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Mega Million $1 billion jackpot: how far would it reach?

It’s not often that $1,100,000,000 is up for grabs but now that it is, we thought we’d have a look at some less practical uses for it.

Mega Million $1 billion jackpot: how far would it reach?

On Friday 29 July, a jackpot of over $1 billion dollars is on the line as hundreds of millions of tickets are purchased with hopes of getting all or some sizeable part of the Mega Millions prize. Although most people’s minds immediately start dreaming about what they would do with that sort of money - a new house, or car, or maybe even a yacht - my mind began pondering how awesome it would be to pile up all those dollar bills to see how far it stretched. I may need help... but then again, you’re reading this so likely you do too.

What one billion dollars really means

First things first, let me make it very clear that even if you or I were to be the sole winner of the jackpot, we would not be handed the $1.1 billion top prize fund. That makes what I’m about to say simply a fantastical idea, a bit like believing we’re going to overcome the one-in-over-300,000,000 odds in the first place. (Although someone has to win it!) Find out more about how Uncle Sam and lottery options ensure you’ll never see anything close to $1 billion.

OK, with that out of the way, let’s have a look together, with a mandatory suspension of disbelief required...

How high would one billion dollars reach?

So, the delivery of our billion dollars has arrived at our home via a fleet of custom-built trucks (it would’ve only taken ten crates of $100 bills but that’s not what we need here). The neighbours are not too happy with the noise but they’re holding back any complaints in the vain hope that we may give them a financial sweetener. Fat chance! Now, we’ve arranged with the delivery company that they need to neatly balance each of those 1,000,000,000 bills one on top of each other. The process begins as we watch on from our window with a cool glass of champagne and a very smug grin.

Up and up it goes, taking enough time to allow us to disappear for a few naps, until eventually we peruse the result. A powerful, and inconsequentially expensive, drone is required for this.

The final dollar bill, it turns out, sits 67.9 miles (or 109 km) above the original one placed on our street. That’s 358,510 feet (or 109,273 m) high and means it is touching the lower part of our troposphere. To put that into perspective it is approximately as high as 12 Mount Everests and if we happened to be the US president and we let it fall in a northerly direction (yes, of course we’ve glued all the bills together!) from our front lawn outside the White House, the final image of George Washington would land around Gettysburg National Cemetery, where $5 bill-man Abraham Lincoln made his famous address.

Mount Everest.
Full screen
Mount Everest.AFP

How far would one billion dollars stretch?

Right, sticking with the White House as our new home, let’s see how far the dollar bills - 6.14 inches each - would stretch to if laid out lengthwise, touching end-to-end. The total distance, sometimes called a money line, is a massive 96,900 miles (155,945 km). Ah, it’s longer than I thought.

Never mind where in the world we would arrive at by walking along our new path of greenbacks, we’d actually be able to - remember that suspension of disbelief we agreed to above - get nearly four times around our Earthly globe for that distance. Another way of looking at it is that if we stood them vertically they would take us more than a third of the way to the Moon. Take note, Elon!

What surface area would one billion dollars cover?

A billion dollar bills have proven that when it comes to length, they are rather impressive, but we also want to consider how much of our fine land we could cover with those payment tokens. As it works out, with each bill measuring fractionally more than 16 square inches, we would see around four square miles (over 10 square km or 1,555 acres) rippling in papery green.

Again, let’s get some creative perspective to that figure. It’s the equivalent, give or take, of Dublin international Airport in Ireland, or three quarters the size of LAX. In New York, just imagine Central Park filled with a carpet of dollar bills... now think of three of them and you get the idea! Another comparison is that it would cover Vatican City, the home of the Pope, 20 times over. Not that he needs the cash!

Right, where’s my ticket? I’m ready...


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