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  1. #1
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    Feb 2007

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    5 nonillion bacteria on Earth

    I was reading an article that said there are about five nonillion bacteria on Earth. This is 5 x 10^30 bacteria. I got to wondering how many that really is. ( Obviously, I must have too much free time on my hands. ) So to give us an idea, let's take a look at the series of number naming in factors of 1,000. We have:

    thousand .... 1,000
    million ........ 1,000,000
    billion ......... 1,000,000,000
    trillion ........ 1,000,000,000,000
    quadrillion ... 1,000,000,000,000,000
    quintillion .... 1,000,000,000,000,000,000
    sextillion ..... 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
    septillion ..... 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
    octillion ...... 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
    nonillion ...... 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

    OK, so how many is that? Well, if the average bacterium weighs a trillionth of a gram, this would put their total weight at about five quintillion grams, or five trillion ( 5,000,000,000,000 ) metric tonnes. Assuming a density equal to water, this would be a cube 17.1 kilometers or 10.6 miles high.

    Let's say the average bacterium is about one thousandth of a millimeter long. That means that if you laid all bacteria on Earth end to end, they would stretch about 5 sextillion kilometers. This is about 530,000,000 light years, or about 210 times the distance to the Andromeda galaxy. ( Will we run afoul of the language filters typing "sextillion"? )

    That's a lot of germs !!!! Break out the Lysol.
    Last edited by PolymerBob; 05-14-2010 at 01:06 AM.

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