A quick and dirty calculation reveals that you could print the entire internet on 136 billion pieces of standard 8-by-11 sheets of paper.
Stack that many sheets of paper one on top of the other and you would get a column about 8,300 miles high! (Assuming that the average thickness of each sheet is .0039 inches.)
George Harwood and Evangeline Walker, students at the University of Leicester in the UK, determined this by first estimating how many pages it would take to print every Wikipedia webpage, which came out to a staggering 70,859,865 pieces of paper.
They then extrapolated that value to the number of total webpages on the internet, roughly 4.5 billion, tweaked their final guess to account for the variable size of different websites, and discovered it takes quite a lot of paper to print the internet, but not an immeasurable amount. (They don’t specify the size, type, or spacing of the print you would use, which could change their final result.)
But they didn’t stop there. They went one step farther to then gauge how many trees it would take to manufacture 136 billion sheets of paper. “It is possible to obtain approximately 17 reams of paper per usable tree,” they write in their report.
There are about 500 sheets of paper per ream. After that, it just takes a quick calculation to figure out that it would take 16 million trees to print 136 billion sheets of standard 8-by-11 sheets of paper. That’s more than three times the number of trees growing in New York City at this moment.
Harwood and Walker report the results of their intriguing thought experiment in a peer-reviewed student journal run by their university’s Center for Interdisciplinary Science. The journal gives students the chance to write, edit, publish, and review scientific papers.
Correction, April 27, 2015: This article originally stated that Birch and Oak were softwood trees. They are hardwood. The information has been removed.
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