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Zimbabwe's Funny Money and the Astrophysics of Hyperinflation

This is a joint posting with Robin Kraft

When I lived in Zimbabwe a mere 18 years ago, one U.S. dollar was worth about 2.5 Zimbabwe dollars. A few years later I returned and was shocked that the value of the local currency had fallen by more than 50% to Z$6: US$1. (How quaint!) Since the central bank has spent much of the last few years pointlessly trying to defy the laws of money supply -- printing more and more cash to pay its bills -- we are witnessing both hyperinflation (231 million % at last official count) and a mind-spinning vortex of collapsing value for the local currency. The government released a new Z$500 million note last week. As of last Friday, this was worth around US$10. But let's not forget that 14 zeros have been lopped off the currency in the past two years. Thus, using the original Zim dollar (I must still have a few in an old backpack) the exchange rate is really US$1 to:

Z$ 5,000,000,000,000,000,000,000