A million is a really big number, let alone a billion.
In engineering we get used to big numbers but it means we can become blasé about them.
Watching Apples hyperbolic release of the iPhone 11 last month has me pondering the ineffable.
In their new A12 CPU there are 8.9 billion transistors. Think about that for a moment. That’s 9 billion switches! 9,000,000,000
From 1985, here's an Intel 386 chip with a mere 229,000 transistors (external & internal photos)
Now my brain can’t conceive these kinds of numbers, so I look for analogies to try and grasp the concept. Let’s say you win Lotto. You decide to be frugal and spend no more than $1000 dollars a day. It will take you almost 3 years to spend a million dollars. Now to spend a billion dollars, it will take you almost 3000 years!
Near the little town of Kumara on the West Coast, is a small hydro power station. I was lucky enough to have called on them when they were spilling the dam. Here’s my car beside the pipe where they discharge 36 million litres of water per hour. That's 14.5 Olympic swimming pools filled per hour!
I thought of these cosmic numbers again when looking at one of our Kane manometers. The resolution is less than 1 Pascal! Many years ago, my long suffering physics teacher, told me that the Pascal was the SI unit for pressure, but we'd never encounter this and that Kilopascals and Megapascals would be what we'd use. Au Contraire!
And to really blow your mind, think about this. The human brain contains 100-Trillion synapses; ostensibly 100-Trillion transistors!