Carl Sagan was only partly right. For while it’s true that we’re made of star stuff, it would perhaps be more accurate to say that the universe is composed of numbers. And not just any numbers, mind you, but enormous numbers. Gigantic, mind-bogglingly tremendous whoppers of numbers. Numbers that the human mind can scarcely comprehend.
In A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars, a new picture book illustrated by Isabel Greenberg, author Seth Fishman lobs the reader the biggest one of all: the quantity of stars in the night sky. That would be—maybe, possibly, probably—100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, including the sun Earth orbits, according to Fishman.
The tricky thing about statistics, however, is that they rarely stay put. From one moment to the next, populations grow and shrink, empires rise and fall, and even stars wink in and out of existence. Such was the challenge Fishman faced while he compiled his list of scale-busting numbers, from the number of trees pumping out the oxygen we breathe (3,000,000,000,000) to the weight of the Earth itself (13,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 pounds).