Thursday, October 8, 2009

Fun with numbers.

Most of you know that I enjoy having fun with numbers. I have always enjoyed math and numbers.
Many of you will enjoy this little bit of fun. Some won't. But here goes anyway. Our Galaxy, The Milky Way Galaxy, contains a lot of stars, so many in fact that it is impossible to count them all. I have seen estimates of "At least 100 Billion" and also "200 to 400 Billion". Notice that the number is in the Billions - not Millions! Some other Galaxies are bigger than ours and some are smaller. Some of the biggest contain a Trillion or more stars! Lets use 200 Billion as an average number.
Now, most stars that we have been able to 'see' closely have had planets revolving around them. Several planets around each star, so there are probably many more planets than stars. Now for some estimates. It seems to me that at least 1 star in a million would have a planet with intelligent life on it. After all at least one planet out of 8 of this star has intelligent life, if you can classify us as intelligent, some would question that remark, but for the sake of our estimate lets say we are intelligent. At least we are sentient. So, with one intelligent life form in every million stars (Personally I think there are probably a LOT more than that) there would be about 200,000 intelligent life forms in just our Galaxy. That is in one Galaxy! But, there are AT LEAST 100 BILLION Galaxies out there!!! So, all you budding mathematicians out there, multiply 200,000 by 100 billion! Got the answer yet? Me neither. Well lets try, 100 Billion times 200,000 is 200 times 100 trillion. What comes after trillion? I guess it is quadrillion, so the answer would be 20 quadrillion, a number beyond our concept. But that would be an estimate for the number of intelligent races in the known universe, not the number of stars or planets, that would be at least a million times more than 20 quadrillion. No, I am talking the number of planets with intelligent life. Sobering isn't it? If each one of those planets had 6 billion people on it . . . well do a bit more math to come up with an even bigger number!
Assuming that God rules all of those people, Heaven must be really crowded!
Lets go back and say that I was over optimistic with the number of intelligent races in each Galaxy. Lets get really ridiculous and say that there is only one intelligent race per Galaxy. Surely an impossibly small number, one intelligent race on all the planets of all the 200 Billion stars in our Galaxy! OK, with that estimate there are still 100 Billion intelligent races! One for each of the 100 Billion Galaxies in the known Universe!!
Earlier this year some scientists trained the Hubble Space Telescope on a bit of the sky that is completely empty, black, no sign of any stars. This little piece of sky is the size of a grain of sand held at arms length. Try it, pretend to hold a grain of sand up and imagine the piece of sky that the scientists trained the telescope on. They are not even sure why they did it. They left the telescope for ten days - to gather any stray rays of light or whatever might be there. When they checked the results they found, are you ready for this? 10,000 GALAXIES there! 10,000 Galaxies in that tiny spot of sky, not stars, Galaxies, each containing on average 200 Billion stars!
Now, these intelligences out there, are they smarter or dumber than us? Using averages or Bell curves or any other method you care to I would say half are less and half are more intelligent! Certainly some must be more intelligent, WOW.
Hope you enjoyed my little bit of fun.
P.S. Someone who multiplied that number earlier - the number of stars in each Galaxy times the number of Galaxies came up with a number that, he says, is larger than that of all the grains of sand on all the beaches of Earth. Try to imagine that, one star for every grain of sand on every beach in the world. I can't even imagine it for just our little beach at our local park! Think of all the sand on all those beaches in Hawaii and all those lovely beaches along the California coast. And don't forget Florida, and I'm sure there are a lot of beaches in Europe and Africa and S.America, all of them with a whole lot of sand on them! That's a lot of stars. Well, it gives you something to think about while you sit on the toilet or watch the evening news or drink a beer and watch the sun set.
Night, night, sleep tight.

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