12.1: What Information Do You Need?
What information would you need to answer these questions?
- How many meter sticks does it take to equal the mass of the Moon?
- If all of these meter sticks were lined up end to end, would they reach the Moon?
Let's use powers of 10 to help us make calculations with large and small numbers.
What information would you need to answer these questions?
Label the number line and plot your answer for the number of meter sticks.
One light year is approximately $10^{16}$ meters. How many light years away would the meter sticks reach? Label the number line and plot your answer.
Here is a problem that will take multiple steps to solve. You may not know all the facts you need to solve the problem. That is okay. Take a guess at reasonable answers to anything you don’t know. Your final answer will be an estimate.
If everyone alive on Earth right now stood very close together, how much area would they take up?
In 2016, the Burj Khalifa was the tallest building in the world. It was very expensive to build.
Consider the question: Which is taller, the Burj Khalifa or a stack of the money it cost to build the Burj Khalifa?
Decide what power of 10 to use to label the rightmost tick mark of the number line, and plot the height of the stack of money and the height of the Burj Khalifa.
Decide what power of 10 to use to label the rightmost tick mark of the number line, and plot the mass of the Burj Khalifa and the mass of the pennies it cost to build the Burj Khalifa.
Powers of 10 can be helpful for making calculations with large or small numbers. For example, in 2014, the United States had
318,586,495
people who used the equivalent of
2,203,799,778,107
kilograms of oil in energy. The amount of energy per person is the total energy divided by the total number of people. We can use powers of 10 to estimate the total energy as $$2 \boldcdot 10^{12}$$ and the population as $$3 \boldcdot 10^8$$ So the amount of energy per person in the U.S. is roughly $$2 \boldcdot 10^{12} \div 3 \boldcdot 10^8$$ That is the equivalent of $$\frac{2}{3} \boldcdot 10^4$$ kilograms of oil in energy. That’s a lot of energy—the equivalent of almost 7,000 kilograms of oil per person!
In general, when we want to perform arithmetic with very large or small quantities, estimating with powers of 10 and using exponent rules can help simplify the process. If we wanted to find the exact quotient of 2,203,799,778,107 by 318,586,495, then using powers of 10 would not simplify the calculation.