If Every Dollar of Jeff Bezos’ Wealth Were A Balloon, How Much Could It Lift?

6 July, 2020 5 min read
jeff bezos balloons

Jeff Bezos is – and will likely continue to be – one of my favorite entrepreneurs. The CEO of Amazon.com has accumulated over $166.3 billion USD as of mid 2020, making him the richest person in the world. To obtain that sort of money, you would have to win the Powerball lottery between 3000-4000 times (find some REAL advice on what to do if you win the lottery here).

After reading Brad Stone’s book The Everything Store, I found a great deal of information surrounding the life and origins of Bezos, and it got me thinking about how much money he really has.

$166.3 billion is a lot of money; with it, almost any problem can be solved or circumnavigated. Want to buy an island? No problem. Feel like having 1000 gold plated pools filled with caviar? Done! In fact, it can be difficult to really comprehend how much $166.3B is.

So, let’s have some fun and conduct a little thought experiment.

Let’s imagine that $1 of Mr. Bezos’ wealth is transformed into one helium-filled balloon. How much could his bankroll of 166.3 billion balloons lift? A person? A car? A train?

Let’s find out!

100 Balloons ($100)

Helium has a lifting ability of 1 gram for every 1 litre of gas. So with the exception of bringing a smile to a child’s face, the average single helium balloon can lift approximately 14 grams (ignoring the weight of the string and assuming the balloon has a diameter of ~1 foot).

This means that 100 balloons (representing $100) can lift about 1.4kg (about 3lbs). So, in our little thought experiment, sitting at home filling balloons and testing the carry capacity, we would be able to lift:

  • 9 bananas
  • 14 blueberry muffins
  • 4 cans of beer
  • a single human brain (don’t test this one, just trust my math)

Simple stuff. Let’s move on.

10,000 Balloons ($10,000)

Now we have enough balloons that we can no longer stay indoors; we have to move outside into a field (hopefully somewhere that does not have overhead powerlines nearby).

The first thing you want to be careful of is your own safety, since the collection of 10,000 helium filled balloons is more than capable of carrying you off into the sky. In fact, 10,000 balloons can carry 140kgs (just under 310lbs).

Turning $10,000 into 10,000 balloons can also lift:

  • 7000 pieces of sushi
  • an adult male panda
  • 2 kegs of beer (after enjoying a drink or two with some friends)

Cool. Let’s keep going.

100,000 Balloons ($100,000)

$100,000 is a pretty decent amount of money, and its multiple is most often associated with purchasing a home. Most people can imagine $100,000 pretty easily, so let’s burn through this quickly.

100,000 helium filled balloons can lift about 3086lbs, or:

  • a 2012 Toyota Prius
  • 15 newborn baby elephants
  • 350 medium sized house cats
  • 12,700 cheeseburgers (that’s eating 3 cheeseburgers a day for 11 years, 7 months, and 5 days).

We are still a long ways off from our goal, so let’s skip a few steps and get to the good stuff… hundreds of millions.

100,000,000 Balloons ($100,000,000)

For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to switch from pounds to tons.

Using $100 million of Jeff Bezos’ funds, we have now purchased 100,000,000 helium filled balloons. We can no longer safely harness ourselves to the ground to hold on to this collection, so we have to use some machinery and technology to help out.

Maybe we could use a train car?

Well, for starters, it would have to be full. The average train car weights about 25-30 tons empty, or about 70-75 tons full (depending on the payload). So we would have to fill up a couple of train cars.

Actually, a few train cars.

Actually… several.

Using our dollar-to-balloon conversion, $100,000,000 is capable of lifting more than 20 fully loaded train cars right off the track.

1 Billion Balloons ($1,000,000,000)

This collection of helium balloons is now a behemoth that is getting more challenging to understand… and we have only turned 0.6% of Bezos’ wealth into balloons

$1 billion turned into 1,000,000,000 balloons only affects 0.6% of Jeff Bezos’ wealth (2020)

A billion helium balloons can lift 15,430 US tons. That’s equivalent to:

  • 77 adult blue whales
  • 2057 T-Rexs (if they still roamed)
  • 7 space shuttles (the orbiter, external tank, and two solid rocket boosters)

166.3 Billion Balloons ($166,300,000,000)

We’ve finally reached our goal; the total amount of wealth currently held by Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos. By turning every dollar he currently has into a balloon, we have created a Goliath of balloons capable of blocking out the sun. Engulfed in a colorful shadow, our collection of 166,300,000,000 balloons can carry a total of:

  • 2,328,200,000 kilograms
  • 5,132,802,388 pounds
  • 2,566,401 US tons

How much is that? Let me paint a picture for you…

The Revolving Service Structure (RSS) of Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is shown below:

Revolving Service Structure – Wikipedia

The rotating service structure is 102 feet long, 50 feet wide, and 130 feet high, and was created for the purpose of providing protected access to the orbiter for installation and service.

For reference, the shuttle is 184 feet tall (56 meters), not including the tank and boosters.

It is the heaviest human-made object ever created and weighed.

The RSS weights about 2,423 US tons, while the shuttle weights about 2,200 US tons.

Together, they weigh 4,623 US tons.

166.3 billion helium filled balloons could lift 555 of these structures and the shuttles on top of it.

If we took the average North American adult male (weighing in at approximately 80kgs), it would take more than 29 million men to hold down the balloons. That’s the population of Michigan, Georgia, and North Carolina combined… more than the entire population of Australia.

That’s like lifting the Golden Gate Bridge almost 3 times over.

Final Thoughts

There you have it. If every $1 of Jeff Bezos’ wealth were turned into a balloon, the collection would be enough to lift 555 bundles of the two most heaviest objects ever created and weighed by humans.

I love business and investing. I think it is fascinating that people can use psychology and math to gain vast amounts of wealth through changing the lives of others while earning a profit from it.

I’ve heard rumblings and frustration about Amazon.com and Bezos, but the undeniable truth is that he has forever changed the landscape of business for the foreseeable future.

My only hope is that he is the type of person to effect some positive changes in the world; to find out if that is true, we need only to wait.

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