Down here on our little speck on a speck, we created a cosmically-insignificant product called a Bound Custom Journal. As of this moment in the history of the known universe, our flagship product, the Original Bound Journal has 140 pages. That’s our first important piece of information.
Approximately 13.75 billion years ago (plus or minus a couple hundred million years) our universe was born. A lot of things have happened since then, but one of those things is the creation of 63 different types of content available to choose from for each of those 140 pages. For the record, here are all 63 of those section types:
Blank, Lined Wide Horizontal, Lined College Horizontal, Lined Narrow Horizontal, Lined Super Narrow Horizontal, Lined Wide Vertical, Lined College Vertical, Lined Narrow Vertical, Lined Super Narrow Vertical, Quarter-Inch Lined Grid, Eighth-Inch Lined Grid, Quarter-Inch Dot Grid, Eighth-Inch Dot Grid, Austin Map, Chicago Map, Detroit Map, Durham Map, Manhattan Map, San Francisco Map, Washington D.C. Map, Daily Log, Daily Log with Day Number, Daily Log with Location, Daily Log with Day Number and Location, Business View Weekly Calendar, Pleasure View Weekly Calendar, Hour-By-Hour View Weekly Calendar, Monthly Calendar, Minimal Contacts, Traditional Contacts, Webby Contacts, One-Column Checklists, Two-Column Checklists, Blank Clef Music, Treble Clef Music, Alto Clef Music, Bass Clef Music, Grand Clef Music, 4x3 2-up Storyboards, 4x3 8-up Storyboards, 16x9 2-up Storyboards, 16x9 1up Horizontal Storyboards, 2.4x1 3-up Storyboards, iPhone Template, iPad Template, Two iPhone Template, Browser Vertical Template, Browser Horizontal Template, Browser with 12-Column Grid Vertical Template, Browser with 12-Column Grid Horizontal Template, T-Shirt Clothing Template, Hoodie Clothing Template, Onesie Hoodie Template, TicTacToe, Hangman, Yahtzee, Recipe, Grocery List, Lined Cornell Notes, Blank Cornell Notes, Dot Grid Cornell Notes, Social Network Micro-journaling, Notes to Self Micro-journaling.
Of our 63 different section types listed above, a few of them are a bit more complicated. The Monthly Calendar, Weekly Calendar (and variations), and Daily Log (and variations) can be customized to start and end at any date of your choosing. Pretty slick for setting up a planner or diary, but it’s going to really complicate the math. If we were going to be rigorous about this little calcuation, we’d have to take into account that each month, week, or day page that has a different date should count as a different kind of page. That would bring our total from 61 different section types to, well, an infinite number of section types. Because that just throws the math from really big numbers to theoretical crazy-town, we’re going to ignore that fact for the purposes of this exercise, and pretend that choosing a date-based section type counts as a single choice.
*Sigh, even this caveat needs a caveat. Time may not be infinite (I’ll leave that to theoretical physicist to sort out), but the number of choices of dates that you can feasibly choose when building your journal is incredibly large.
To calculate the number of unique possible journal combinations, we have all the information we need. On the first page of our journal, and every page thereafter, we have 63 options.
We can simplify that, using some properties of exponents, to nice scientific notation:
Phew. Ok, we’ve got a number. It’s not exact, but close enough.
Deep breath, we're halfway there
I’m sure there are a few different ways to calculate the number of atoms in the observable universe. But I only know one way, and that is to get lost in Wikipedia for a good half hour (one of my favorite pastimes).
The universe is incredibly empty. Here are two ways to think about it:
If you drew a cube anywhere in the universe with height, width, and depth each of 1000 light years (ie. a billion cubic lightyears), you’d probably only find 1 star inside of that cube.
If you drew a one cubic meter cube anywhere in the galaxy, you’d have about a 1 in 4 chance of finding a single atom inside that cube.
That said, the universe is also pretty freakin' gigantic:
The distance from Earth to the edge of the observable universe is about 14.3 billion parsecs (1 parsec = 3.26 light years). That makes the volume of the universe to be roughly (I’m glossing over some physics here) 410 nonillion cubic lightyears, or 3.6×1080 cubic meters.
Or, in the parlance of our time: "Huge, man."
Taking the above premises together, we can estimate that the number of atoms in the observable universe is:
Finally, the payoff
It’s clear that there are more possibilities than atoms, but what about our claim that there are more possibilities than atoms in the universe, squared? Just a bit more math:
Our possibilities still outnumber the atoms in the universe, squared, by an order of nearly a googol.
We made it!
The universe is really, really spectacularly huge and empty.
The universe of possible Bound Custom Journals is, dare I say it, boundless.
If you’re still here, you should try out our journal builder to fashion your one-of-a-kind Bound Custom Journal, and then kick back and watch some YouTube videos of Neil DeGrasse Tyson. I'll start things off: