10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 is a very large number.
An observation from the Obvious Things Are Obvious Department, but it’s an interesting one to think about, if you’re the sort of person who finds massively incomprehensible things interesting to think about. (You should be.) That’s 10^100, a 1 followed by 100 zeros, a number so many times bigger than our usual yardsticks for very large numbers that we have a hard time conceptualizing how big it is:
For example, the number of grains of sand on all the beaches in the world is often trotted out as an example of an incomprehensibly large number. However, a rough estimate shows that the total number of sand grains is about 10^23, a 1 followed by 23 zeros, a big number but still hopelessly inadequate to the task. How about the number of stars in the sky? The number of stars in our galaxy is close to one hundred billion, again a relatively small number. The number of stars in all the galaxies in our observable universe is about 10^22, still far too small. In fact, in the entire visible universe, the total number of protons, the fundamental building blocks of ordinary matter, is only 10^78, still a factor of ten billion trillion times too small!
From the introduction to The Five Ages of the Universe by Fred Adams and Greg Laughlin (Touchstone, 1999). It is the authors’ first attempt at explaining the scale of their chosen topic: the past, present, and future evolution of our universe, all the way from its beginning 14 billion years ago to a distant era 10^100 years in the future, the point at which, while the universe may still exist, “interesting” things will stop happening. In that context, as big and weird as it is to us now, the universe is still in its infancy. It has a long way to go.
My short story “Seven Wooden Toys” is now out in the newest issue of LORE. The magazine is available for purchase here.