Hello and welcome back to Factually Deficient! This week, the question I’m answering was not left as a comment on the blog, but rather sent to me (for the purposes of being answered here) through another method. This is the perfect opportunity for me to remind everyone that questions on any subject are always welcomed, whether you send them to me directly on the blog, or on Twitter, or in person, or through any other method of contact you have with me. However you give me the question, I will be delighted to answer it with outrageous falsehoods and ridiculous fictions.

So this week’s question comes from my friend narrativedilettante:

How many planets are there? (Both in our solar system and in the entire universe.)

I am very excited to answer this question with Real Scienceā¢! As everyone knows, science is essentially just applied math. Thus, if we know the correct formulae, then we can derive the answer to the question of how many planets there are entirely mathematically.

Fortunately, I do know the correct formulae, and by “know” I mean “am willing to make something up”. It is a self-evident fact that every solar system has the same number of planets; otherwise the universe would devolve into badly-organized chaos. Since we still exist and have not been consumed by the chaotic forces of terrible organization, it is clear that all solar systems have the same number of planets.

Thus, all we need to discover in order to determine the answer to narrativedilettante’s question are two things:

- The number of planets in our solar system
- The number of solar systems in the universe

Step one is the easier one, so we’ll start with that. Some people might assume it’s the easiest because we can simply count our solar system’s planets, but that is fallacious. After all, it is very difficult to know what counts as a planet and what doesn’t. Still, simple counting serves as a very good check once we’ve derived the number through our formula: if the discrepancy is too big, we know that we’ve made a mistake; otherwise, the number we get is obviously right.

So, the formula: we’re in luck. Just like vegetables whose names give you hints as to their usages (**car**rots are good for washing cars; **pot**atoes can be used to wash pots and pans), the phrase “solar system” contains within it a hint about the formula for determining how many planets it contains.

The phrase “solar system”, not counting the space, contains nine distinct characters (the letter ‘s’ appears three times and so is only counted once)– one for each of the nine planets that can be found in every solar system.

In order to verify that, we can now list off all the planets in our solar system. Some blogs might look up an official list, but I feel it’s more in the scope of Factually Deficient to just wing it.

- Earth
- The Moon
- The Sun
- Jupiter
- Mars
- Mercury
- Pluto
- Goofy
- Saturday

…I’m pretty sure this list is correct. If you’re not sure, I recommend voyaging to each of these planets in turn to double-check that it is a planet.

One way or another, that gives us the answer to the first part of the question: Our solar system contains nine planets.

Moving on to the second part: the number of solar systems in the universe, in order to determine the number of planets in the universe. Once again, mathematics comes to our aid. Let’s start with our previous formula, the nine characters from “solar system”. Now, we take that three that represents the number of ‘s’s in the phrase, and stick it at the beginning of our number: 39. Therefore, there are thirty-nine solar systems in the universe.

From there, all we need to do is multiply the thirty-nine solar systems by the nine planets in each to discover the total number of planets in the universe: 351.

______________________

Disclaimer: None of the assertions in this blog should be mistaken for the truth. The writer does not recommend visiting the sun, but Pluto is definitely a planet (even if Goofy is not).