36,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

mtsitunes22036,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 is a big number. But that’s actually the number of microbes in the ocean. How on Earth do you comprehend that monstrous menagerie? In my new Meet the Scientist podcast, I talk to pioneering microbiologist Mitch Sogin about a major new project to census the sea’s microbial diversity. Check it out.

5 thoughts on “36,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

  1. Hmmm, with numbers that size, it might make sense to group them as 36,000, 000000000, 000000000, 000000000. (Sure, 36 * 10^10 for shorthand or calculations, but billions-grouping might keep the enormity of it in place (all those zeros), while still managing some comprehensibility beyond “a bunch of zeros, let’s count them up”.

    Just a thought.

    -Rusty

  2. 36 nonillion is such a huge number, that it’s basically out of the grasp of the human mind to even imagine such a number of things.

  3. To emphasize diversity and activity (and our ignorance), describe a single liter of sea water.

    To emphasize biomass, compare it to something similarly large and sampleable. “For every animal and plant and tree you see, there’s a similar mass&volume of bacteria somewhere out of sight”.

    To emphasize the big picture… “All life is bacterial (to a good first order approximation)”. “We’re just visually biased towards the few rare exceptions.”

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