Academic journal article The American Biology Teacher

How Many Years Is Five Billion?

Academic journal article The American Biology Teacher

How Many Years Is Five Billion?

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Here is a short and easy-to-do activity that might help to provide a more complete and concrete understanding of large numbers accompanying the concept of deep time. Students who struggle with an appreciation for the vast amounts of time occupied by life on Earth may have a problem understanding and therefore accepting evolutionary concepts.

Materials

* clock with second hand

* sharp pencil

* sheet of clean paper

Student Procedure

1. One thousand is [10.sup.3]. One million is [10.sup.6]. One billion is [10.sup.9] That is 1,000,000,000 or one thousand million. Five billion would be five times that. The number of persons presently living on Earth is approximately five billion. The Earth is approximately 13 billion years old and has had life on it for almost five billion years. But how long is that?

How long would it take you to put five billion dots on a piece of paper? Try putting as many dots as you can on a piece of paper in just 10 seconds. Go ahead-try it.

Working with another person as a timer, time yourself tapping dots quickly on the paper for 10 seconds. Tap each dot so it is distinct and can be counted.

2. Count your dots. How many are there? Record that value and the following numbers you will calculate later.

3. Now that you have counted the number of dots you made in 10 seconds, estimate how many you could put on the paper in one minute.

4. Predict how long you think it would take you to be able to put five billion dots on a piece of paper.

5. Multiply your answer to #3 times the number of minutes in an hour. …

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