Play Your Cards Right

Fact: If you shuffle a deck of cards, that precise order of cards has probably never happened before. 

Actually, if every single person on earth (all 7 billion of us) had shuffled one deck of cards every second since the start of the universe – 13.7 billion years ago – we still wouldn’t even be close to having seen every possible order of cards.

The huge number of potential orders is the result of the 52 cards in a deck. The number of possible combinations can be calculated using a function called a ‘factorial’ [written as !]. This multiplies that number by every number smaller than itself – for example:

10! = 10 x 9 x 8 x 7 x 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1

Now imagine that for 52 factorial, and its not hard to see that very quickly it becomes a massively large number. 80,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 to be precise (that’s 67 zeros). And in the grand scheme of things, that’s nothing – if you really want your mind blown, get someone to explain Grahams Number (the largest number ever even thought of) to you.

‘Another one of Mr Shaunak’s Little Bites of Science’
Image under Creative Commons license, takevilcaca, unedited.
http://evilcaca.deviantart.com/art/Playing-Cards-Background-188687783

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