Remember Anton Purisma's lawsuit for 2 undecillion dollars? Randall "XKCD" Munroe has devoted this week's What If? to calculating exactly what $2,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000 looks like. He points out that this is a sum larger than the present value of every manufactured good in the world, as well as all the potassium and calcium in the Earth -- more, even than the present value of a planet-sized lump of solid gold.
By weight, the single most valuable thing that's been bought and sold on an open market is probably the Treskilling Yellow postage stamp. There's only one known copy of it, and in 2010 it sold for $2,300,000. That works out to about $30 billion per kilogram of stamps. If the Earth's weight were entirely postage stamps, it would still not be enough to pay off Au Bon Pain's potential debt.
If Au Bon Pain & co decided to be intentionally difficult, and pay their debt entirely in pennies, they would form a sphere that would squeeze inside the orbit of Mercury. The bottom line is that paying this settlement would be, in almost any sense of the word, impossible.
Fortunately, Au Bon Pain has a better option.
Kevin, who asked this question, is a lawyer and author of the legal humor blog that reported on the Au Bon Pain case. He told me that the world's most highly-paid lawyer—on an hourly basis—is probably former Solicitor General Ted Olson, who recently disclosed in bankruptcy filings that he charges $1,800 per hour.
Suppose there are 40 billion habitable planets in our galaxy, and every one of them hosts an Earth-sized population of 7 billion Ted Olsons.
$2 Undecillion Lawsuit
Asaf Hanuka is a celebrated Israeli cartoonist whose astonishing, surreal illustrations serve as counterpoint to sweet (sometimes too-sweet) depictions of his family life, his complicated existence as a member of a visible minority in Israel, the fear he and his family live with, and his own pleasures and secret shames — a heady, confessional, autobiographical brew that has just been collected into The Realist: Plug and Play, the second volume of Hanuka’s comics.
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