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Taking a Perspective Look Into Big Numbers

Updated on February 24, 2017

To Infinity and Beyond

There is no biggest number, nor a smallest. Numbers are infinite in size and are used to quantify everything known to man. We use it to notate time, from the tiny fraction of a second to thousands of millennium. We use it to measure the distance between two objects, from how tightly knit a piece of fabric is to how many years light takes to travel from the nearest galaxy to our very eyes.

The universe is immense. Some may say infinite because we haven't even discovered the limits. It consists of the tiniest detail. Take atoms as an example. They are the basic building blocks of all matter and are so small, trillions of them fit in the period at them end of this sentence.

As you can see, it is important that we very big numbers. Sometimes, though, we fail to realize how big a number really is. The purpose of this article is to give an accurate picture of how large numbers can become. To do this, we start with the number one...

The Number 1 to 100,000

The number one is a single unit, measure, object or whatever you want to call it. If you stop to think a little you'll realize that this number is what creates all the other numbers in the world, whether it be above or below zero, and a decimal, fraction or whole number.

The number one can mean good or bad. It can mean bad if somebody with a whole bag of chips gives me just "one" chip. It would've been better if he/she would have given me none. However, if somebody would've given me "one" bag of chips, that would've been plenty to satisfy my urge to snack.

The number one also commonly designates the first in a sequence of chronological events, such as competitors in a race crossing the finish line or chapters in a book. The reason for this is because it's the first number in the natural numerical sequence in counting.

It is fascinating to see how fast the number one can grow when adding a simple zero behind it. When we do this, we get the number 10, which is obviously ten times the number one. For every single zero we add behind the number one, we multiply the number one by an additional factor of ten times. For example, if we add three zeros, the number would be 1000, which would be equal to 1 x 10 x 10 x 10.

As inconsequential as this fact may seem, the resulting growth of a number is exponential. What I mean by exponential is every zero I add increases the amount the resulting number represents much more than the previous zero did. To explain, I've created a simple list below...

  • From 1 to 10 the number increases by 9.
  • From 10 to 100 the number increases by 90.
  • From 100 to 1000 the number increases by 900.

This exponential growth makes it very hard for people to truly grasp how large a number is when written out by digits. To further demonstrate how much a number increases by adding a simple zero, I drew it out in circles, from 1 to 100,000. I only have to write down six simple digits to tell you the total number of circles in the next six photos, 111,111! Take a look and be amazed.

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Taking "1 million" Into Perspective

Continuing on our pattern of adding zeros to the end of our previous number, we arrive at "a million." The number million seems to be quite popular in the speech of general society. Have you ever heard someone say "If I were a millionaire, I'd buy me a ..."? Chances are you've also heard the oft-used cliché "one in a million."

The reason why I didn't draw out a million circles is because you probably would've had a hard time seeing them, it would likely look like a bunch of random dots. That and the fact that the program "windows paint" I used was getting pretty slow at copying and pasting. Nonetheless, there are other ways to put the number 1,000,000 into perspective.

The radio station B100 does a fundraiser for 1,000,000 pennies. Now obviously, it sounds like more money than it actually is, because that's only $10,000, but every fundraiser/charity is good and I'm not criticizing them is anyway. However, a million pennies is a lot of pennies, and the total weight would be about 5512.5 lbs or 2,500 kg.

So what if we would stack them all up like a very greedy poker player. How high would this stack be? Well considering that the height of a standard US penny is .061 inches, a stack of a million pennies would be 5,083 feet high! That's almost twice as high as the Burj Khalifa megatower, which is 2717' high and stands as the tallest building as of 2014.

Taking One Billion Into Perspective

YUP! I'm serious. The word billion isn't nearly a big enough word to say that particular number. I prefer to write 1,000,000,000 because it looks a bit more like the big A** number it is! Even this honestly doesn't suffice to express the size of 1 billion!

If I had a billion pennies, I could very easily retire at an age of 25 IF I'd do things right. How I'd do this is a topic for another article. However, to truly grasp the size of a billion, we're going to compare it to a million.

Continuing with the penny thought experiment, a billion pennies would be equal to 1000 individual stacks of pennies we've described in the section above. In case you weren't surprised about the height of a stack of 1 million pennies, what if we'd stack 1 billion pennies? Well, it'd be a billion times .061, which would come out to 61,000,000" or 5,083,333 ft OR 962.8 miles! This would be roughly the same height as 175 Mt. Everests stacked on top of one another. That's Uber High!

What Is Google Named After?

We all know that Google is as close to the "god of online content" nowadays as we can come. If we don't please Big G with our content, we may as well crawl under the bed and type out our content there.

Maybe I'm exaggerating a little bit, but what does Google have to do with numbers? Well, the above heading gives it all away; Google is named after the number googol.

Will I write the number out? Probably not in text form, I don't think Hubpages would appreciate a hundred zeros in one of their articles, which would basically be "1 googol"! The size of this number is really astronomical, and I believe no one can truly grasp how big this number is, but I'll try to do a few humble calculations to put it into perspective!

Just Curious...

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Taking 1 Googol Into Perspective

We all know that the sun is a huge object, much larger than our planet earth. If the sun were a hollow ball with an opening on the top, and we could create large silly putty balls the size of our "little" green marble we call home, we would need 1,301,687 of the putty balls to fill up the inside of our sun, provided there were no "empty spaces" inside! Whew, you thought your planet was large?

Speaking of marbles, according to Google, the standard size of your typical toy marble is 1/2 inch diameter. How many marbles would we have to melt to create one as big as the sun? According to my calculations, the answer is one decillion, three hundred fourteen nonillion, six hundred forty-seven octillion, five hundred twenty-three septillion, four sextillion, six hundred seventy quintillion, or 1,314,647,523,004,670,000,000,000,000,000,000. Tee Hee! That's a lot of marbles!

So what if we'd melt one googol 1/2" diameter marbles, how big a marble could we create then? First of all, we're going to have to measure the diameter regarding light years. For those of you who don't know, one light-year is the distance that light can travel in one year, which is 5,878,499,810,000 miles. I don't know about you, but that's pretty far out!

The Milky Way in which we live in is an approximated 100,000 light years across. Therefore, if I were at the edge of the Milky Way (We're not) and I'd wave at an alien on the other end of the galaxy, I'd have to wait 200,000 years to see if he'd wave back. Trust me; I wouldn't even bother if it took that long!

Ok, so the size marble we could create if we'd melt one googol half-inch diameter marbles in a big pot. At 2,892,163,141,772,730 light years in diameter, this marble would dwarf our very own galaxy. Not only that, the largest galaxy ever found is IC1101, which is only 6,000,000,000 light years in diameter!

If we'd place the center of this marble where our sun is now, it's edge would extend further out than any object astronomers have observed as of today! So as you can see, one googol is HUGE!

The World's Biggest Number

While numbers can be of infinite size, there is, however a largest named number. First, there's googolplex. Googolplex is basically the number 1 with one googol zeros behind it. That's a big number. If we'd write the number out in Microsoft Word, and we'd use Arial size one font, how many pages would it take?

Let's see; we can get about 841 zeros in one line. Using the default margins, with no spacing in between the lines, we can get 563 lines on one page. That'd be 473,483 zeros per page. The number of pages it would take to write it out would be... well, the answer is in the photo to the right!

Before I started writing this article, I thought Googleplex was the largest number that has a name, but evidently, some bored person who had nothing better to do decided to create an even bigger number. As a result, we now have the number googolplexian to add to our vocabulary. Googolplexian is basically one with one googolplex zeros behind it.

This number will NEVER, EVER be written out because just to write out one googolplex it would take 9.31322574609375021e+90 GB to write out the number, which is more data storage than the world has as of now. Now imagine writing out googolplexian. I safely say that the world never has enough data storage to contain it.

I won't even try to put this number into perspective physically or figuratively because my calculator clunked out on me! :)

So I guess until some nimrod come by with a bigger number, this article ends here!

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      Hub 15 months ago

      If universe is 6000 years old, then all the craters on the Earth caused by landing of meteorits or exploding of supervulcanos, needed to happen inside of recorded history of men. The humanity would be dead, with such large quantity of explosions over such short time (geologicaly scaled).

      This alone, should be reason, to understand for every logical being, that Christianity has to be wrong. And also, Bible. At least, by describing the origin of Earth or Universe, or how "God" created it.

      That means, it's not manual from God, because manual from God needs to be perfect - without mistakes. So, if Jesus said, that old testament is all right, and you should not even change one character in it, then he was wrong. And it was for sure not God.

      You need to be careful, because someone wants to decieve you. This is, why God has given you logic... so you have chance to defend.

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      ProjectResolute 3 years ago

      Yes, you're right. This article was extremely fun to write. You're also correct about the marble we created doing the mind experiment! That's why I said "it's edge would extend further out than any object astronomers have observed as of today." The most distant object we've observed thus far is a galaxy that's some 13 billion light years away. While this is so far outside of our mind's grasp, (quite literally), it doesn't even begin to compare to the size of our imaginary googol marble, which would extend 2 million times further if the center of it were placed where earth is right now. Considering that scientists say the universe is expanding, this galaxy currently is now 46 billion light years away from earth!

      As a sidenote, I'm a Christian, and do not take billions of years seriously. I still believe the universe is ~6000 years old. Here's a great article I think you'll be interested in - http://goo.gl/RBSqX4

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      Geoff 3 years ago

      one more thing. The googolplexian is just blowing my mind, but I believe that the largest number that has any significant value in mathematics is called Graham's number. Graham's number relates to some sort of four-dimensional hypercube problem, but apparently if you wrote a digit on every single atom in the entire universe, you wouldn't have enough space to write out grahm's number!

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      Geoff 3 years ago

      Fun exercise, but I should point out that if you were to melt down a Googol of 1/2 inch diameter marbles, you wouldn't just be creating a marble that is larger then any galaxy, you'd be creating a marble that's larger than the entire universe. At least the known universe , which is about 90 billion light years across!

      The number you got out of this is much bigger than that, so a Googol of your marbles melted down wouldn't even fit inside of our universe, nevermind galaxies our galaxy!