My Favorite Fact

  • May 31, 2018
  • /   Author Name
  • /   Feed_Blog

Hello, friends! Rob here.

Did you know that every time you shuffle a deck of playing cards, you're actually putting the cards in an order that has never existed before and will probably never exist again?

That sounds made up. It's not. To prove it, here's some math. I actually did this math. I even re-do this math every once in a while to make sure it hasn't moved while I wasn't looking, like that unnerving doll in your grandmother's guest room. You know the one. Anyway:

Scientists estimate that the universe is around 14,000,000,000 years old. As anyone who's ever bawled their eyes out to the Rent soundtrack- in other words, anyone who has a soul-can tell you, there are 525,600 minutes in a year. That means that the universe is approximately 7,358,400,000,000,000 minutes old. If you could somehow send the entirety of the human race (~7,000,000,000people) back to the moment of the Big Bang, curse them all with immortality, and then give each person a deck of cards and instruct them to shuffle their own cards once every minute until we arrived back at the present day, you would get about 5.15088e25 shuffles. In case you don't remember your scientific notation, 5.15088e25 basically means a 5 with 25 zeroes behind it. It's a 26-digit number. Can you picture a 26-digit number of anything? Try to picture that many jelly beans in a jar or something. You're not picturing enough jelly beans, because we're talking about a stupid number of jelly beans. It is an unimaginable amount of jelly beans. It is also an unimaginable number of shuffles. Surely, with the combined efforts of all of humanity toiling since the birth of the universe, we could produce at least one pair of identical shuffles? It's a 26-digit number. Literally billions of billions. It's huge.

Well. The number of possible orders for a single deck of 52 playing cards is 52 factorial, meaning 52 x51 x 50 x 49, etc, all the way down to 1. 52 factorial is a 68-digit number. Here's what both numbers look like when written out longhand, so that we may better grasp the inadequacy of humanity's feeble effort:

One shuffle per minute per human since the dawn of time:


Number of possible shuffles:


Even in the absurd thought experiment laid out above, we've still only managed to create fewer than 0.0000000000000000000000000000000000000001% of the total configurations possible within a single deck of playing cards. This is mind-boggling. We're still talking about one deck. Fifty-two cards. Fits in your back pocket. You could forget it was there and accidentally put it through the wash.

Back in college, my friends and I would sometimes break out this old set of playing cards that featured various Playboy covers from circa the 1970s-80s (I think) when we were pregaming or staying in after sunset on a trip to the beach. We played so many drinking games with that deck of cards that we had nicknames for every model in the deck (two of them were named "Jon's Mom"). We even made a drinking game based on the cards themselves, wherein each player would flip a card and then we all had to argue over whose card had the most attractive woman on it and then, I don't know, everybody drink. We were morons, okay? But it turns out every time we shuffled that deck, we were putting Pillow Girl, Goth Girl, Jon'sMom, Man Ass, Stamp Girl, Jon's Mom II, and the rest of them in a unique and unprecedented order. Every game was different. Every card game from now until the sun explodes will be different. There are infinite possibilities within a single deck of playing cards. That's my favorite fact. Draw your own conclusions.

Okay, now imagine you're on a game show and there are three doors and one of them has a car behind it NOPE STOP IT MATH TIME OVER

Anyway, we did some music last week. It was rad. At one point between songs in Reno, David told the audience that we've finished recording our next album (I am pleased to confirm that this statement is probably accurate)and that it will be coming out "sometime in the future." This isn't meant to be news or anything, but it got me thinking about how rad it would be if we could release an album sometime in the past. Imagine Black Sabbath dropping Paranoid on the Middle Ages, or being able to send the 101st Airborne Division a compilation of '80s montage tunes to boost morale during the Siege of Bastogne. I can tell you right now that we won't invent time travel during my lifetime, because if we do, I'll will/have already recorded an album in like 2055 and released it in 2009. Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "instant classic" okay sorry I'll see myself out

The rest of the weekend was also fantastic. I can't speak for everyone, but personally I've never not had a good time in San Francisco, and actually, I can probably speak for everyone unless I'm forgetting some trip where like Ed got food poisoning or Andrew was bitten by a snake maybe? I don't think they have venomous serpents in San Francisco, so we're good. Also, I can never remember: between "SF," "San Fran," and "Frisco," which ones do locals deem acceptable and which ones do they absolutely abhor? Asking for a friend.

Speaking of friends and asking, one of the most common questions my wife and I get when making small talk is "so, does she travel with the band?" The short answer is "only for the really cool stuff." There are a lot of dudes in this band, and as of this writing we are all currently in some phase of monogamy, so by sheer numbers and diversity of occupation it's rare to get 100% attendance from our respective partners at an out-of-town event. Our annual Nantucket working vacation tends to be a big draw, as are all beaches, festivals, and major US cities. And fancy stuff.

Bottlerock was fancier than most of the weddings I've been to in the past year, including my own. In addition to our typical rider (Jameson and hummus) there were a couple of cases of wine waiting for us when we arrived at our hospitality tent. At lunch, they had two different kinds of paella. Sometimes festivals have swag booths where you can pick up a t-shirt or some earplugs or something, but atBottlerock they were giving away 250ml bottles of locally-sourced extra-virgin olive oil. It goes without saying that Bottlerock was well-attended by the Revivaltits (to use a years-old nickname that I swear to God they came up with on their own), which is great for me because technically I get to say that I took my wife toNapa for our anniversary. NO ONE CAN TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME.

The friend whose thing I'm plugging today is Stokeswood!

What can I say about these guys? Stokeswood is five lovely humans from Atlanta whose latest single, "Walls," serves as a great introduction to their style of dreamy, synth-heavy alt-pop. We've crossed paths many times in our respective journeys and had a lot of good times together, dating as far back as a New Year's Eve show in Miami circa 2012ish where everybody stayed up til like five in the morning and then the next day we had to wait around in the parking lot of the venue until after sundown for someone to come and let us back in so we could pick up our gear (back in those days we were big on loading out the day after the show, which was a terrible policy for a lot of reasons and I don't recommend it to anyone) before we could drive the twelve hours back from Miami to New Orleans and anyway Stokeswood is great and you should check them out. Nailed it.