# How long is a billion?

Discussion in 'Math' started by Georacer, Dec 8, 2012.

## How many 0 digits does a billion have?

19 vote(s)
82.6%

4 vote(s)
17.4%
1. ### Georacer Thread Starter Moderator

Nov 25, 2009
5,142
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I was watching this video from numberphile today and this question was raised: How many zero digits does the billion have?

It is explained that there are two naming systems that represent different cultures and age groups, so I thought I 'd make a poll to see where we stand.

I 'd like to hear, if you care to share, your country of origin and your approximate age. If the number that you use in everyday life is different than the one you learned at school, please say why this has changed. I also mounted a poll, so that we can see the results at a glance.

So...
Country: Greece
Age: 20s
No zero digits in the billion: 9

strantor likes this.

Apr 5, 2008
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3. ### Sparky49 Active Member

Jul 16, 2011
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18 M, UK.

I always think of a billion, as a million million. Just as a million is a thousand, thousand...

I think it's one of the only French things we like.

4. ### Markd77 Senior Member

Sep 7, 2009
2,803
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I find that odd, I've never heard anyone in the UK using that system. Is it a Scottish thing?

5. ### Wendy Moderator

Mar 24, 2008
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1 billion = 1,000,000,000 or 1E9

Apr 5, 2008
15,647
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Hello,

In Holland we have a Biljoen wich is 1 million squared so 10^12.
See this wiki (dutch) page:
http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biljoen

Bertus

7. ### atferrari AAC Fanatic!

Jan 6, 2004
2,648
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Hola Geo,

Your question is made asuming that I read "billion" as an English word. Exactly with that word, hurried (and wrong) translation could distort the meaning, according to language, even more for uninformed people that, let me tell you, would prevail everywhere. Nobody deals with that concept in a daily basis.

Things would be much simpler and representative if you ask:

What is the name of the number "1 000 000 000 000" for you?
What is the name of the number "1 000 000 000" for you?

Spaces shown to help in reading. I should have used a "." as units separators if writing in Spanish.

BTW, try "trillion" as an English word and then explore around it.

I know, it all depends what point of view you choose. The good of using the figure instead of a word in an especific language is that the first should convey the same meaning (educated people provided) to all.

8. ### MrChips Moderator

Oct 2, 2009
12,432
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In North America, a billion is a thousand million.
In the UK, a billion is a million million.

Hence a UK billionaire is a thousand times richer than a US billionaire?

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9. ### Georacer Thread Starter Moderator

Nov 25, 2009
5,142
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@atferrari

That's exactly why I used the word and not the number representation. I want to explore what different people picture in mind when they hear the word billion (English), billion (French), biljoen (Dutch), δισεκατομμύριο (thisekatommyrio/ Greek), etc.

What those words have in common is that they have the root "million" (or relevant) as a basis and then they use a numeral modifier in the front (two, three, four...) and strictly linguistically are equivalent.

That means that my question can be rephrased as "In how much debt would I be if I ordered for a billion's worth of Arduinos in your country, myself having in mind 10^9 units of currency?"

10. ### Georacer Thread Starter Moderator

Nov 25, 2009
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The linked video in the first post claims that the UK formally adopted the short scale in 1974. You may need to check the value of your bank account once again!

11. ### Clay Member

Feb 12, 2010
21
8
I still use the British system up here in Canada:

Milliard 10^9 (1000 million)

Billion 10^12 (bi-millions)

Trillion 10^18 (tri-millions)

Have been forced to switch to U.S. system for everyday things, sigh.

Best regards,

/Clay

Georacer likes this.
12. ### ErnieM AAC Fanatic!

Apr 24, 2011
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I found it just has one zero, but I live in North America, and I did my work in hexadecimal.

DerStrom8 likes this.
13. ### Georacer Thread Starter Moderator

Nov 25, 2009
5,142
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Smartpants...

Last edited: Dec 8, 2012
DerStrom8 likes this.
14. ### THE_RB AAC Fanatic!

Feb 11, 2008
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When I was child in the early 70's in Australia it was taught a billion was a million million, based on the old English system, but very soon we had standardised on the American billion which I think is more sensible like other unit standards in 1000 increments.

Funny enough in those days it was a classroom issue only as you never really heard the term billion used in real life, either version was an amount of money so large it was never commonly used. These days "a billion" is an extremely common term in financial markets and you hear it many times a day on the financial news.

To Clay; Do people really still use that 10^12 billion in Canada? Is that the French speaking community? I thought that would cause a lot of issues with your American neighbours using the modern billion?

15. ### Clay Member

Feb 12, 2010
21
8
Unfortunately no, not taught in schools any more. I am

in Ontario and 70 years old, too old to change now.

The French in Quebec still use French standards such as

400 degrees in a circle rather than 360.

We are becoming Americanized in spelling as well,

dropping the u in colour and neighbour, and the

gh in night. (nite)

Best regards,

/Clay

Mar 31, 2012
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17. ### justtrying Active Member

Mar 9, 2011
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origin - russia.

billion was the number that followed million, so
million = 6 zeros (1 000 000)
billion = 9 zeros (1 000 000 000)

trillion came after billion and thus has 12 zeros, therefore, to me, trillion is a million million

Interestingly enough, in Russia, we have another name for billion - milliard. That's what I know. But the thing is confusing, especially with current economics.

18. ### panic mode Senior Member

Oct 10, 2011
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i didn't know about short and long scale until I moved to North America.
I found it strange that numbers are different here...

suddenly the income gap between me and Bill Gates looked slightly better

my proposal is to abolish current naming and either use prefixes kilo, mega, giga etc. or scientific notation (no names) ;-)

Last edited: Dec 9, 2012
19. ### Georacer Thread Starter Moderator

Nov 25, 2009
5,142
1,266
Like, "I bought my car for 6.4 mega drachmas"? That would sound sooooooo sci-fi.

20. ### Wendy Moderator

Mar 24, 2008
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With memory going where it is we are almost there already.