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1 Amazing Fact About Money

In 2011 one of the most in-depth economic graphs ever created was posted on xkcd, it is a monumental feat that gives a visual representation of almost all the money in the world and what it can do.

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It goes into incredible detail about everything from the average price of a book to the total GDP of planet Earth. It plots out the relative gulf in salary of a CEO in 1965 compared to a CEO in 2011, tells you how much J.K. Rowling would be worth if she was a rapper, and even how much a human life is worth in monetary terms according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

You need to set aside around an hour just to have a look at it all properly. If you have a bit more time on your hands then you could extrapolate all manner of facts and observations from it.

We could put it in a long-term savings account, make lavish purchases for our loved ones and give charitable donations to those less fortunate than us. We can even afford Beyoncé tickets! No, we're going to do a little sum with it.

Firstly, we're going to adjust it for inflation. That $2,396,950,000,000,000 in 2011 is now worth $2,489,198,992,615,775 and 50 cents in September 2013.

Next, it's time to convert that into the most worthless active currency. According to professor Wikipedia, that would be the Iranian rial (IRR). A quick check on Bloomberg reveals that one dollar is worth a minute fraction under 24,827 IRR.

For those of you without a calculator, the sum looks something like this:

2,489,198,992,615,775.5 x 24,827 = 61,799,343,389,671,860,000

So we now have 61,799,343,389,671,860,000 IRR. We big in Iran.

These are 100 Rial notes, the lowest value bank note that is currently in circulation in Iran. If you took one of these into a shop in Iran it would technically be worth 0.4 cents, however they are now quite rare and there is currently one being sold on eBay for two dollars.

Anyway, we now have 617,993,433,896,718,600 of these bad boys. Each one is 130 millimetres long (about 5 inches).

Please listen to some calming music while I do a couple of sums.

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Okay, so how long is all of this money in millimetres?

130 x 617,993,433,896,718,600 = 80,339,146,406,573,420,000

That's a lot of millimetres, let's convert it into... light years. It makes just over 8.49.

And with that, we now have our fact...

1. If you converted all of the money in human history into the smallest available banknote and put it end-to-end, it would be able to reach NINE different stars! This includes Alpha Centauri, where we could bump into these people.


In Avatar, Pandora is a moon orbiting Polyphemus. This is supposed to be a Jupiter-like gas giant orbiting Alpha Centauri A, which is about 4.35 light years from us.

Now, the original number that I used for all of the money in human history is probably out of date now. But that doesn't matter because...

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