Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What if all the stars in the Milky Way were the size of ping pong balls and dropped into San Francisco?

Holy shit, this is going to come across as super Aspergy, but a while back, I read that the Milky Way galaxy has, at a minimum, 200 to 400 billion stars and I was thinking "That is an impressively large number.  So large that I can't begin to fathom it."  But then I thought "There has to be some way to fathom it.  How big is 200 billion?"


Then I took another hit off the bong.  JUST KIDDING.  It's actually fairly easy to figure out.  The volume of a ping pong ball, according to this dork at Physics Forums, is 0.0000335m^3.  That times 200 billion is 6,700,000.  So 200 billion ping pong balls take up 6.7 million cubic meters.

Still can't picture that?  I couldn't either.  So I plopped them down onto Civic Center plaza.

So imagine we have a clear plexiglass structure with walls along Grove, Larkin, McAllister, and Polk.  (It's plexiglass so you can see all the ping pong balls inside, duh.)  If we fill this behemoth up with ping pong balls, how tall is it if there are 200 billion inside?

ANSWER: About 582 feet.  Roughly the height of the Chevron tower at 575 Market.  You know the one.

Pic stolen from the charmingly named "Skyscrapers of World."
HOLY FUCK THAT'S A LOT OF PING PONG BALLS.  So imagine that Chevron Tower walked its way down Market (causing unbelievable destruction and death in its wake, natch) and also imagine it just happens to be the exact same size as Civic Center Plaza (which it may or may not be, I don't know) and planted itself there in the plaza and instead of being full of office drones and computers and novelty coffee mugs was instead full of ping pong balls.  That's the LOW END estimate for how many stars there are in the Milky Way.

CONCLUSION: There are a lot of stars in the Milky Way.

This has been fun!  Next time, we'll do evolution or something.


GG said...

It would probably look something like this: http://laughingsquid.com/superballs-invade-san-francisco/

GG said...

Sorry, that link to the video is now dead. Try this instead: http://stephanietrow.com/2011/06/03/remember-when-sony-let-250000-bouncy-balls-loose-in-san-francisco/114

Jacob said...

Add to this that the static electricity produced by 200 billion ping pong balls in a plexiglass box would probably be enough to turn San Francisco into its own kind of fireball.

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