I'm fairly sure I am asking something different than the proposed duplicate. And the question itself demonstrates understanding of the proposed duplicate answer

Is there an alternative number to the 100% miscommunicated and hard-to-comprehend "total number of atoms in the universe" cruft

My question pertains to why this question comes up so much and how to prevent it. It is not asking the question itself so is a different question


1 Answer 1


I do agree that it's not really a duplicate; but it should remain closed.

For one thing, it's hard to understand the question behind the huge rant. Your rant seems to entirely focus on how unclear some people are when they discuss the "number of atoms in the universe". From what I've understood, you seem to have an issue with how some people choose to explain the estimates for the number of atoms in the observable universe. I can see how this led people to close it as a duplicate; your question wasn't exactly clear with what it was trying to ask.

The question seems to mostly concern itself with the wording of people saying "the number of atoms in the universe"; when really they are estimating the number of atoms in the observable universe (not estimating the number of atoms that could fit into the observable universe). Although I think it's useful to make this distinction between the universe and the observable universe, I don't think the question is on topic for this site.

It seems like a primarily opinion based question, based on your dislike for current explanations of that estimate. I personally also don't really see the issues that you see with the explanations, so that especially leads me to consider it opinion based.

  • $\begingroup$ Plus from this meta question: My question pertains to why this question comes up so much and how to prevent it. That is explicitly opinion based. $\endgroup$ Mar 17, 2020 at 13:58
  • $\begingroup$ I think the question is unclear and I have voted to delete it. I have read both it and all the comments multiple times and cannot figure out whether the complaint is that some people don’t say “observable” in front of “universe” or that the number results from a calculation rather than an actual count. $\endgroup$
    – G. Smith
    Mar 17, 2020 at 16:45
  • $\begingroup$ @G.Smith I agree it was also very unclear. That was basically my first point. I also got the impression that they were interpreting the older estimates as "the number of hydrogen atoms you can fit into the observable universe"; which only added to my confusion. $\endgroup$
    – JMac
    Mar 17, 2020 at 16:48
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I was agreeing with you on lack of clarity and have upvoted your answer. $\endgroup$
    – G. Smith
    Mar 17, 2020 at 16:50
  • $\begingroup$ i am trying to find an alternate number to number of atoms in the universe - because it is so confusing. it is in the title. i come here eager to learn and am getting shut down because why? this is easy to understand? it is not. so instead of discussing it gets shut down. not very welcoming. $\endgroup$ Mar 24, 2020 at 10:47
  • $\begingroup$ @G.Smith the complaint is that they are selling that they have the count of x but they have an estimation of y. they are unrelated. the estimation they have is confusing on its own that a lay person would never understand it. is there another number that is easier to understand? that is all i ask $\endgroup$ Mar 24, 2020 at 10:48
  • $\begingroup$ @user1886419 I don't think they're really "selling" that as an exact number of atoms in the universe. As far as I'm aware, most people recognize that this is an estimation; since it seems pretty obvious we haven't counted them all. Just like when someone says the number of sand grains on a beach, they don't mean the exact number; just a ballpark estimate. But they are estimating the number of atoms in the universe, so I don't see how they are selling x but giving y. They estimate exactly what they claim to. $\endgroup$
    – JMac
    Mar 24, 2020 at 12:06

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