Various Calculations

From an article in this morning’s New York Times website:  “there are a more living cells on Earth — a million trillion trillion, or 10^30 in math notation, a 1 followed by 30 zeros — than there are stars in the universe or grains of sand on our planet.

I cannot comprehend a number that large. I tried to calculate how much time, in years, would pass in that number of seconds. One trillion seconds is roughly 31,546 years. That analysis stopped me from attempting any further calculations. Some people—perhaps most people—might question why I attempted to undertake such a calculation; what possible value might there be in finding the answer? In practical terms, not enough to warrant going to the trouble. But in terms of understanding…and knowledge…and feeding my curiosity…and various other measures, attempting to establish comparisons with figures I might better comprehend, there is enormous value hiding in my query. If nothing else, trying to understand such huge numbers helps clarify for me how irrelevant I am in the larger universe. And even within a bucket large enough to hold all the grains of sand on this planet. The headache with which I started this day is being magnified exponentially as I try to make sense out of these monstrous numbers. I will never make sense of them; they will remain mysteries for at least the next one trillion seconds.


My thoughts this morning are jumbled; too many unimportant things on my mind, competing with considerably more meaningful subjects. I have tried to sort myself out so I might write something interesting or thought-provoking, but success has not been mine. That being the case, I will stop trying. Instead, I will take something for my headache; with good fortune, the headache will disappear before too much time has passed.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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