I stand corrected on the British switch to billion=1000 million. But going by the Oxford Dictionary definitions of old number naming, it looks like a British billion was 10[sup]12[/sup], or a million million (American trillion). The richest man cited in your link appears to be a billionaire by new standards but still not by the old standard (I’m going by the chart where his worth = 14,000 million pounds). On preview, type faster!
And I see now that the bill was in American billions. D’oh!
According to this Wikipedia page the world’s GDP is around 40 trillion US dollars, so that phone bill represents 5 years of world GDP. That is, everyone in the world would have to work for the next 5 years just to pay that phone bill. I’m not surprised that the guy is having trouble paying it in 10 days.
Hmmm…8064 in binary is 1111110000000, which is just about enough to suggest this was a computer choking on itself somehow. And I guess it’s a necessity that banking systems can handle such huge numbers, because IIRC the Turkish Lira until recently had an exchange rate of around 1m to the USD, so even (only!) hundreds of millions of dollars would have required the capacity for 15 significant figures.
Speaking of media innumeracy, a few years ago I read a long article in the newspaper decrying the public’s innumeracy, in which the reporter had interviewed John Allen Poulos and others. Somewhere in the article she mentioned how 80% of drivers consider themselves to be above average, and went on that it was mathematically impossible for 80% to be above average.
I thought this bit of irony was too juicy - innumeracy right there in an article decrying innumeracy. I sent her a letter mentioning that the vast majority of people have more than the average number of legs.