Really Really Big Stuff

The science editors get creative with numbers…

  • 243,112,609-1 is the largest prime number ever found. It has 12999920 more digits than the number of atoms in the universe. But don’t rush off to the Electronic Frontier Foundation to collect the $100,000 prize for a prime with more than 10 million digits – some GIMPS (Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search) claimed the bugger last year.
  • A googolplex- one to the power of a googol (which is in itself one followed by 100 zeroes) cannot physically be written out. If you tried to write it in standard 12 pt text, the volume of paper required would be greater than the size of the Universe.
  • Graham’s number- the largest number for which there is any practical use is so vastly larger than a googolplex that even using 10-to the power scientific notation to write it would require more matter than exists in the Universe.
  • If you were to print out the contents of Wikipedia onto standard academic book dimensions, the resulting volume would be 65 metres thick…
  • …pale in comparison to the one trillion word internet, where the resulting ‘hard copy’ would be 190 kilometres thick. (And that’s excluding the internet’s countless pretty pictures and shiny videos…)
  • 9% of all humans that have ever lived are alive right now – roughly one hundred billion humans have walked the Earth since our species began.
  • There are 60,000 miles of blood vessels in your body
  • Your life will, on average, take 2.54 billion seconds to complete
  • The Eiffel tower is 15cm taller in the summer due to thermal expansion
  • There is enough virtual particle energy inside a tea cup to boil all the water on the planet
  • The Permian extinction event 251 million years ago, killed off up to 96% of all species, with marine life not recovering for 50 million years
  • The iPhone has more processing power than the computers that sent man to the moon
  • The biggest (known) ‘thing’ in the universe is a giant 3D filament of galaxies and large bubbles of gas, each up to ten times as massive as our own galaxy, packed unusually close together. It is 200 million light-years wide.

Henry Blanchard and Sophie Stammers


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