A Penny for My Thoughts


John Wright

Now and then a few of us like to help to provide perspective for our friends and loved ones. This is especially true in difficult economic times like now. Today I pulled some change out of my pocket resulting from trips to three businesses today for minor but essential purchases (we drive as little as possible). I happened to have three pennies, which for years I have summarily thrown away. But today I started thinking about the value of a penny in a different way Ö the entertainment value, the hyperbole of even having them. Letís have some fun.

I weighed five pennies (after taking out a two cent loan from my wife) and, on average, they are about 2.5 grams each. Well, there is 454 grams in a pound, so a pound of pennies would number something close to 182. So, a pound of pennies is worth $1.82. So far so good.

Now I thought about our federal deficit planned just for this fiscal year. It is about 1.5 trillion dollars. Now if I calculate correctly, 1.5 trillion divided by 1.82 equals 1.5 x 10 to the 12th power divided by 0.182 x 10 to the 1st power. Thus we get 8.24 x 10 to the 11th power, which translated means we need that many pounds of pennies from our piggy banks to help our dear Congress with a small loan.

Hmmm Ö the logistics for getting those pennies to Washington appears to be daunting. Well, fear not, weíll just convert those pounds into tons! Okay, dividing the pounds number by 2000 to get tons results in 4.12 x 10 to the 8th power. So, what the hell! Hey, if we use trucks that can each haul 10 tons (and they are not small), well then we only need 4.12 x 10 the 7th power trucks.

I knew this was manageable! Why, 10 to the 7th power is only ten million, so if we fully load a mere 41 million ten ton trucks (and one little guy to carry 2 tons) with our pennies we have it licked! At thirty feet long each, those 41 million trucks will make a really impressive parade to celebrate our helping our government. Why, you need 176 trucks, bumper to bumper, to make the parade one mile long, so if we divide 176 into 41 million we have a fantastic parade that is 232,955 miles long!!!

Wonít it be fun???

The parade can start in San Francisco and go to Boston and back 90 to 100 times and on the final 2500 miles traveling east it can arrive in Washington, all 41 million trucks! Gee, Iím impressed!!! What a super caravan!!! Is there a road system capable of handling that volume? Ahhh Ö let the planners worry about that!

But I wonder where will they park? Does the Treasury building have a parking facility to accommodate 41 million thirty-foot long trucks? Hmm Ö that could be a small problem.

Well, maybe they could offload those pennies at the Treasury building as they arrive and then the empty trucks could leave Ö yes that solves the parking problem. I knew we could do it!!!

Um, I wonder how big a vault will be needed to hold those pennies? Letís see Ö

It turns out that the volume of five pennies is described by a cylinder ĺ" diameter and ľ" tall. The volume of a cylinder is pi x the radius squared times the height, or, five pennies have a volume of 3.142 x 9/64 x ľ expressed in cubic inches. That totals 0.11. Thus, one penny is about 0.022 cubic inches, so a hundred pennies (a dollar) is 2.2 cubic inches of whatever sillyass alloy or electroplating process they happen to be using to make them now.

This certainly makes our calculations simple because 1.5 trillion dollars of deficit times 2.2 cubic inches equals 3.3 trillion cubic inches of pennies! Damn, Iím good!!!

Um, why didnít I start there!?! Oh, yeah, we had to get those pennies from our piggy banks all the way to Washington.

Now, letís see Ö a cubic foot has 1728 cubic inches, so if we discounted necessary air space between columns of pennies then 3.3 trillion divided by 1728 results in our needing a vault with a volume of 1,909,722,222 cubic feet. That is one billion 909 million seven hundred and twenty two thousand two hundred and twenty two cubic feet.

Well, hey Ö if the vault is shaped like a cube where the length and width and height are identical then all we have to do is find the cube root of the volume requirement and voila!!! We will know the size of the required vault! And here it is Ö a mere 1241 feet in length, width and height. Wow! That is one hell of a vault! It is about a quarter a mile in each direction. Add in the necessary air space and sure enough it is more than a quarter mile in each direction.

Now, what this means is that with all those pennies, properly used, we could skip the Treasury building and bury the f*%k(*g Congress in their debt, while they are in session, just like they are trying to bury us with that debt!!!

Too bad there arenít enough pennies to accomplish that most important task!!!!! I guess Iíve thrown too many away over the years. Damn, thatís what I get for being wasteful Ö Hmm Ö that gives me an idea Ö with my experience I could run for Congress and claim much experience in fiscal matters. Who better than a man skilled in disposing of cash in the trash?

Vote for John! He will put you there faster than other congress folks! Yeah! Ainít knowledge of Ďrithmetic great??? I hope Iím not overqualified.

No doubt I have made a few arithmetic errors and have overstated our problem. I wonder by how much?

A Penny for My Thoughts Ö