What is a Quadrillion?
There are two systems in use for
naming numbers larger than a million.
In the American system, the Latin prefix refers to the
number of groups of three zeros, not including the last
group of three, which represents a thousand. Thus in the
USA, a billion is 1,000,000,000 (109) and a quadrillion
is a mere 1,000,000,000,000,000. (1015).
In the British system, the Latin prefix represents the power of a million,
thus a British billion is 1,000,000,000,000 (1012)
and a British quadrillion is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
Current British Usage
Common usage in most English-speaking countries, including Britain,
has now almost completely adopted the American system, so it is
now a thousand times easier to become a British billionaire. This change
started taking place slowly around the end of the twentieth and beginning of the twenty-first century,
so when determining what the words billion, trillion, and quadrillion mean, it is necessary to consider
both when and where they were used.
For a long time the BBC World Service used to
say one thousand million rather than one billion to make the meaning universally clear, but with current sizes
of national budgets this solution has become unworkable.
Visualizing a Quadrillion
If you want to see what a stack of 1 Quadrillion (U.S.)
pennies might look like, click here.
To imagine what a stack of 1 Quadrillion pennies used to look like
to the rest of the world, just view that same page one thousand
million times... (If you view it once a second, it should
only take you 31.7 years to do this.)