There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it’s only a hundred billion. It’s less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers. -Richard Feynman
This quote has long been bandied about by science-minded conservatives begging for an air of credibility in a backhanded critique of government. I cringe every time I hear it. Of course, it was an offhand joke by Feynman at the time, but it’s an obviously inept comparison that lacks even the legitimacy of apples to oranges. Armchair pundits ought to note that A DOLLAR BILL IS SUBSTANTIALLY SMALLER THAN A FUCKING STAR. Furthermore, new images from the Hubble Deep Field show that there are at least 100 billion galaxies in the universe and each galaxy containing around 1 trillion stars. That’s 1 x 10^23 or 100 sextillion stars in the universe.
My point here isn’t to rag on Feynman, but instead on people who use ham-fisted, inaccurate, and illogical comparisons about the size of the national deficit. There are a lot of valid critiques available about the depth, breadth and methodology of government spending, none of them are buttressed effectively by cross referencing the size of the universe.
Also, wallstats has some pretty cool visualizations about just how big 1 billion dollars is. There is also a cool visualization out there of the physical size of 1 billion dollars but I wasn’t able to successfully google for it. Also, consider checking out that Hubble Article I linked to earlier.
Mr. Atman Writes:
1 trillion stars per galaxy, 100 sextillion in the known universe
which would give us about 11 galaxies worth of national debt
which is still quite a bit fewer dollars than, say, the number of
kilograms of mass present in the Moon.
keep the faith!