HOW MUCH IS A MILLION?
David M. Schwartz
We all know a million is lots, and we all have trouble visualizing how much. What Schwartz's Marvelossissimo the Mathematical Magician does is give the concept some concrete form in four wide-eyed examples. First, "If one million kids climbed onto one another's shoulders, they would be. . .farther up than airplanes can fly." And finally, "If this book had a million tiny stars, they would fill 70 pages. Climb aboard"--for a balloon trip through just seven star-dotted pages, whereupon a lunch break is declared. As these mind-bogglers may not mean much without comparisons, Schwartz extends the same references to picture a billion (here the human tower "would stand up past the moon") and, finally, a trillion, where the pages of stars are now a roll of paper "stretching from New York to New Zealand." As proof that this isn't mere wand-waving, an appendix furnishes doubters with the calculations through which Schwartz arrived at his statements. Aside from that, the only numerals in sight are on a pre-title page, in a column showing 1 to 1,000,000 stacked up by factors of ten. This isn't much of an arithmetic lesson, but as an exercise in imagining, it gets a boost from Kellogg, whose pictures always seem to be bursting with stars and extravagance and punctuation-marked wonder.