Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Outer limits

My brother and I were watching "Cash Cab," and a question about a "googol" started a discussion. We knew a "googol" is the digit 1 followed by 100 zeroes, but what is the oft-mentioned "googolplex?"

As always, Wikipedia has the answer. It's worth sharing.

In the PBS science program "Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, Episode 9: 'The Lives of the Stars," astronomer and television personality Carl Sagan estimated that writing a googolplex in numerals (i.e., "10,000,000,000...") would be physically impossible, since doing so would require more space than the known universe occupies ... Therefore a googolplex can not be written out since a googol of '0' can not fit into the observable universe.

The time it would take to write such a number also renders the task implausible: if a person can write two digits per second, it would take around 1.1 × 1082 times the age of the universe (which is about 1.37 × 1010 years) to write a googolplex.

The more you know.


Megs said...

My friend Brian writes for Cash Cab. He won an Emmy for it, too, I think. If you're interested, he has a blog: Last Stop This Town. He hasn't been keeping up with it too much, but there are some old posts about writing the show, etc.

Jamie Massey said...

My head hurts now... Thanks.