What Does a Quadrillion Sour Patch Kids Look Like?

There are depressing moments. There are dark places.
And then there’s being a 31-year-old man carefully stacking Sour Patch Kids on the kitchen counter in a silent apartment at 2:00am.
To understand how I ended up here, let’s back up a couple hours to midnight, when I was staring at my computer at a half-completed post that I hated.
The thing about bad Wait But Why posts is they don’t like to reveal themselves right away—they like to disguise themselves as good posts until I work on them for a long time, and then they’re suddenly like, “Oh btw I’m a very bad post.” And I find myself sitting there in despair, realizing I need to scrap all the work and start something different.
So that’s what I did at midnight last night and decided instead to do a post I’ve been wanting to do for a long time—visually depicting massive numbers, to help get my (and your) head around words like “quadrillion.”
The obvious means to do this was to use cubes like those wooden cubic centimeter and cubic decimeter cubes that were in our 3rd grade classrooms, but it was late at night and in my mixture of despair and delirium, I ended up making a fairly inexplicable and weird decision to use Sour Patch Kids as my unit of measurement instead. I don’t understand it any better than you do, but it turned into me heading to 7-Eleven at 1:00am to stare at this wall for like 70 seconds:
And somehow, there were no Sour Patch Kids.

I wandered around the store for awhile, and finally I came across this, which I looked at for a long time before determining it really wasn’t what I wanted.

I moved on and headed to a nearby convenience store. They also had no normal Sour Patch Kids, just some irritating “eXtreme” version. I wasn’t pleased, but it was late, I was aging, and they seemed close enough, so I bought ten bags.

I can’t imagine what the cashier thought as I made this 1:30am purchase, other than “this guy is about to have one of the most depressing solo parties of all time.”

I finally made it back home, broke open the bags, and started measuring.

3cm x 1cm x .5cm.

Next I lined up 10. Note the unappealing, radioactive colors Cadbury has chosen for its Sour Patch Kids eXtreme brand:

Next I laid 50 out:

And added another layer of 50 on top to make 100:
And in a night fraught with moments of self-loathing, carefully placing 50 eXtreme Sour Patch Kids on top of another 50 eXtreme Sour Patch Kids, alone at 2am, was the low point. Moving on—
Mercifully, I was able to copy and paste for all further building. The next step was to make a stack of ten of my 100-structure above to make 1,000:
That box is 10cm x 10cm x 15cm, so 1 million Sour Patch Kids is a 1m x 1m x 1.5m box:
1,000 of those boxes yields a 10m x 10m x 15m box that holds 1 billion Sour Patch Kids. Just a bit lower than the top of the Green Monster:
1,000 of those and we get to a trillion Sour Patch Kids, forming a 100m x 100m x 150m box that kills a bunch of squirrels in Central Park:
This helps illustrate just how huge a number a trillion is. A trillion is important because it’s the largest number that comes up in day-to-day life. We come across a trillion mainly when it comes to the government and money, and it’s such a large number, a stack of a trillion tightly-packed Sour Patch Kids would cover a football field and be as high as a 30-story building.
Now we enter the realm of numbers that are normally impossible to conceptualize. Luckily, we have my idiotic Sour Patch Kids method to help.
Taking 1,000 of the football stadium-size trillion box above and arranging them in a 10 x 10 x 10 box with dimensions 1km x 1km x 1.5km, we now have 1 quadrillion Sour Patch Kids, covering most of Downtown Manhattan. A quadrillion is a thousand trillion, or a million billion, and written out, it’s 1,000,000,000,000,000.
For reference, I put the Empire State Building and the world’s tallest building, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, next to the box.
If you’re wondering, experts say that there are somewhere between one and ten quadrillion ants on Earth.
The next step is a quintillion.  At their highest cruising altitude, commercial flights fly just above the top of this 10km x 10km x 15km box, which covers most of West LA:
Want to know how small an atom is? According to Physlink.com, there are 1.2 quintillion atoms in a grain of salt. So think about this massive airplane-height stack of tightly-packed Sour Patch Kids above. There are more than that many atoms in one grain of salt. Even more shocking is that NPR says that the number of grains of sand in the world is roughly 7.5 quintillion, only about seven times greater than the number of atoms number in a grain of salt.

Further, 1.7 quintillion represents the number of Sour Patch Kids you’d need to blanket the entire surface of the Earth with them. I depicted 1.7 quintillion below—so if you spread this box out into one layer, it would completely cover every inch of the planet:

1,000 quintillion boxes gets us to 1 sextillion, or a billion of those trillion boxes we saw sitting in Central Park above. 1 sextillion Sour Patch Kids makes a 100km x 100km x 150km stack that covers Switzerland. Note the airplane depicting the highest commercial airplane altitude:
1,000 sextillion makes 1 septillion, and a septillion Sour Patch Kids (1,000km x 1,000km x 1,500km) covers most of India and stretches deep into space, past the international space station:
Any recollection of Avogadro’s Number from Chemistry class? It’s the number of hydrogen molecules in a gram of hydrogen, and the number of atoms in a mole. The number is 6.022e23, or .6 septillion, which is 60% of the box above. Avogadro was not attractive.
1,000 septillion is 1 octillion, and at this point we move beyond all relevant reference. An octillion Sour Patch Kids is about as big as the Earth:
1,000 Earth-size octillion boxes equals one nonillion, or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 Sour Patch Kids. It stretches about half the distance between the Earth and the moon (384,400 km), which are both drawn to scale:
I am quivering to keep going. I need to know how big the next one (decillion) looks in comparison to the sun and how big the one after that looks in relation to the whole solar system and how many more illions until we’re bigger than the galaxy. But I’m gathering my strength and stopping. Because this is a post about big numbers, not about space and distances, and believe me, there will be a thorough post about space and distances some other time, since I’ve been seriously dating astronomy since I was three.
P.S. Sour Patch Kids are low quality. Nothing will expose something for being made in a factory in the cheapest possible way like opening ten packages of them and looking at a bunch of them for awhile.
P.P.S. I ate no fewer than 30 throughout the night even though I was increasingly appalled by them as I made my 100 structure.
P.P.P.S Sorry for the erratic posting schedule lately. We’re going to settle in at one post a week, on Tuesdays.

Join 68,488 others and have our posts delivered to you by email.

(No spam, ever. We promise.)

LOOK AT THIS BIG BUTTON WE MADE

157,231

RECOMMENDED POSTS

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00294104220241925036 Liam

    Awesome! Next step would be to research how many Sour Patch Kids are sold annualy and see the size of the SPK block they could made each year. And what if every single SPK ever made were cubed, how big would that cube be?

    By the way, do you think there are more ants or tree leaves in the world?

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00180713924226076964 Salar Salahshoor

      I was waiting for this part at the end. :(

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05800827098291898066 Bob Larson

    Put a little weird music behind it and you will have the 1960’s “Powers of 10″ video! :-)

    Also, I’d like to see if you can substantiate the 7.5 quintrillion grains of sand stat. A cube of 7.5 quintrillion grains of sand would be MUCH smaller than the cube on LA. And I have a hard time believing that all of the sand in the beaches, the deserts, etc would fill just that cube. Keep NPR on their toes!

    • Ilya R

      Thanks to Bob Larson’s brilliant insight we have discovered that grains of sand are significantly smaller than Sour Patch Kids. News at 11.

  • Anonymous

    If I had to choose one blog from the whole Internet to marry, this would be it. Good work. It is an official day-brightener.

  • Anonymous

    I am glad Cadbury still hss a good name in the UK, but Kraft are trying their hardest to make us move to Nestlé.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03484064521988756293 Hannah

    Great, now I want some sour patch kids. They’re not even that good anymore!

  • Anonymous

    Now get some sleep!

  • Anonymous

    you would like Grahams Number (watch on Numberphiles YouTube Channel)

  • Anonymous

    Part of this post reminded me of Maddox’s article on “extreme” marketing: http://www.thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=xtreme_bullshit

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09440523646411242375 nick weech

    Well! Where to start! Its a very good analogy to try to help us get some handle on all these nebulous numbers flying round. The debt crisis, this newest “shutdown” size of “atoms” – well done. In UK, we have Jelly Babies and suchlike, which are of comparable quality. Great idea to post it on YT with suitable soundbacking

  • Anonymous

    This is wonderful! Thank you! Keep going!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07293023484504926610 Unknown

    Hey–but wait! In space, wouldn’t the SPKs compress all together? or burst?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04624503058819968929 Jay Cross

    I’m guessing that somewhere between one sextillion and one septillion, you would run out of either Carbon or Hydrogen atoms, presuming that you were making them all on Earth out of atoms already here.

  • Anonymous

    Dude: Stop. You’re freaking me out.

  • Jake

    “And in a night fraught with moments of self-loathing, carefully placing 50 eXtreme Sour Patch Kids on top of another 50 eXtreme Sour Patch Kids, alone at 2am, was the low point.”

    I love you!!!

  • Anonymous

    Charming!! What I am wondering at the moment is how many functioning neurons it will take to open the Federal Government??

  • Anonymous

    Oh my God, your posts actually stimulate my brain. Numbers make me think, dimensions make me smile. I’m a closet astronomer wanna-be, and I rarely hear anyone else say they dig stars and space too! I found your blog recently and am so glad I did. Any chance you’re single? I’m sure you’re never been asked THAT on here before! Bye for now.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03814038867587901739 François C.

    A question of an unsuspected gravity!

  • Anonymous

    yeah. i kind of love you. this blog is rad.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05917590272428335520 ArmyBee

    Love your articles. Bookmarked the page and visit regularly :)

  • http://petramartin.com/ petramartin.com

    The sextillion SPKs squished the part of Germany I grew up in. I was raised in both the US and Germany by an American father and a German mother and had trouble figuring out which country to call home. I went to Germany for a year in my late twenties to determine my nationality once and for all. I realized that I was an American because Germans laugh at completely different things. Americans write blog posts like this one and shop at Archie McPhee’s for bacon air fresheners, librarian action figures, and handerpants.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14039306872053242798 Samuel Zamora

      Handerpants??!!!!!

      No fucking way!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07500024711541096567 OMFGITSROHIT

    I feel like a sour patch kid. I see your constant need to shrink yourself and feel like a particle of dust floating in space. That, combined with your schadenfreude desire to pit someone against the reality of their own insignificance. Oh well, we all get distracted eventually, don’t we? Great blog. Keep the posts coming, even if every post isn’t as informative/groundbreaking as the other. They’re all equally amusing.

    Where’s the sequel to why procrastinators procrastinate? I’ve refreshed this page a few times in the last twelve hours.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03854061151500622859 Halle Bose

    A challenge.

  • Anonymous

    My Name is the harry , From Uk. I wish to share my testimonies with the general public about what this man called Mr james has just done for me , this man has just brought back my lost Ex wife to me with his great spell, I was married to this women called Anita. we were together for a long time and we loved our self’s but when I was unable to give her a child for 2 years she left me and told me she can’t continue anymore. I was left looking for ways to get her back until a friend of mine told me about this man and gave his contact email great666spelltemple@hotmail.com then you won’t believe this when I contacted this man on my problems he prepared this spell cast and bring my lost wife and pet goat back, and after a month she missed her month and go for a test and the result stated she was pregnant am happy today she is a mother of a baby girl, thank you once again the great Mr james for what you have done for me, if you are out there having any of this problems listed below:

    1) If you want your ex back.
    (2) if you always have bad dreams.
    (3) You want to be promoted in your office.
    (4) You want women/men to run after you.
    (5) If you want a child.
    (6) You want to be rich.
    (7) You want to tie your husband/wife to be
    yours forever.
    (8) If you need financial assistance.
    (9) How you been scammed and you want to recover you lost money.
    (10) Missing your pet goat.

    Then contact Mr james

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07390536593472043381 Lee marie

    My Name is Lee Marie, From United Kingdom. I wish to share my testimonies with the general public about what this man called Dr godfather.has just done for me , this man has just brought back my lost Ex husband to me with his great spell, I was married to this man called Steven we were together for a long time and we loved our self’s but when I was unable to give him a child for 9years he left me and told me he can’t continue anymore then I was now looking for ways to get him back until a friend of mine told me about this man and gave his contact Email: godfatherlovespelltemple@gmail.com then you won’t believe this when I contacted this man on my problems he prepared this spell cast and bring my lost husband back, and after a month I miss my month and go for a test and the result stated am pregnant am happy today am a mother of a baby girl, thank you once again the great Dr.godfather for what you have done for me, if you are out there passing through any of this problems listed below:

    (1) If you want your ex back.
    (2) if you always have bad dreams.
    (3) You want to be promoted in your office.
    (4) You want women/men to run after you.
    (5) If you want a child.
    (6) You want to be rich.
    (7) You want to tie your husband/wife to be yours forever.
    (8) If you need financial assistance.
    (9) Herbal care.
    (10)stop Divorce
    (11)human invisibility

    then contact him with his email address godfatherlovespelltemple@gmail.com or you can call him with his mobile number +2347037285140 and see his great works.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18174026644275176238 loveanswer

    Hello am valencia moore,So trustworthy spell caster are still online?i never believed unti i saw some post about Dr Lumba on how he has helped lots of people on the internet.I told him i have had about him on internet and before i told him my problem,He has already told me what i came for and said people had scammed me off my money and added pain to my pain i was so shocked,He just told me that everything will be okay within 24 hours,i told him this was what does fake spell caster also told me,He said i should give him a try which i did.Truly am just short of words and over excited for what Dr Lumba has done for me exactly when the 24 hours was completed the call i got was from my lover that left me with pain for over 4 year,He said on phone Valencia,Can we talk in a sad and shy tone,i was like yes then he came to my house and apologised to me that he was sorry and proposed to me that same day and asked if i would marry him and i said yes,And our wedding will be in January friends you are cordinatly invited am so happy,Thanks to Dr Lumba you can contact him on drlumbahomeofsolution@gmail.com or cell number +2348112867024 for your solution his truly a man you can trust and confide in.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14016108571116901770 annoymous

    I am so glad to be on this site today in other to express myself to the world because i made a promise to Dr.Zabaza that if he grants me my heart desire that i am going to make sure that the world knows about his powers.. My lover left me nine weeks ago after searching for solution all over i came across Dr.Zabaza via: zabaza.logan@yahoo.com OR +2348182620374 and i was convinced with what i read about Dr.Zabaza. So i contacted Dr.Zabaza for help, With my greatest surprise my lover came back to me within 48 hours.. Once again don’t forget Dr.Zabaza contact details which are zabaza.logan@yahoo.com OR +2348182620374.. Dr.Zabaza i am so glad that i met you.

    ALEXA

    FROM KANSAS CITY (USA)

  • Anonymous

    I got confused, and was disappointed (not majorly) not to see any cabbage patch kids. Does this date me?

    • Maria Johan

      My name is maria johan from malaysia. My boyfriend left me a month ago and he was leaving with another woman who is 10 years older than him,i feel like my life is completely over. I read over the internet how a spell caster have help several people to get there love back. I have been depress for the past one month and what i need is to get him back and live with him happily. so i decided to give it a try so i contacted the spell caster called Dr.Trust and explain my problems to him and he cast a love spell which i use to get my boyfriend back and now my life is complete and both of us are very happy with the relationship. and i am throughly grateful to this man,his contact email is ultimatespellcast@gmail.com or ultimatespellcast@yahoo.com Thank you very much and i am extremely greatful Tel: +2348156885231.And there is know evil attach to his spell.it will only make your relationship very stronger. website http://ultimatespellcast-net.webs.com

    • Tucker Stacey

      My name is tucker stacey.This is a very joyful day of my life because of the help Dr.Trust has rendered to me by helping me get my ex husband back with his magic and love spell. i was married for 6 years and it was so terrible because my husband was really cheating on me and was seeking for a divorce but when i came across Dr.Trust email on the internet on how he help so many people to get thier ex back and help fixing relationship.and make people to be happy in their relationship. i explained my situation to him and then seek his help but to my greatest surprise he told me that he will help me with my case and here i am now celebrating because my Husband has change totally for good. He always want to be by me and can not do anything without my present. i am really enjoying my marriage, what a great celebration. i will keep on testifying on the internet because Dr.Trust is truly a real spell caster. DO YOU NEED HELP THEN CONTACT DOCTOR TRUST NOW VIA EMAIL: Ultimatespellcast@yahoo.com or call +2348156885231 or ultimatespellcast@gmail.com. He is the only answer to your problem and make you feel happy in your relationship.

  • Maria Johan

    My name is maria johan from malaysia. My boyfriend left me a month ago and he was leaving with another woman who is 10 years older than him,i feel like my life is completely over. I read over the internet how a spell caster have help several people to get there love back. I have been depress for the past one month and what i need is to get him back and live with him happily. so i decided to give it a try so i contacted the spell caster called Dr.Trust and explain my problems to him and he cast a love spell which i use to get my boyfriend back and now my life is complete and both of us are very happy with the relationship. and i am throughly grateful to this man,his contact email is ultimatespellcast@gmail.com or ultimatespellcast@yahoo.com Thank you very much and i am extremely greatful Tel: +2348156885231.And there is know evil attach to his spell.it will only make your relationship very stronger. website http://ultimatespellcast-net.webs.com,…..

  • George Ewumbua

    OMG!! This is certainly a shocking and a genuine Testimony..I visited a forum here on the internet on the 20TH OF JUNE 2014, And i saw a marvelous testimony of this powerful and great spell caster called PRIEST AZIBA on the forum..I never believed it, because i never heard nor learnt anything about magic before.. Not a soul would have been able to influence me about magical spells, not until PRIEST AZIBA did it for me and restored my marriage of 8 years back to me and brought my spouse back to me in the same 24 hours just as i read on the internet..i was truly astonished and shocked when my husband knelt down begging for forgiveness and for me to accept him back.. I am really short of expressions, and i don’t know how much to convey my appreciation to you PRIEST AZIBA you are a God sent to me and my entire family.. And now i am a joyful woman once again.. here is his website: http://priestazibasolutioncenter.webs.com Email: priestazibasolutioncenter@gmail.com. along with his mobile number+2348100368288….. Mrs Chris Windy from Los Angeles

  • Robin laura

    I have been in great bondage for about 4 years
    suffering in the hands of a cheating husband. We were living happily
    until he meant his old time girl friend and he started dating her again
    outside our marriage and before i knew it he stopped caring for his own
    family, to the extent that he was planning to marry her and divorce me. I
    cried and reported him to his family members but he never listened to
    anyone and to cut the story short, i came in search for a real spell
    caster who could destroy their relationship and make him come back to me
    and our 2 kids again; on my search i saw people sharing testimony on
    how their marriage was restored by Dr. Eze Malaka and i pick his email
    and told him the problem that i was going through, and he agreed to help
    me and told me never to worry. After he had finished casting the spell,
    on the second day, they both had a quarrel and he beat up his
    girlfriend and he came back home begging me to forgive him that his eyes
    are clear now that he will never do any thing that will hurt his family
    again and promise to be a caring father and never to cheat on me again.
    I am so happy that i did not lose him to the girl and all appreciation
    goes to Dr. Eze Malaka for his great work. You are a Great spell caster
    and to you all that are faced with this or similar problem to this,
    please contact him now on extremewhitelovespell@yahoo. com

  • Tucker Stacey

    My name is tucker stacey.This is a very joyful day of my life because of the help Dr.Trust has rendered to me by helping me get my ex husband back with his magic and love spell. i was married for 6 years and it was so terrible because my husband was really cheating on me and was seeking for a divorce but when i came across Dr.Trust email on the internet on how he help so many people to get thier ex back and help fixing relationship.and make people to be happy in their relationship. i explained my situation to him and then seek his help but to my greatest surprise he told me that he will help me with my case and here i am now celebrating because my Husband has change totally for good. He always want to be by me and can not do anything without my present. i am really enjoying my marriage, what a great celebration. i will keep on testifying on the internet because Dr.Trust is truly a real spell caster. DO YOU NEED HELP THEN CONTACT DOCTOR TRUST NOW VIA EMAIL: Ultimatespellcast@yahoo.com or call +2348156885231 or ultimatespellcast@gmail.com. He is the only answer to your problem and make you feel happy in your relationship. …

  • Kate Williams

    Hello, My name is Kate Williams, am from USA, I recently had a
    breakup with my husband about 2 months back. He said we are done that we
    should move on that he has someone else now. I could not even bear the
    pain and everything and.
    just so unfortunate, I discovered I was
    pregnant when me and my ex we going through some big fights. I couldn’t
    tell him I was pregnant because I knew he would blame it on me. I
    suffered with the secret on.
    my own and I could not go through an abortion
    on my own. The funny thing is I discovered that he had two other
    girlfriends I was not aware of. I know if I could turn back the hands of
    time I would do it.
    again because I could not suffer everything
    alone, I almost drop out of university because of a guy. On a faithful
    day after I lost of thought, an old friend told me about a spell caster
    with this email.
    dremuahelphome@outlook.com who could help me
    restore my love and have my baby in good terms. I sacrifice everything
    to make sure the spell was done. and the spell was now the savior. He
    spell brought.
    back my lover after 2 days. My joy, love and happiness is restored because of this spell professor, my baby comes soon.
    you can also contact him if you have any of this problems below.

    (1) Spell for protection from danger.
    (2) Spell for magic.
    (3) Spell for same sex love.
    (4) Spell for healing.
    (5) Spell for invisibility.
    (6) Spell for riches and fame.
    (7) Spell to get a good job.
    (8) Spell for strong love and relationship.
    (9) Spell to bring your ex back.
    (10) Spell for promotion at work.

    This man has great powers and is incredibly generous.You can contact
    his on dremuahelphome@outlook.com or dremuahelphome@gmail.com you can
    call him on his mobile number +2348143101585 He can help you without
    stress try him today….

Home Archive