Pretend that a ping pong ball represents a single curl installation somewhere in the world. Here’s a picture of one to help you get an image in your head.
Moving on with this game, you get one ball for every curl installation out there and your task is to put all those balls on top of each other. Okay, that’s hard to balance but for this game we can also pretend you have glue enough to make sure they stay like this. A tower of ping pong balls.
You soon realize that this is quite a lot of work. The balls keep pouring in.
How fast can you build?
If you manage to do this construction work non-stop at the rate of one ball per second (which seems like it maybe would be hard after a while but let’s not make that ruin the fun), it will keep you occupied for no less than a little bit over 317 years. (That also assumes the number of curl installations doesn’t grow significantly in the mean time.)
That’s a lot of ping pong balls. Ten billion of them, give or take.
Assuming you have friends to help you build this tower you can probably build it faster. If you can instead sustain a rate of 1000 balls per second, you’d be done in less than four months.
One official ping pong ball weighs 2.7 grams. It makes a total of 27,000 tonnes of balls. That’s quite some pressure on such a small surface. You better make sure to build the tower on something solid. The heaviest statue in the world is the Statue of Liberty in New York, clocking in at 24,500 tonnes.
That takes a lot of balls
But wait, the biggest ping pong ball manufacturer in the world (Double Happiness, in China – yes it’s really called that) “only” produces 200 million balls per year. It would take them 50 years to make balls for this tower. You clearly need to engage many factories.
You can get 100 balls for roughly 10 USD on Amazon right now. Maybe not the best balls to play with, but I think they might still suit this game. That’s a billion US dollars for the balls. Maybe you’d get a discount, but you’d also drastically increase demand, so…
How tall is that?
A tower of ten billion ping pong balls, how tall is that? It would reach the moon.
The diameter of a ping pong ball is 40 mm (it was officially increased from 38 mm back in 2000). This makes 25 balls per meter of tower. Conveniently aligned for our game here.
10,000,000,000 balls / 25 balls per meter = 400,000,000 meters. 400,000 km.
Distance from earth to moon? 384,400 km. The fully built tower is actually a little taller than the average distance to the moon! Here’s another picture to help you get an image in your head. (Although this image is not drawn to scale!)
A challenge will of course be to keep this very thin tower steady when that tall. Winds and low temperatures should be challenging. And there’s the additional risk of airplanes or satellites colliding with it. Or even just birds interfering in the lower altitudes. I suspect there are also laws prohibiting such a construction.
Come to think of it. This was just a mind game. Forget about it now. Let’s move on with our lives instead. We have better things to do.