Monday, March 17, 2008

The Population of the World in perspective

Recent estimates put the world population at around 6.6 billion, with projections having us reach 7 billion somewhere around 2011. (Wikipedia cites a few good references for such things, like the CIA World Factbook)

Seven billion people. That's quite a bit, isn't it? I'm not relating this here to go on about the logistics of supporting a steadily growing population, or anything of the like. What I am doing, though, is trying to put this number into perspective.

Imagine a game like seeing how many people you can cram into a phonebooth (or that ol' VW Bug) on a much larger scale.

For this exercise, we won't give people much room -- to begin with, assign a footprint of 30cm by 60cm (roughly 1 foot by 2 feet) per person. We'll use this as a very rough estimate, with the idea that with men, women, and children averaged out it won't be ridiculously off base. (A variable degree of smooshing together should allow for a bit of a fudge factor, too).

So. 30cm x 60cm. One person per 1800cm^2. With 10,000cm^2 in per square meter, we'd fit 5.5555... into that space. Seem a little cramped? Ok, let's take 5 people...heck, make it 4 per square meter, just to be generous. Everyone all comfy in a shoulder-to-shoulder fashion? Good. Let's move on.

Take a square lot 1km on a side (about 2.5 of the old Disneyland parking lots) -- in that space you could squeeze 4 million people!

If we take a moment to look at U.S. States by area, it doesn't take long to realize -- the whole population of the world, with room to grow for the next several years, would fit in Rhode Island. Forget about the engineering aspect of it, and have us all file in to pack an imaginary 12 storey building in the same way -- now we'd ALL fit into Washington, DC. (for more international examples, we could sprawl out in Luxembourg with room to spare for years of growth, or have our imaginary building in Aruba or Liechtenstein)

It's rather strange to think, when considering what we know of the wealth, poverty, sickness, health, war, and peace around the world, that everyone involved would fit in such a small space.

Come to think of it, our imaginary building could fit inside Las Vegas -- we could all have a party.

1 comment:

  1. Rhode Island, planet Earth's meter stick.

    Great insights, I'll be sprinkling this blog-food in my brain-fishbowl on a daily basis. Keep up the good work!