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 Post subject: Salt of the earth
PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 3:46 am 
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Accomplished Articulator

Joined: Thu Sep 27, 2007 3:02 am
Posts: 40
Location: Oklahoma, USA
I'm interested in different ways to visualize very large numbers. grains of sand on beaches, stacked money, etc.

Because it is familiar to everyone. how would one go about calculating the number of boxes of table salt it would take to have enough grains of salt to have one represent every star in our galaxy and then universe. I guess it would be about the same as sand eh?

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 5:54 pm 
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Well... you need to have some kind of starting point, such as the average weight of a salt crystal, or the rough number of crystals in a typical box. I have no idea how to calculate those things, but someone who deals with applied chemistry might. From there on, it's just an abstract mathematics problem.

Stacked coins are probably easier, since you can measure the thickness of a coin, and measure or compute how many piles you can stack in an area.

I use a few examples of this sort in my essay "More Monkey Business"... which I could link to, but there wouldn't be any point right now since I still haven't got Nutters.org back up and running after the recent wipeout.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 9:01 pm 
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TFBW wrote:
I use a few examples of this sort in my essay "More Monkey Business"... which I could link to, but there wouldn't be any point right now since I still haven't got Nutters.org back up and running after the recent wipeout.


That's okay, I absconded a copy to post on my site and I put it here:
http://prophecyworld.net/science/monkey2.html
I kept the links in place, but, of course, the Nutters.org links, for now, no longer work. Anyway, I've given up on the salt analogy after running across the following:


Quote:
I remember hearing or reading that there are more stars in the universe than there are particles of sand on Earth. I was at the beach the other day, and there seemed to be a *LOT* of sand particles on the beach...Is such a statement accurate? How can such an estimate be made logically?




Quote:

Answer:
Subject: Re: More stars than sand particles?
Answered By: richard-ga on 03 Jul 2005 21:10 PDT


Hello and thank you for your question.

"So how many grains of sand are there in the world? You could start
off by trying to guess how many grains of sand there are in a spoon of
sand. Use a magnifying glass to count how many grains fit in a small
section. Then, count how many of those sections fit in your spoon.
Multiply the two numbers together to get an estimate.
"Using this same principle, plus some additional information,
mathematicians at the University of Hawaii tried to guess how many
grains of sand are on the world's beaches. They came up with
7,500,000,000,000,000,000, or seven quintillion five quadrillion
grains of sand."
How many grains of sand are in the world?
http://www.miamisci.org/tripod/whysand.html

The calculation is detailed here:
http://www.hawaii.edu/suremath/jsand.html

That number is 7.5 x 10^18 or 7.5 billion billion.

How many stars, galaxies, clusters, QSO's etc. in the Universe?
http://www.faqs.org/faqs/astronomy/faq/ ... ion-3.html
"To get the total stellar population in the Milky Way [that is, in our
galaxy alone], we must take the number of luminous stars that we can
see at large distances and assume that we know how many fainter stars
go along with them. Recent numbers give about 400,000,000,000 (400
billion) stars, but a 50% error either way is quite plausible."

So in our galaxy alone, there might be between 2 x 10^11 and 6 x 10^11 stars

How many galaxies in the Universe?
http://www.faqs.org/faqs/astronomy/faq/ ... ion-4.html
"the Hubble telescope is capable of detecting about 80 billion
galaxies (although not all of these within the foreseeable future!).
In fact, there must be many more than this, even within the observable
Universe, since the most
common kind of galaxy in our own neighborhood is the faint dwarfs
which are difficult enough to see nearby, much less at large
cosmological distances. For example, in our own local group, there are
3 or 4 giant galaxies which would be detectable at a billion
light-years or more (Andromeda, the Milky Way, the Pinwheel in
Triangulum, and maybe the Large Magellanic Cloud). However, there are
at least another 20 faint members, which would be difficult to find at
100 million light-years, much less the billions of light years to
which the brightest galaxies can be seen."

So the lower end estimate for the number of galaxies is 8 x 10^10

If we accept even the lower end of these Hubble figures, and if our
Milky Way has a typical number of stars in it, that puts the number of
stars in the universe to be at least
(2 x 10^11) x (8 x 10^10) = 16 x 10^ 21

So if we round the number of sand grains to, say, 10^20
and round the number of stars to, say 10^22
then there are at least 100 stars in the universe for every grain of sand on earth.

As you say, that's a *LOT*


This seems like a fair, albeit a somewhat inherently ambiguous, estimate. Even so, 17 billion habitable planets with 17 billion typing monkeys on each one still seems comparatively reasonable and a little less obfuscatious than the infinite monkey scenario I always see misrepresented and bandied about by the team Dawkins volunteers.

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