## Wednesday, February 1, 2012

### Skewered Contest!!!

Yay!  We have a new contest.  The rules are a little different from previous DON contests, but you can still win a free copy of How Many Licks?  Here's how it works. I’m posting a numbers question below. To enter, come up with an answer and send it to “aaron at aaronsantos period com.” If I think your answer is the best, I'll mail you a free signed copy of How Many Licks? Submit your entry on or before March 15, 2012 for consideration. Don't worry…I won't spam you or share your email with any third parties. Here’s the question:

I was reading an Asimov book the other day and came across something called Skewes' number.  At one time, Skewes' number was the largest number ever to appear in a mathematical proof.1  It would be impossible to write Skewes' number out in the conventional way, but using exponents we can write it as

10101034.

This is an exceedingly large number.  It is vastly bigger than the number of grains of sand in the Earth.  In fact, it's vastly bigger than the number of grains of sand in the solar system.  In fact, it's vastly bigger than the number of atoms in the solar system.  In fact, all of these physical quantities are extreme underestimates of Skewes' number.  What physical quantity comes closest to Skewes' number?

Note: It must be something physical like a molecule, atom, or grain of sand (i.e. not something abstract like a number appearing in a mathematical proof.)

[1] It has since been replaced by other large numbers.  For more info, see Graham's number and Moser's number.