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A Gear System Helps Visualize the Magnitude of One Googol, or 1 Followed by 100 Zeros

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March 10, 2020

Grace Ebert

To celebrate spending one billion seconds on Earth, Daniel de Bruin created a gear system that represents the number googol (that’s the digit 1 with 100 zeros behind it). Every time the first wheel completes 1,000 rotations, which happens in about an hour, the second gear turns 100 notches and the third 10. Each following wheel is reduced by 10, meaning in order to turn the last and 100th one, the system would need a googol of energy, which the Netherlands-based designer says is “a number that’s bigger than the atoms in the known universe.” He tells Colossal that when working perfectly, each gear is perpetually in motion. “Visible to the human eye, I could only see ten gears moving in my lifetime,” he says. For more of de Bruin’s mind-boggling projects—like his totally analog 3D printer and pneumatic pinball machine and can opener—head to his Instagram or YouTube.

 

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