Remember Me?

 Straight Dope Message Board Remember Me?

#1
08-23-2009, 11:41 AM
 Johnny L.A. Charter Member Join Date: Jan 2000 Location: NoWA Posts: 57,466
How many grains of sand are there on Earth?

±3. Just kidding.

Approximately how many grains of sand are there on Earth?
#2
08-23-2009, 11:43 AM
 Elendil's Heir SDSAB Join Date: Jun 2004 Location: my Herkimer Battle Jitney Posts: 71,446
To quote The Life of Brian: "A lot."
#3
08-23-2009, 11:47 AM
 Squink Guest Join Date: Oct 2000 Location: Yes Posts: 20,327
Well, if you take the entire volume of the earth (1,083,207,317,374 km^3) and divide it up into sand size bits, 1mm on a side, you'll have 1.08320732 × 10^30 of them. That'll serve as an upper limit for the answer to your question.
#4
08-23-2009, 11:47 AM
 Fake Tales of San Francisco Guest Join Date: Oct 2008 Posts: 829
I wonder if we actually have a name for the number. If it's possible to guess.
#5
08-23-2009, 12:55 PM
 Xema Guest Join Date: Mar 2002 Posts: 11,563
Quote:
 Originally Posted by Squink if you take the entire volume of the earth (1,083,207,317,374 km^3) and divide it up into sand size bits, 1mm on a side, you'll have 1.08320732 × 10^30 of them. That'll serve as an upper limit for the answer to your question.
Well, the lithosphere (crust) is about 1% of the Earth's volume and nothing below that can reasonably be considered granular sand. Further, it seems unlikely that even 1% of the lithosphere properly qualifies as sand (assuming sandstone does not). You can thus reduce that exponent to 26.

But sand grains can be a lot smaller than 1mm on a side. If we accept something around 0.2mm as average, you can bump the exponent back up to 28.
#6
08-23-2009, 01:41 PM
 njtt Guest Join Date: Jul 2004 Location: U.K. Posts: 12,068
It is going to take me quite a while to finish counting, I'm afraid.
#7
08-23-2009, 01:48 PM
 enipla Member Join Date: Jul 2001 Location: Colorado Rockies. Posts: 11,488
14,273, 14,274, 14,275

What? Chicken would be fine.

Shit....

1,2,3,4
#8
08-23-2009, 01:54 PM
 Squink Guest Join Date: Oct 2000 Location: Yes Posts: 20,327
Quote:
 Originally Posted by Xema But sand grains can be a lot smaller than 1mm on a side.
I intentionally restricted the size to that of nice sand. As far as I'm concerned, that crappy stuff you have go up and down the beach with a plow just to make it powdery, does not count as sand!

Your other points are well taken though.
#9
08-23-2009, 03:30 PM
 ftg Guest Join Date: Feb 2001 Location: Not the PNW :-( Posts: 15,757
Note: when you get up to how many grains of sand would fill the Universe, then you'd have caught up to 3rd century BC Mathematics.
#10
08-23-2009, 03:34 PM
 mhendo Guest Join Date: Aug 2001 Posts: 24,576
Quote:
 Originally Posted by Xema But sand grains can be a lot smaller than 1mm on a side. If we accept something around 0.2mm as average, you can bump the exponent back up to 28.
Also, sand grains are not little boxes neatly stacked upon one another, with no space in between. Their various shapes means that, in every cubic foot of sand, there is a considerable percentage of the volume that is empty space.
#11
08-23-2009, 04:30 PM
 Xema Guest Join Date: Mar 2002 Posts: 11,563
Quote:
 Originally Posted by mhendo in every cubic foot of sand, there is a considerable percentage of the volume that is empty space.
True, but when you're trying for a rough estimate, a packing density of 90% vs. 75% hardly matters.
#12
08-23-2009, 05:05 PM
 Rhythmdvl Charter Member Join Date: Oct 1999 Location: Shakedown Street Posts: 12,948
I just did some basic calculations, and I got:

[(number of roads a man must walk)number of licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsipop]*(number of ways I love thee)!

That's just a rough guess, of course. I think I may have forgotten to carry a two somewhere, so please mind your small, flightless waterfowl.
#13
08-23-2009, 05:45 PM
 Wendell Wagner Charter Member Join Date: Jul 1999 Location: Greenbelt, Maryland Posts: 13,640
Fake Tales of San Francisco writes:

> I wonder if we actually have a name for the number. If it's possible to guess.

Yes, we have a name for the number. The largest number mentioned so far is 10 to the 30th power. That is a nonillion:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Names_of_large_numbers
#14
08-23-2009, 06:07 PM
 Colophon Guest Join Date: Sep 2002 Location: Hampshire, England Posts: 13,340
There's a big problem of definition. At what point does a grain of sand become a particle of mud? Or a piece of gravel? Or a speck of soil?
#15
08-23-2009, 06:47 PM
 Chronos Charter Member Moderator Join Date: Jan 2000 Location: The Land of Cleves Posts: 72,655
Quote:
 That's just a rough guess, of course. I think I may have forgotten to carry a two somewhere, so please mind your small, flightless waterfowl.
Classic.
#16
08-23-2009, 06:52 PM
 kanicbird Guest Join Date: May 1999 Posts: 18,361
I believe scripture equates the # of grains of sand to the # of stars. I don't know if that helps.
#17
08-23-2009, 06:56 PM
 Johnny L.A. Charter Member Join Date: Jan 2000 Location: NoWA Posts: 57,466
Quote:
 Originally Posted by kanicbird I believe scripture equates the # of grains of sand to the # of stars. I don't know if that helps.
I've heard there are more stars than the Earth's grains of sand.
#18
08-23-2009, 07:26 PM
 wolf_meister Guest Join Date: May 2003 Location: Where the owls say "Whom" Posts: 5,484
Okay it's time to get some standardization here.
Wikipedia states:
Quote:
 As the term is used by geologists, sand particles range in diameter from 0.0625 (or 1⁄16 mm, or 62.5 micrometers) to 2 millimeters. An individual particle in this range size is termed a sand grain. The next smaller size class in geology is silt: particles smaller than 0.0625 mm down to 0.004 mm in diameter. The next larger size class above sand is gravel, with particles ranging from 2 mm up to 64 mm (see particle size for standards in use). Sand feels gritty when rubbed between the fingers (silt, by comparison, feels like flour). ISO 14688 grades sands as fine, medium and coarse with ranges 0.063 mm to 0.2 mm to 0.63 mm to 2.0 mm. In USA, sand is commonly divided into five sub-categories based on size: very fine sand (1⁄16 - 1⁄8 mm diameter), fine sand (1⁄8 mm - 1⁄4 mm), medium sand (1⁄4 mm - 1⁄2 mm), coarse sand (1⁄2 mm - 1 mm), and very coarse sand (1 mm - 2 mm).
Interesting to know that sand falls in a granularity category between silt and gravel.

Have we considered the grains of sand that might reside on the ocean floor? After all, over 60% of the world is covered by water and how little we know of that underwater world. See you next week for "Sea Hunt".
#19
08-23-2009, 07:35 PM
 Interconnected Series of Tubes Guest Join Date: Sep 2008 Location: California's hat Posts: 848
Quote:
 Originally Posted by wolf_meister Have we considered the grains of sand that might reside on the ocean floor? After all, over 60% of the world is covered by water and how little we know of that underwater world. See you next week for "Sea Hunt".
God, here it comes...
#20
08-23-2009, 07:41 PM
 beowulff Member Join Date: May 2001 Location: Scottsdale, more-or-less Posts: 14,885
Quote:
 Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. I've heard there are more stars than the Earth's grains of sand.
If Squink's 10^30 estimate is off by a factor of a Billion, then yes, there are:
http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/as...rs/970115.html
#21
08-23-2009, 09:52 PM
 Labtrash Member Join Date: Sep 2001 Location: Murrells Inlet, SC Posts: 3,749
Quote:
 Originally Posted by Interconnected Series of Tubes God, here it comes...
you know, once, for 20 min...

Oh, forget it....
#22
08-23-2009, 10:58 PM
 CalMeacham Member Join Date: May 2000 Location: Massachusetts Posts: 41,529
Interesting to note that Archimedes addressed the question of haw many grains of sand it would take to fill the universe (as he knew it), wau back in the third century BCE. It's usually translated as "The Sand Reckoner". In the course of his investigations, to make the problem tractable, Archimedes invented a sort of scientific notation. Fascinating Stuff:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sand_Reckoner
#23
08-24-2009, 03:22 PM
 ftg Guest Join Date: Feb 2001 Location: Not the PNW :-( Posts: 15,757
Quote:
 Originally Posted by CalMeacham Interesting to note that Archimedes addressed the question of haw many grains of sand it would take to fill the universe (as he knew it), wau back in the third century BCE. ...
Psst.
#24
08-24-2009, 03:34 PM
 The Second Stone BANNED Join Date: May 2008 Location: Antioch Posts: 11,459
6,934,385,563,654,372,249,762,123,847,935,882

My post is my cite
#25
08-24-2009, 03:44 PM
 Giles Charter Member Join Date: Apr 2004 Location: Newcastle NSW Posts: 12,820
Quote:
 Originally Posted by The Second Stone 6,934,385,563,654,372,249,762,123,847,935,882 My post is my cite
Yes, but while you were counting, a few quintillion lost some of their mass and became grains of silt. Go back and count faster next time.
#26
08-24-2009, 03:56 PM
 CC Charter Member Join Date: Apr 2000 Location: not elsewhere Posts: 4,286
Ok, I'll bite - How can anyone say how many stars there are in the universe? Do we have an idea of how large this infinite thing is?
#27
08-24-2009, 04:07 PM
 Giles Charter Member Join Date: Apr 2004 Location: Newcastle NSW Posts: 12,820
Quote:
 Originally Posted by CC Ok, I'll bite - How can anyone say how many stars there are in the universe? Do we have an idea of how large this infinite thing is?
My guess is: we know the volume of the visible universe (i.e., the sphere with radius of the most distant visible object); we know the density of galaxies in our neighbourhood; and we know roughly the number of stars in an average galaxy. Multiply those three numbers together, and you have an estimate of the number of stars.
#28
08-24-2009, 08:13 PM
 CalMeacham Member Join Date: May 2000 Location: Massachusetts Posts: 41,529
Quote:
 PSST
Dammit -- I looked that time. If you don't put "Archimedes" in your post, it ain't my fault....
#29
08-24-2009, 08:53 PM
 Smeghead Guest Join Date: Apr 2000 Posts: 18,757
Actually, it's a little-known fact that there are really only seven. The rest are impostors.
#30
08-24-2009, 10:24 PM
 Chronos Charter Member Moderator Join Date: Jan 2000 Location: The Land of Cleves Posts: 72,655
Fool: The reason why the seven stars are no more than seven is a pretty reason
Lear: Because they are not eight?
Fool: Precisely. You'd make a fine fool.
#31
08-25-2009, 01:18 AM
 panache45 Member Join Date: Oct 2000 Location: NE Ohio (the 'burbs) Posts: 39,320
Quote:
 Originally Posted by kanicbird I believe scripture equates the # of grains of sand to the # of stars. I don't know if that helps.
According to the Science Channel, there are more stars than grains of sand. I just learned that today.
#32
08-25-2009, 01:21 AM
 panache45 Member Join Date: Oct 2000 Location: NE Ohio (the 'burbs) Posts: 39,320
Are we including cat litter?
#33
08-25-2009, 12:26 PM
 Elendil's Heir SDSAB Join Date: Jun 2004 Location: my Herkimer Battle Jitney Posts: 71,446
A picture really is worth a thousand words....

http://www.rense.com/general72/size.htm

 Bookmarks

 Thread Tools Display Modes Linear Mode

 Posting Rules You may not post new threads You may not post replies You may not post attachments You may not edit your posts BB code is On Smilies are On [IMG] code is Off HTML code is Off Forum Rules
 Forum Jump User Control Panel Private Messages Subscriptions Who's Online Search Forums Forums Home Main     About This Message Board     Comments on Cecil's Columns/Staff Reports     General Questions     Great Debates     Elections     Cafe Society     The Game Room     Thread Games     In My Humble Opinion (IMHO)     Mundane Pointless Stuff I Must Share (MPSIMS)     Marketplace     The BBQ Pit

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 11:36 PM.

 -- Straight Dope v3.7.3 -- Sultantheme's Responsive vB3-blue Contact Us - Straight Dope Homepage - Archive - Top