I was reminded of this quote, due to the discussions triggered by the Bitcoin private key database troll website about the feasibility of brute-force searching for the private key of a Bitcoin address.
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.
A reddit user made some calculations:
So, if you could use the entire planet as a hard drive, storing 1 byte per atom, using stars as fuel, and cycling through 1 trillion keys per second, you’d need 37 octillion Earths to store it, and 237 billion suns to power the device capable of doing it, all of which would take you 3.6717 octodecillion years.
– PSBlake (reddit)