Sizes & stuff

In a film I saw as a child, Michael Lonsdale played a solicitor explaining to someone that they were to inherit one billion Francs. Convinced the heir to be did not understand how much a billion was, he used the following analogy:

"Ten seconds are ten seconds. One hundred seconds is a minute and forty seconds. One thousand seconds are sixteen minutes and forty seconds. Ten thousand seconds are two hours, forty six minutes and forty seconds. One hundred thousand seconds is one day, three hours, forty six minutes and forty seconds. One million seconds are eleven days, thirteen hours, forty six minutes and forty seconds. One billion seconds are thirty one years, eight months, seven days, seven hours, forty six minutes and forty seconds."

If the notary might have been a tad less specific, this brilliant way of conveying the relative size of things has stayed with me long after I've forgotten what the film was. In that spirit, here are two illustrations of the relative sizes of things.

First off, the 1977 film by Charles and Ray Eames, in which powers of ten are shown as distances in space;


More recently, the very young Hang twins have offered an updated and interactive version of the same journey:

You need a more recent version of Adobe Flash Player.

© Cary and Michael Hang (
LoFTI LIP6 last modified on: 09/07/2013 UPMC Sorbonne Université