"The Power of Exponential Growth"

by Mike Grayson

Suppose you have a checkerboard and on the first square of that board you placed a single grain of wheat. Then suppose you doubled the grain of wheat with the next square, and the next, and so on until you reached the last one -- the 64th square (in case you've forgotten). Now how much would the entire mass of the board weigh?

Here are some facts needed to find the solution:

If one applies the geometric sum formula we find that the total number of grains = 1.844674407 * 1019
Therefore the entire board would weigh a whopping 6 * 1014 kg!
The ratio of this weight to the entire human population on the year 2000 would be:

mass of wheat/mass of population2000

(6 * 1014 kg)/(6 * 109 * 72 kg) = 1400 : 1!

That is the board would outweigh the earth's human population about 14 hundred times!

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Last update: April 21, 1999