The Number Cruncher

Kilburn. About a decade ago. I was stood in WHSmith, reading the newspapers. It’s what we did before the internet. That or the library. Libraries had more tramps and more of a crusty, fuggy aroma. Smith’s was cleaner, and had multiple copies of papers, so Smith’s was better. Smith’s even had magazines.

I was skimming through The Times, or some such similarly improving broadsheet, when suddenly a copy of The Sun was urgently flapped under my nose. I looked up. A troubled, quizzical face was glaring back at me, as one of its owner’s digits was repeatedly and quickly stabbed at the back page, somewhere in the region of a story about a footballer’s weekly wage.

“You see that number there?”

I did see. I confirmed as much.

“Is that a BIG number?”

It was somewhere in the thousands. I said, yes, it was pretty big, but such things were relative. The face looked momentarily less troubled. Then it shouted at me.

“A million! THAT’s a big number.”

I couldn’t deny it.

“Did you know that the sun is a million times bigger than the Earth?”

I wasn’t sure if anyone could be said to know such a thing but was also aware that an epistemological debate would clearly be neither relevant nor welcome. I told him I didn’t. He smiled proudly. He knew something I didn’t. That was enough for him. Knowledge is power.

2 thoughts on “The Number Cruncher

  1. Does size entail density, or volume, or diameter? Glad you asked.

    In this case go with volume: the volume of the Sun is about 1 million times the volume of the Earth. The radius of the Sun is about 100 times the radius of the Earth (100^3 = 1,000,000). The mass of the Sun is only 300,000 times the mass of the Earth, so the (average) density of the Earth is larger than the average density of the Sun.

  2. So my long-held conviction that it’s only 100 times bigger is only half right, then? Pah to you and your terminology. Pah and HARRUMPH.

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