Someone from my high school posted this article on Facebook the other day. It’s blatantly false.
Suppose that Samsung really did pay $1 billion in nickels. That means they sent
That’s an almost unfathomably large number of nickels. Regardless, let’s try to quantify it for a moment.
According to the official Wikipedia page on nickels and verified by the US Treasury, a nickel has diameter 2.121 cm and thickness 0.195 cm. Since we can calculate the volume of a cylinder using the formula below, we have that the volume of a nickel is 0.689 cubic centimeters (cc).
Thus, 20 billion nickels have a total volume 13.78 billion cc. A quick Wikipedia investigation shows that “large [tanker] truck typically have capacities ranging from 5,500 to 11,600 US Gallons,” which is equivalent to 43,910,776.7 cc. A semi-trailer has a maximum capacity of 4050 cubic feet, or 114,683,229 cc.
Putting aside the fact that nickels are cylinders, and thus cannot be packed into a truck without leaving some wasted space, we find that 20 billion nickels will fit into approximately 313.8 tanker trucks, or 120 18-wheelers. (In fact, each nickel would take up more space than its volume, since circles don’t tesselate.)
That’s significantly more than the alleged 30 trucks claimed by the author. In a speculative article such as this one, why would one decrease the number of trucks by a factor of 10?
Further, the US Mint produced slightly less than 1 billion nickels in 2013. That means that in order to collect enough coins to pay the bill, Samsung would have had to collect every nickel made in the past 20 years.
I encourage you to question my calculations, send additional or contradicting verifications on my assumptions and to generally not accept the information that is presented to you without some manner of reasonable doubt.
The motivation for the preceding article is best explained by Randall Munroe.