Posted on: December 28th, 2011 by
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Numbers are funny things, and I’m convinced that most of us don’t really know what they mean.

Sure, we know the basics… 1 plus 1 equals 2, etc., but we have no idea about the big stuff.

I’m talking about the REALLY BIG numbers that are always involved in safety statistics. You know the ones I mean… if I said the stats were 1 in 5 million of something nasty happening when you fly you’d probably say that was pretty dangerous.

And, if I told you exactly how big a number 5 million is then you probably wouldn’t believe me because you think you know what these numbers mean…

I know what a million is… a millionaire has one of them!

That is factually correct but practically useless information.

So let’s have a little fun and try to get a grip on the size of these numbers… How tall do you think a stack of one million pennies would be?

Go on, have a guess…


OK, OK… I’ll tell you.

A stack of one million pennies would be nearly 1 mile tall (0.96 miles, to be precise).

But I wasn’t talking about 1 million, I was talking about 5 million. So imagine a stack of pennies 5 miles high!

Now, and here’s the fun bit… push the pile over so they all land in a heap. Please stand back when you do this.

Imagine there is one particular penny (which looks just like all the rest) that you need to find in this humungous mess of coins.

Is it really likely that you are ever going to find the one coin you fear?

[Think about how big 5 miles is next time you drive your car… better still, measure out five miles using the odometer and think about how many pennies we really have to choose from.]

Is it impossible?  No, just very, very unlikely.