...an extremely useful teaching tool."
Professor David Christian.