Bryan Nelson is a science writer and also award-winning documentary filmmaker v over a decade of experience extending technology, astronomy, medicine, and also more.

You are watching: How many grains of sand in a handful


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What son (or adult, really) hasn"t wondered if you deserve to count the seed of sand ~ above Earth?.Peerayot/Shutterstock

It"s a concern that every future scientist more than likely asked during that very first trip come the beach as a child: room there more sands of grain on Earth, or stars in the sky? Well, scientists now ultimately have one answer, and also it could surprise you, follow to NPR.


Though it would certainly be an impossible task to in reality count the sand and stars, a team of researchers at the college of Hawaii recently came up v a reasonable way to obtain an estimate. And since Hawaii is home to several of the world's many renowned observatories and beaches, we'll take their word because that it.


They began with postulating an average size for a serial of sand and by calculating the number of sand seed in a teaspoon. Climate the variety of beaches and deserts in the civilization were factored in. Multiplied all together, the number is staggering. Because you aren't likely to own a calculator with enough digits to stand for the result, below it is in shorthand: 7.5 x 1018 grains of sand. In simpler, though equally as incomprehensible terms, the is 7 quintillion, 500 quadrillion grains. Or in terms easier still: a lot.


Calculating the variety of stars is also trickier, because the limits of space are still mainly speculative. Our scope is restricted to what we can view from Earth and also Earth's orbit, with our eyes and telescopes. If we opt to limit our scope come the number of stars that space observable through the naked eye, on a clean night indigenous Earth, climate the seed of sand will get an easy victory. Also with minimal light pollution, we aren't likely to do out more than a couple of thousand stars. So researchers upped the ante by estimating the number of stars the are perhaps observable by Hubble. If you incorporate every object that twinkles in the night sky, from ordinary stars, come quasars, to red dwarfs, to totality galaxies, etc., then the variety of stars in the observable cosmos is astounding. The number? 70 thousands million, million, million stars.


For the mathematically disinclined who might still wonder i m sorry number is larger: It's the stars, by far. But before we're prepared to crown a champion, let's put things in perspective. Earth is one tiny little planet in the paper definition of the entirety universe. The truth that it consists of so countless sand grains contrasted to the number of stars in the sky is nice awe-inspiring. It just goes to present that the universe is just as vast when you look in ~ it closely as once you look at it from far away.


To put this truth in also sharper perspective, the university of Hawaii researchers chose to add a 3rd contestant. Lock asked: How numerous molecules space there in a drop of water? It transforms out that it takes simply 10 autumn of water because that the variety of H2O molecule to same the variety of stars in the sky.


That's quite mind-blowing, once you really consider it. The thought experiment might likewise beckon another way of thinking around the vastness of the universe: Perhaps whatever that we understand to exist is itself had entirely within a single "cosmic" raindrop, simply one of numerous other such drops in the whole of reality.

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It just goes come show, perhaps the only thing as limitless as the cosmos itself is the human being imagination and our feeling of wonder.