The Googolplex is not to be confused with the Googleplex (Google, Inc.’s Headquarters). Googolplex is the name of a number (just like π = 3.14…). A very large number…

1 Googolplex = 10^{10100}

This is how you would write out a googolplex. That is the highly compact version. To get an idea of how BIG a googolplex is, here is the observable universe:

Magnifying the Universe – A nifty website allowing you to get some perspective on how big the universe is, and how small you are (click on the image to go there).

Now keep in mind that it has been estimated that there are approximately 10^{82 }hydrogen atoms in the Observable Universe. This Article explains how that number is derived. Of course, this is a VERY rough approximation. However, it gives you an idea of how big a Googolplex is. So big that not even the H atoms in our observable universe come close.

Scale of the Universe – a slightly more detailed version of Magnify the Universe. This time you’re NOT the smallest thing (click on image to go there).

We have already established that a Googolplex is a very “large” number. So what happens if you decide to count to one googolplex? Turns out you probably can’t. Not unless you are immortal… and have a lot of time to spare… and find a new universe to do it in because this one will be gone by then.

A person counting at two numbers a second, would take this long to reach these:

One million

5 days, 18 hours, 53 minutes, 20 seconds

One billion

15 years, 308 days, 9 hours, 41 minutes, 50 seconds

One googol

1.584 x 10^{90}centuries!!!

One googolplex

5 x 10^{10^99} seconds. We can’t convert that into centuries or anything because our calculators can’t handle numbers that big (not to mention our brains).

Still can’t get your head around the enormity of the Googolplex? Worry not! It’s perfectly normal. Here is a song by Helen Arney that will put your mind at ease (or not).