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By the numbers — why the universe fascinates

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8.5 million: The number of people who watched last Sunday’s premiere of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey on Fox and affiliated networks.

13.3 million: The number of people who watched the premiere of Resurrection, ABC’s new drama about loved ones mysteriously returning from the dead, which aired at the same time.

17.9 million: The number of people who watched CBS’ sitcom The Big Bang Theory last week.

1916: The year Albert Einstein published his General Theory of Relativity, which laid the foundation for big bang cosmology.

0: The number of Nobel Prizes that Einstein won for his General Theory of Relativity.

240: The number of pieces Einstein’s brain was cut into for research purposes after he died.

100 billion: The estimated number of human beings who have ever lived on Earth.

400 billion: The estimated number of stars in our Milky Way galaxy.

38 per cent: The share of atoms in the human body that are heavier than hydrogen and hence were made inside stars.

2: The number of golf balls left on the moon in 1971 by astronaut Alan Shepard.

4: The number of people in a family photograph left on the moon’s surface by astronaut Charles Duke in 1972.

8: The number of minutes it takes light from the sun to reach Earth.

328: The number of minutes it takes light from the sun to reach Pluto.

5 million: The number of minutes it will take the New Horizons spacecraft, which launched in 2006, to travel from Earth to Pluto.

3.5 per cent: The amount of funding for NASA compared with that of the U.S. military in U.S. President Barack Obama’s proposed 2015 budget.

7.3 billion: Dollar amount in the president’s proposed 2015 budget for the National Science Foundation, which funds research in astronomy, biology, chemistry, geology, mathematics, physics and other sciences.

12.9 billion: The cost in dollars of the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, christened in November.

26 per cent: The share of American adults who think that the sun revolves around the Earth, according to a February study by the National Science Foundation.

9: The approximate number of years it would take to walk nonstop to the moon if you could.

3,536: The approximate number of years it would take to walk to the sun.

177: How many years it would take to drive to the sun at 60 miles per hour.

49 million: How many years it would take to drive to the next nearest star, Proxima Centauri.

9.3 billion: Approximate number of years the universe had existed before Earth formed.

50: The distance in miles from which the Hubble Space Telescope could discern the color of your eyes.

1.5 billion: Estimated total cost in dollars to build the European Extremely Large Telescope, the largest optical telescope ever, the construction of which will soon begin in northern Chile.

2.5 billion: Total cost in dollars to buy one tall Starbucks caffe latte for every man, woman and child in the European Union.

8.8 billion: Total cost in dollars to build the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, which is scheduled for launch in 2018.

5 million: How many tons of matter the sun converts into energy every second.

1.3 million: The number of Earths that could fit inside the sun if it were hollow.

2/3: The fraction of Americans who can no longer see the Milky Way at night because of light pollution where they live.

Infinite: The universe’s potential to fascinate and inspire people of all ages.

 

Michael West is director of the Maria Mitchell Observatory on Nantucket Island, Mass.

 

 

—The Washington Post

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