How much is a million?

We use numbers like million and billion every day, without really thinking about what they mean. Apple sold 70 million iPhones in the last quarter. There are 13 million people living in Tokyo. But a million is such a vast, unwieldy number that few of us have a real grasp of what it means.

So here are some ways to put it in context.

  • An average tin of baked beans holds 465 beans. If you eat a tin a day, after six years you’ll have munched your way through a million beans.
  • The average person takes 2,000 paces to walk a mile. If you wanted to walk a million paces, you’d have to walk from London to Aberdeen. And back again.
  • If you read the complete seven-book series that makes up the Harry Potter collection, by the time you’ve read them all you’ll have ploughed through more than a million words.*
  • If the pensioner in the post office queue in front of you is paying in his life savings of £10,000, you’ll be waiting while he counts out a million pennies.
  • There are a million cubic centimetres in a cubic metre.

* Actually, all the Harry Potter books together comprise 1,084,170 words. That’s enough left over for a typical length novel.

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