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What’s in a trillion? Math minds sort it out for the rest of us

What does a trillion dollars look like?
With Apple's value hitting a trillion dollars, we wanted to find out what that looks like in actual money. Shaye Ganam and Jennifer Crosby share some real-life examples.

What does a trillion dollars really look like? With tech behemoth Apple becoming the world’s first publicly traded company valued at $1 trillion, we asked some mathematical minds to help us wrap our heads around a massive number.

READ MORE: Apple hits $1 trillion in value. Only 16 countries are worth more

Travel to infinity and beyond

(Disclaimer: that subtitle was not written by math experts!)

According to the math department at MacEwan University: “To travel a trillion kilometres, you need to travel back and forth between the Earth and sun 6,666 times, plus a one-way trip from Earth just past Mercury, the closest planet to sun.”

Spend it wisely

Professor Christoph Frei of the University of Alberta calculates that to spend $1 trillion, you would need to spend $33.8 million each day for 81 years.

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If it’s time you’re spending, Global markets specialist Jim Watt uses this illustration: one trillion seconds adds up to 32,000 years.

Cover a landmark

Try turning the $1 trillion into Canadian $20 bills, Frei suggests. He says you’ll end up with 65 billion $20 bills, “each of which has a size of 0.0106 square-metre. These banknotes would have a total size of 692 square-kilometres, compared to the area of Edmonton of 684 square-kilometres.”

So a trillion dollars in twenties covers more than all of Edmonton, even with the exchange rate factored in. There’s a hiccup with trying this example in real life, though: Frei says there aren’t 65 billion Canadian $20 bills in existence.

Sports & space 

The Death Star II doesn’t exist, either (sorry Star Wars fans), but if it did, the math department staff at MacEwan determines a trillion square-feet fits easily across it. “A trillion square-feet is not enough to cover the whole surface of the Death Star II. It would need an extra 346,670,000,000 to cover it all!”

READ MORE: Billy Dee Williams to reprise ‘Star Wars’ role

And for the sports fan who just can’t get enough, the math minds of MacEwan add that 17,361,111 football fields would fit into one trillion square-feet. That is, of course, including the end zones.*

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*Football calculation uses NFL fields, with apologies to CFL fans everywhere.