The big questions

Paul Kelly asks a heap of questions in his classic song Careless. When my friend Daniel Scoullar asked one of them philosophically on Facebook, I decided to take him at face value and, with a little Googling, figured out exactly how many tears would fit in a gin bottle. At Daniels’s urging, I returned to the song and worked out the answers to all the other questions too. This is what I found…

First, the song:

Now, the answers:

How many cabs in New York City?
Around 13,400
(According to Wikipedia, in September 2012 there were around 6,000 hybrid vehicles in New York’s taxi fleet constituting almost 45% of the entire fleet.)

How many angels on a pin?
(There are six angels named in the Bible*; the Bible was compiled to guide people in relating to God; Jesus said people’s relationship to God is encapsulated by The Lord’s Prayer; Godfrey Lundberg engraved The Lord’s Prayer on the head of a pin in 1915.)

How many notes in a saxophone?
(Twelve notes to the octave; the two most common saxophones, alto and tenor, each have a range of 3.75 octaves.)

How many tears in a bottle of gin:
(A tear is approximately 0.5 ml and a gin bottle holds 750 ml**)

How many times did you call my name, knock at the door but you couldn’t get in?
(I don’t even know Paul Kelly’s address.)

How many stars in the Milky Way?
400 billion
(There are between 200 billion and 600 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy according to Wikipedia; 400 is the midway point of the range.)

How many ways can you lose a friend?
At least 53
(Paul Simon famously wrote about the 50 ways to leave your lover; Okkervil River mentioned the 51st way to leave your lover (“admittedly it doesn’t seem to be as gentle or as kind as all the others”); for every way to leave your lover, for the other person it’s a way to lose their lover; plus there’s one extra way to lose a lover (if they die) ; any way of losing a lover is also a way of losing a friend; plus there’s at least one extra way to lose a friend (if one of you just moves away and you gradually lose touch).)

* The Bible including the Apocrypha, in accordance with Roman Catholic tradition since Paul Kelly’s expressions of spirituality and religion in his music is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic.
** At the time the song was written. Nowadays bottles of gin (and most other spirits) are more likely to be 700 ml so there are only 1,400 tears in a modern bottle of gin.

Anyway, if you always wondered about those questions, I hope this post has given you some closure. If you’d like me to find the answers to other hypothetical questions, let me know.