When E.T. decided to phone home, he probably wasn’t thinking about how much it would cost. And maybe in the 40 years since E.T. the Extraterrestrial came out, you also never thought about it. But someone did the math. It turns out that E.T. contacting his home planet of Brodo Asogi three million light years away would cost more than $76 quadrillion. So it’s a good thing E.T. didn’t use the regular phone or Elliott’s mom would have been pissed when she got the bill.
International telecommunications provider TollFreeForwarding did the calculations and show their work in a fun post to celebrate the classic movie’s anniversary. They got distance from the movie’s tagline: “He is afraid. He is alone. He is three million light years from home.” The equals over 17 quintillion miles, or 17 billion billion miles. That’s 18 zeroes! The estimate of $0.004 per mile was calculated from the cost of calling other countries here on Earth, presumably in 2022 dollars rather than 1982. And even though it’s not clear in the movie how long the phone call lasted, they go with 10 minutes.
The total? $76,424,516,944,816,700! So it’s a good thing that Elliott and E.T. bypassed the phone companies by rigging up something from a coat hanger, saw blade, umbrella, record player, and a Speak and Spell. Using the same math, TollFreeForwarding also set up a site where you can scroll through the virtual cosmos to see what phone calls would cost to other places. For example, it costs less than a dollar to call the International Space Station, about $900 to call the Moon, and $3 million to call Saturn. It includes other science fiction planets too. It costs just over $2 trillion to call the Klingon homeworld of Qo’nos.
If math isn’t your preferred way of celebrating anniversaries, there’s plenty of other ways to show your love for E.T., like a special Build-A-Bear, a replica of Elliott’s bike, and even a vinyl release of the soundtrack. If, however, people doing geeky math is your thing, check out how much champagne it would take to fill the Nile and whether Westeros dragons are too big to fly.
Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth.