"How many Nerf darts have ever been made? Ever?"
It is a question few people- even the most avid of Nerf enthusiasts- ever think of asking. Amid the chaos of our everyday lives, the hustle and bustle of preparing for our next foam dart war, and even the preparation for many important exams, this question could seem small and insignificant. The truth could not be any more opposite, however.
The answer to the question of how many darts have ever existed is truly awe-inspiring- anything but insignificant. It truly exposes Nerf as the huge mega-brand it really is, giving super manufacturers like Crayola and even Bic (writing utensils) a run for their money. It is truly an interesting subject to look into, and it brings up quite a bit of, (dare I say it?), fun math problems.
Interested in finding out the magic number? Then let's begin!
Step 1: The Moment of Inspiration...
I was inspired to answer this question by a post on Quora, asking how many Nerf Darts were made in one year. There were no real answers to this question, only guesses. The highest guess was 1 billion, a number which got me thinking... What if the actual value more?!
Therefore, I did what any inquisitive minded modern human would do: I Google'd it. Unfortunately I was sadly disappointed. When searching Google for how many Nerf darts have ever been made, there are no answers; barely any clue to how many foam darts have been shipped out by Nerf over the past forty or so years. It's a complete and utter mystery. Or at least, it was a mystery...
There was, however, one slight clue. On a social sharing and magazine website called mental_floss, there was an article entitled "11 Awesome NERF Facts-Plus, a Contest!" I was by no means interested in the contest, (the post was written in 2013 anyway), but it had come up in my search results, so I decided to take a look. What I found was quite intriguing... Among all of the usual tidbits about the history of Nerf, there was one hidden gem; a factoid about just how much foam our favorite toy blaster maker had used lately.
"In the past 5 years, NERF has sold enough darts to circle the globe four times."-"11 Awesome NERF Facts-Plus, a Contest!" by Erin McCarthy
Wow. That's. A whole lot of darts. But how many is that in number form? I had to find out. Armed with a calculator, a piece of paper, and a pencil, I set out to solve the age old and never really thought about mystery of how many Nerf darts have ever been made... Following are the steps I took, and how you can find out for yourself the humongous number of darts that exist on this tiny little blue planet of ours...
Step 2: Let's Do a Little Research First...
In order to be as precise as possible when doing our math, we need to use credible sources. This leads us to, (don't laugh), Wikipedia, the website that claims to know just about everything. (In all honesty, it has become much more reliable in the past few years, even my chemistry professor says so, but that's another issue).
Since the article states that there have been enough darts made in a five year span to wrap around the earth four times over, we first need to find what exactly the circumference of the earth is. A quick Wikipedia search reveals to us that that number is 24,901 miles, or 40,075 Kilometers. For our ease of operation we will be the Km value, therefore making our answer (for this step):
Step 3: Going the Distance
We now know the length of the earth's equator, but the article states that there have been enough darts made to go around the earth four times; not just once.
So, we simply do some multiplication:
40,075 Km x 4 circumventions = 160,300 Km
So, our answer for this step is:
Step 4: Another Year Gone By
Now that the distance in question is known, we need to divide that number by the five years described in the article:
160,300 Km / 5 Years = 32,060 Km/Year
Therefore, we have found out that
32,060 Kilometers of Nerf darts are produced each year.
Step 5: The Measure of a Dart
This one's a quickie. Pulling out a ruler for a quick check reveals a Nerf Elite dart to be roughly 7.2 centimeters long by 1 centimeter in diameter. The important measurement here is the length, as we will be comparing that to the total distance we have previously calculated.
So, for this step, our answer is simply:
Step 6: Let's Make This Easier...
We have two numbers now: the distance of darts made in a year, and the length of the darts themselves. There's only one problem: they are in two different units. It's a simple fix though. All we have to do is find out the conversion factor from kilometers to centimeters and do a little multiplication.
Another Google search (or common sense) tells us that there are 100,000 centimeters in a kilometer.
So, we need to multiply our distance by 100,000 to find out the length in centimeters, like so:
32,060 x 100,000 = 3,206,000,000 centimeters of darts made each year.
Step 7: Darts in the Distance
Now that we have all of our numbers, we only have to do a little more comparing to get down to our final figure. We need to determine how many 7.2 cm darts will go into our 3,206,000,000 centimeter distance.
The math is just a little more simple division:
3,206,000,000 cm / 7.2 cm = 445,277,777.8 darts that will go into the necessary distance.
So, we know that 445,277,777.8 darts are made each year.
Step 8: Nine More Years...
Now for an approximation of how many darts have ever been made. We know that the Longshot, Nerf's first clip system blaster, was launched in 2006. Therefore, we will assume that the majority of darts have been made in the 9 years between then, and now, in 2015.
To determine the approximate value, we will simply do some multiplication:
445,277,777.8 x 9 = 4,007,500,000
Therefore, our final value is 4,007,500,000 Nerf darts ever made!!! ...approximately...
Step 9: Discrepancies and Externalities
There are many things that we have left out or considered abnormally in our experiment. The numbers are still accurate, but they are not as precise as would be ideal. Some of the main things we have purposely overlooked include the following:
- We have done the entire calculation using measurements relating to Nerf Elite darts. We haven't even included other types of darts such as MEGA darts, Suction darts, Streamline darts, Whistler darts, Tagger darts, and so on. In a perfect calculation, these would be included in our math. Unfortunately, we don't know what percentage of the "4 times around the earth" distance each of these darts makes up. ...And we haven't even talked about Vortex disks, missiles, or Blast-A-Ball.
- We've only been talking about Nerf. There are plenty of other knock-off brands out there as well.
- We have only considered 9 years of production. Nerf has made foam projectiles ever since 1969. This brings the total time period up to 46 years. (By the way, Nerf's 50th Anniversary is in 4 years!).
- Production probably varies from year to year, as more factories are built or torn down.
- The factoid referred to how many darts were sold, not how many were made. Therefore the number is probably much larger.
- The measurement of the earth's circumference is approximate, and so is the measurement of the dart.
Unfortunately, these things can probably never be fixed in our calculations. Even so, this was just for fun, and it doesn't really affect life that greatly anyway...
Step 10: Final Values
It's amazing, really. After all these years, the mystery is finally solved!
Approximately 445,277,777.8 (445 million, 277 thousand 777 point 8)darts are made each year!
Approximately 4,007,500,000 (4 billion, 7 million, 500 thousand)Nerf darts have been made- ever!!!
That's a TON of Nerf darts!!! That's enough darts to give 1/2 of a piece to everyone on the planet! That's enough darts to go 8/10ths of the distance to the Moon! That's enough foam to fill one of the Great Lakes! Just think about all of the good and bad things that are caused by the production of all those darts!
It is truly an awe-inspiring number, and it is great to know that when you buy darts you are now a proud shareholder of a teeny-tiny percentage of that number. I'll never think about Nerf the same way again, and I hope you won't either after reading this!
Thanks for reading!