I love watching the sunrise. The colors in the sky are astounding. The first light on a mountain feels so warm, and the contrasts of light and shadow are dramatic. My favorite place to watch a sunrise in the Fort Collins, CO area is definitely Horsetooth Reservoir. Get up early enough, and the city can be seen below, illuminated by thousands of individual lights, high pressure sodium lamps and LEDs. It’s fun to watch the city transition from nightlife to daytime.
I’ve watched many sunrises at Horsetooth Reservoir, perhaps not a hundred of them, but definitely more than ten. And each time it is spectacular. The more clouds that change color in the sky, then the more spectacular it is. Also, the first true glint of sunlight piercing over the horizon feels very magical. Of course, some mornings are better than others. It can be too cloudy, where the sun can’t be seen at all. But on any given day, I would bet that somewhere in the world there is a great sunrise. And if we could travel at the same rate that the world rotates, we’d see that sunrise is actually always occuring. It never stops. The sunrise relentlessly works its way around the earth, travelling like clockwork. About every twenty-four hours it passes the same spot again.
Imagine there was a special place on earth where the sunrise was always spectacular. People would vacation there, just to watch the sunrise every morning. If they were vacationing for a week, then they could watch seven sunrises. A person who lives there could watch 365 sunrises a year. A centurion who has lived there his entire life would have seen about 36,500 of them. Also, if he would have saved a dollar a day and put it in the piggy bank, he would have about $36,500! Coincidentally, that’s about how much I have saved up for my own retirement.
Assuming that our fictitious place has been on Earth for its entire history, how many amazing sunrises have occurred there? In reality, the Earth is a very dynamic place over large time scales. A very long time ago, days were actually shorter, the environments were different, and the continents were at different locations than they are now. But if our special sunrise place was there for all of earth’s history (even the inhospitable years), then there would have been approximately 1.6 trillion sunrises to watch. This represent a truly huge time scale of Earth compared to the human experience. It’s very humbling to think that if I’m lucky, I might get to experience 30,000 sunrises. And 30,000 divides into 1.6 trillion over 53 million times!
But, let’s suppose that a crafty investor has lived in our special place since the beginning of the Earth. She’s been saving a dollar after every sunrise for the past 4.5 billion years. She wanted to help the US with its economic problems by contributing all $1.6 trillion toward the national debt. This amount would help a little, but she wouldn’t come close to paying off the entire national debt, which is currently estimated at $21 trillion dollars.