# 7.3 Billion People, One Building

After a year and a half of writing Wait But Why posts, I’ve noticed a theme: humans seem to come up a lot.

Sometimes we talk about where humans came from or where we might be going or how we’re all related; other times we look at how we interact and communicate and form relationships. We’ve talked about rich humans and famous humans and baby humans and dead humans and humans from all over the world. We’ve explored what it means to be a human, what it means to be a good human, and whether we’re all alone in the universe. And we’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out what really matters most in this one, short human life.

But somehow, we made it through all of that discussion without ever asking the most important question of all about humans—

How big a building would you need to fit them all in it?

It’s a question that’s tantalized almost no one through the ages, and today we’re gonna tackle it hard.

But before we ask all 7.3 billion humans to stop what they’re doing so I can arrange and bunch them together at my whim, let’s discuss the number 7.3 billion.

The first thing to note is that when I did a post on population density in August of 2013, the number I kept referring to was 7.1 billion. The world population has grown by 194,000,000, or almost 3%, since then.

Second, 7.3 billion people is a lot of people. If each living human were represented by a dry grain of rice, the rice would fill a cube-shaped box with a side of 6.1 meters,1 or about 20 feet—around the size of a two-story house.

That’s a lot of rice grains.

And how about 7.3 billion grains of sand? Well according to this delightful chart, “sand” can mean a lot of things. 7.3 billion “very coarse” grains (about 2mm in diameter) would fill a large cubic room with a height of 4m (13ft). 7.3 billion medium-size grains (.25mm in diameter) would fill a medium, 46cm high (1.5ft) cardboard box. And 7.3 billion of the finest, .0625mm sand grains (any smaller and it wouldn’t be sand anymore—it would be silt) would take up about 1,700 cubic centimeters of space, almost but not quite filling a 2-liter soda bottle.

Also, walking 7.3 billion steps would take you around the Earth…150 times. (At two steps per second, that would take you 115 years.) (I’m doing that thing where I’m going on divergent math spirals during the post and then just putting what I figured out into the actual post. I’ll try to stay on topic here but it won’t be easy. Let’s keep going.)

7.3 billion humans in one-dimensional configurations

The first activity today will be putting all humans in a single file line. We’ll start near Quito, Ecuador, right on the equator, and the line will follow the equator. We’ll begin with Carlos. Stand here, Carlos.

Second in line will be Daniela. Third is you, Andrea.1 Since we’re trying to be efficient, I want everyone to stand as close as possible to the people in front of you and behind you without actually touching. Some people will require more or less space than others because people are different sizes, but let’s assume each person we add to the line will make the line one foot (about 30cm) longer on average.2

So we do this for a while and the line gets longer and longer. We build bridges over oceans and tunnels through mountains to make a clean line along the equator. Eventually, the line goes around the whole Earth gets back to Carlos. But we’ve only gotten through 131 million people—less than 2% of humans—so we’ll need to wind around the Earth again. And again. Finally, halfway through the 56th loop, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, we get to the final human, and we’re done.

Okay that kind of annoyed me because it ended up in the shape of spring, not a line. Let’s try another way.

Carlos, stand on the X again. We’re gonna have Daniela stand on your shoulders, and then Andrea’s gonna stand on hers, and we’ll just keep going up from there.

The average human is 165cm (5’5″) tall, but about a foot of that is from the shoulders to the top of the head, so when we add someone onto the top person’s shoulders, the height of the tower rises by an average of about 134cm (4’5″).

We stack and stack and eventually, we reach the moon. Unfortunately, we’ve only used 286 million people at this point and have 96% of humans still left to go. By the time we finally finish, the tower is 9.8 million km (6.1m miles) high, and we’re around 1/5th of the way to Mars, 1/4th of the way to Venus, and 1/15th of the way to the sun.2

How about if we all held hands and formed a huge circle? Let’s say that we’ll stand side-by-side, holding hands, which is enough distance apart to take up about three feet (91cm) of the circle each.

Continuing like this, our final circle has a circumference of 6.6 million km (4.1m miles) and a diameter of 2.1 million km (1.3m miles).

While we’re all out there holding hands and dying instantly from being in space without suits, the Earth will look to us around the same size as the moon usually looks in our night sky.

Okay one dimensional shapes are pretty inconvenient for everyone—let’s reel things in and try this in two dimensions:

7.3 billion humans in two-dimensional configurations

The addition of a second dimension to our human shapes makes the species seem a lot smaller.

When arranging humans in two dimensions, the first question we need to ask is, “How much ground area does each human need when we’re bunching them all together as closely as we can without killing everyone?” The answer, for this post, is .1 square meters, giving us a rate of 10 people per square meter.

How Many People Can Fit in a Square Meter Comfortably-ish?

The quest for this answer brought me to the most obscure corners of the internet, where I came across two key groups of bored people. The first one shows nine Canadian journalists choosing to spend time positioning themselves together into one square meter. Doing so gives each of them an average of one 33cm x 33cm (13″ x 13″) square to stand in. You can see in the video that while it’s definitely tight, no one is forced to molest anyone else and everyone can breathe.

But that’s using all adults. The world’s median age is 29, and the youngest billion humans tend to be quite little. The second case brings us across the world to a random New Zealand elementary school, where a teacher has decided to get cute and cram as many kids as she can into a square meter. She maxes out at a shocking 22 kids.

Putting these two performances together, it seems reasonable to say that 10 humans per square meter is a safe estimate for what we can use as our human-bunching metric. Nine adults in the square managed fine and the addition of children into the mix should be able to easily increase that total by one to 10 (yes, some adults are much larger than average, but others are tiny—the world’s average adult is a not-that-large 62kg (137lb) person).

At 10 people per square meter, we can fit 1,000 people in a 10m x 10m square. A basketball court is 28m x 15m, which means we can fit 4,200 people on one, all in bounds.

We can fit 54,000 people on an American football field, which is large enough to hold the entire population of Liechtenstein or Monaco, and if we expand our field to the size of a soccer field—sorry, a football pitch—we can hold over 71,000 people, more than enough space to contain the population of Greenland.

Tiananmen Square is pretty huge—880m x 500m or just under half a square kilometer.

If it were empty, it could hold 4.4 million people, or the entire population of Croatia, Oman, Lebanon, Panama, Moldova, Uruguay, Kuwait, Mongolia, or Lithuania.

A full square kilometer could fit 10 million people—the population of a megacity—and you could pack all 26 million Scandinavians—everyone in Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark3—into one square mile.

Central Park, with an area of 3.41 square km (1.3 sq mi), could easily hold the population of Australia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Peru, Venezuela, Malaysia, Nepal, Mozambique or Syria. You could fit all 13.9 million Jews into Central Park and still have room for the population of Romania, Chile, or the Netherlands. The entire human race in 5,000 BC, which historians estimate to be between 5 – 20 million people, would fill up at most a little over half of Central Park.

We’re just getting started, so settle in.

You could squeeze all 320 million Americans into a 5.7km x 5.7km (3.5mi x 3.5mi) square, which would take less than five hours to walk around.

And a square 10km x 10km (6.2mi x 6.2mi), or a small island about twice the size of Bermuda, could hold a billion people (which you could walk the perimeter of in about 8 hours). A slightly larger island, Martha’s Vineyard, has an area of 226km2 and could fit all the world’s Christians on it [insert your own wisecrack here]. Alternatively, Martha’s Vineyard could fit the entire combined population of North America and South America…and still have room for the entire population of Africa. As for the world’s females, if they ever got annoyed with men and wanted to start a club, they could hold their membership-wide meetings in the 360km2 Gaza Strip.

Anyway, what we really want to know is how big a piece of land we’d need to hold everyone—all 7.3 billion of us. And the answer is, a 27km x 27km (16.8mi x 16.8mi) square.

That square is smaller than Bahrain. And on top of Africa, it would look like this:

The square is also smaller than New York City.

NYC has an area of 786 square km, or 303 sq mi, and the whole human race could fit inside it—with room for another half a billion people. Specifically:

• Manhattan could fit 590 million people
• Brooklyn could fit 1.38 billion people
• Queens could fit 2.83 billion people
• The Bronx could fit 1.09 billion people
• Staten Island could fit 1.51 billion people

So let’s try it. First by geographic region:

How’s everyone doing down there?

Great. Now, let’s shift around and organize by religion:

So that’s how much ground space the human race takes up—but that’s only talking about the living humans.

Scientists’ estimates for the total number of humans who have ever lived4 tend to range from 90 to 110 billion people. The most common estimates are around 108 billion total humans. Using that assumption, a little under 7% of all people who have ever lived are alive right now:

We just had a Dinner Table discussion about which dead human we’d like to bring back to life—but what if we brought all dead humans back? How much space would we need to make room for them?

We’d need 10,800 square kilometers—a square with a side of 103km (65mi)—which would easily fit inside Jamaica, Qatar, Kuwait, The Gambia, or Connecticut.

Continuing into hypothetical world, we could fit a trillion people in South Korea, Iceland, Guatemala, or Cuba, and if we covered every square meter of the Earth’s land with people, it would fit 1.48 quadrillion people—200,000 times the current world population. To finish the job, let’s cover the entire surface of the Earth with people—including oceans—to bring the total people that could fit on an Earth-sized planet to a little over five quadrillion people.3

And that’s all fine, but my grandfathers didn’t fight in World War II so I could write posts about two-dimensional things. Time to get in the ring with the big boys.

7.3 billion humans in three-dimensional configurations

Sticking with our 10 humans per square meter of floor metric, we bring height into the equation using the worldwide average human height of 165cm (65in).4 So we can build ourselves a booth with a square meter base and a 1.65 meter height that will fit 10 average humans. This gives us our 3D metric—.165m3/person, or 6.06 people per cubic meter.

When we put lots of people in three-dimensional buildings, we’ll do it by building different height “floors”—some floors would be higher than 1.65m for taller people, others would be shorter than average for shorter people, but each person would be on a floor where the ceiling was just a few millimeters above their head, and the floors would average out to be 1.65m high each.

The Empire State Building has a volume of 1.05 million cubic meters, which when hollowed out and replaced with our new “floors” would hold 6.3 million very unhappy people.

AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, is a huge domed structure with a volume of 2.94 million cubic meters. With the addition of floors, it could hold 17.6 million people. That’s big enough to fit the entire population of Dallas…plus the populations of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and Boston.

The largest building in the world, volume-wise, is the Boeing Everett Factory in Washington State. With a 900m x 495m base (which almost exactly matches the dimensions of Tiananmen Square) and a ceiling over 33m high, the factory’s volume is 13.3 million cubic meters—which we could fit all the world’s French people into with room left over for all the Belgians as well (78.7 million person capacity).

But if we’re gonna fit all of us into a single building, nothing currently on Earth is going to work—we have to build it ourselves.

At .165 meters per person, we’ll need a little over 1.2 billion cubic meters, or just over one cubic kilometer (1.204km3 to be exact).5 This cubic building would have a side of 1.07km (about 2/3 of a mile), giving it a base of about 1.1km—a little over double the size of the Boeing Factory base—and a height of 1,070m (3,511 feet), which is 29% taller than the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper. That’s a large building, but neither the base nor the height alone are unfathomable by modern architectural standards. Here’s what it would look like if we built it in Manhattan (with other structures added for reference):

Somewhere in that building is you. Somewhere else are all your friends. Somewhere in there is a 16-year-old Cambodian girl and all her friends. Somewhere is a Somali pirate, his barber, and all his barber’s friends. Every NBA player is in there, along with every rockstar, movie star, supermodel, and politician. Every bartender and construction worker and priest and lawyer and prisoner and princess and soldier and dentist are somewhere in that building, along with all 1.4 billion Chinese people, every blond person, and every member of ISIS.

The human race, which seems overwhelmingly large in one dimension when it’s wrapping 55 times around the Earth or forming a circle that dwarfs the moon’s orbit, seems much more manageable when it can fit inside Bahrain or New York City with room to spare and almost quaint when organized neatly into a cube that would take you only 20 minutes to jog around.

And with that, our initial goal is accomplished. But what if, instead of ending this post here, we went just one step further? After all that work, who wants to stop now while there’s still so much empty space in all of our atoms?

7.3 Billion Humans Compressed Down to Their Atomic Nuclei

Every atom’s different, but a general ballpark rule is that an atom’s diameter is about 100,000 times larger than the diameter of its nucleus, the thing that carries nearly all of the atom’s mass. Translated into three dimensions, that means an atom’s nucleus makes up only around one quadrillionth of an atom’s total volume. The way I visualize this is by imagining an atom to be a cubic kilometer—a hollow cube taller than the tallest skyscraper (around the size of our humanity cube above). This building is so large that if you were inside it, hanging from the ceiling, and you let go, it would take you about 15 seconds of free fall before you hit the ground. If you’re standing on one side of the base, it would take you about 12 minutes to walk across to the other.

If that huge cube is an atom, somewhere in the middle is a 1 cm3 sugar cube—and that’s the nucleus. And the atom’s mass would be about exactly the mass of the sugar cube, which takes up one quadrillionth of the total space. Just about all of the other 999,999,999,999,999 quadrillionths of the atom is massless, empty space.

Your body’s mass is the combined masses of the sugar cubes in the middle of each of your body’s atoms.

So how big is the human race really? When we get rid of the empty space in all the atoms of all 7.3 billion people, what are we left with?

An M&M.

Not even, actually. The volume of a human is about .0664 cubic meters, putting the combined volume of all humans at about 485 million cubic meters. When we reduce that to one quadrillionth of its size, we get .485 cubic centimeters. An M&M is .636cm3, about 30% too large. A Skittle is too large too (.74cm3), as are a quarter (.809cm3) and a nickel (.689cm3). It’s pretty hard to find everyday objects as small as .485cm3 (a US penny works, but at .433cm3, falls just short of fitting us all in it).

And that’s where we’ll end things today. With an M&M weighing 450 million tonnes—heavier than 75 Pyramids of Giza—that we could all fit into if someone squished us hard enough.

___________

If you liked this post, here are four more posts in the Pointless Calculations category:

What Could You Buy With \$241 Trillion? More cubes. Gold ones this time.

What Does a Quadrillion Sour Patch Kids Look Like? Candy cubes in space.

What if all 7.1 Billion People Moved to Tunisia? No cubes, but another post experimenting with the human population (less abusive to the stick figures).

1. According to this possibly-accurate list of popular Ecuadorian names, Carlos, Daniela, and Andrea are red hot right now.

2. This metric system / non-metric system thing is unbelievably annoying. Almost half of WBW readers are from metric system countries, so I can’t just use imperial units, but a little over half of readers are from the US, so I can’t just use the metric system either, because feet and miles are a bit more intuitive to all those people. So I’ll just put calculations in both systems, which is annoying for everyone—because the US decided to stick with a totally nonsensical system of measurement.

3. Not useful information.

4. Super awkward to start this section with such a mundane sentence after rousing things up so much at the end of the last section.

5. While I was at it, I worked out that to fit all 108 billion humans that have ever lived, we’d need a cubic building with sides of 2.6km.

1. There are about 7,000 grains of rice to a cup, or to 240mL, which translates to 7.3 billion grains filling 251 cubic meters. (In this post, gray square footnotes will be for calculations and other technical details. Blue circles for extraneous thoughts and facts.)

2. At the closest they ever come to Earth, Mars is 33.9 million miles away, Venus is 24m miles away, and the sun is 93m miles away.

3. The definition of Scandinavia is a little confusing. Some people exclude Denmark or Finland, others include Iceland. The most common definition seems to be those four countries.

4. using 50,000 BC as a starting date for humans.

• consanguinity

OMG mind blown..

• Flannery Bro’Connor

Have you ever read Randall Monroe’s “What If” comic? I think you would really like it.

• Thomas Wilson

I was thinking the same thing!

• Gabriel Birke

Yeah, one chapter of his book basically did the same 2-dimensional calculations and then went on to calculaate how long it would take to ship all the poeple of the earth to one place. THAT were impressive numbers!

• Cory Manento

I would like to know what happened to Carlos when he was holding up 286 million people stacked to the moon.

• B_Fli

He is now an M&M.

• Sylvie

Lol!
Also, Daniela faced with the daunting task pretended to be a boy named Daniel.

• fanel

who likes this guy? … i do too

• Bill Warren

Few things I found striking…

“You could fit all 13.9 million Jews into Central Park”
Is that all there are? I live in NJ so it’s hard to imagine that they only make up 0.2% of the world population

“You could squeeze all 320 million Americans into a 5.7km x 5.7km (3.5mi x 3.5mi) square”
So (assuming he means Americans as in US Americans) Americans make up 4.4% of the world population. So only 1 in 23ish Earthicans are American.

What really irks me is if you can fit the ENTIRE US into a small rural town center…how the f*ck is there so much traffic on my way to work?!! JFC people you have a whole god damn 3.8 MILLION square miles to live on and have to been on the same damn road as me at the same damn time!!??

• jaime_arg

Of course he means citizens of USA. America has almost a billion inhabitants. Also even I know that the population of the US of A is around 300M.

• Tommy Maq

It’s because cars vastly increase the human profile and decrease the mean free path accordingly.

• Noodles357

I would love to know how big the building would need to be if we put all of these people into an office building with modern occupational standards; not just how many we could physically squeeze into a building.

• Tommy Maq
• WuliNuChem

Or, Noodles357, how big an apartment building where we all lived in our own apartment comfortably.

• “AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, is a huge domed structure with a volume of 2.94 cubic meters. ”
do you mean 2.94 million cubic meters?

• Tim Urban

Thanks for the correction. Fixed!

• jaime_arg

While we’re at it: “and still have room FOR the entire population of Africa”

• shawn

As someone who designs buildings for a living, I have to comment that the live load of billions of humans standing shoulder to shoulder would require some pretty significant structural consideration. The structure of each floor in your building would have to be rather substantial, and would significantly increase the height of the required building. Also you’d probably need some intermediate columns, which would take up even more space.

And let’s not forget about the heat load created by billions of people and their filthy metabolism. Ever notice how the air conditioning in your house can struggle to keep up if you have a couple dozen people over for a party? Billions of people would warm up those spaces very quickly, so you’d better leave plenty of space for mechanical systems.

And let’s not even get into the bathroom and egress requirements for that sort of occupant load…

• Tommy Maq

• jaime_arg

Also, let’s remember that it’s really hard to get 7.3 billion people in the same place, and that probably many of them would die while you’re getting them organized and new ones would be born, and that the cost of that building would be huge (who’s going to pay for it?), not to mention that it’s a sizeable amount of land it would take up (who’s going to give up that land?), and also we must consider that people will get bored so maybe we should add some TVs.
Oh, I almost forgot that this was a hypothetical building. Disregard my reply.

• Tommy Maq

” it’s really hard to get 7.3 billion people in the same place, ”

They’ve been in the same place for decades, dude.

• d

so the space ship that we are all going to hop on to escape the Kaboom will have some very interesting engineering challenges that maybe even the legendary Scotty won’t be equal to. Although it seems to me that it isn’t the mass that is the problem so much as the motion (i.e. life).
But if the imaginary box is basically a tin can of humans for some peckish human eating entity, then you wouldn’t need all the fancy stuff at all, just some holes for the decomp gasses to seep through

• DeeDee Massey

Naw, no holes needed, just a little extra room for the pickling juice.

• jeffhre

Carbon dioxide just squeezes out all the life sustaining oxygen. And sorry, there is no egress. No one outside to issue permits.

• ericsp23

Packing all human beings down to their atomic nuclei would create an object of equivalent density to that of a neutron star. That made me curious to the volume you would have to shrink humanity down to to get a black hole (ie, to its Schwarzschild radius). Assuming that when you say humanity has a mass of 450M tonnes you mean metric tons, that would give humanity a Schwarzschild radius of 6.66×10^-16 meters, or 0.666 femtometers, or a sphere with a volume of 1.24 cubic femtometers. For reference, a femtometer is about the size of a proton, so we’re talking about compacting 7.3 billion people down to slightly larger than a proton. (It is entirely possible or even likely that I screwed up the math here so feel free to correct me if I’m wrong).

The M&M did get me thinking about the densities of stars… even if your maths was off by several orders of magnitude (although I’ve checked it and think it’s right), that’s still incredible to think about. The entire human population would take up about the size of a proton if it was part of a black hole. Wow.

• Zonnestraaltje

sorry but to me protons can’t exist in superdensed black hole,

• hemen kalita

450M tons would be 450 million tons I think.
450 matric ton is too small for all humans.

• ericsp23

Agreed. I used 450M as a shorthand for 450 million.

• N00less Cluebie

If we start with an NYC micro-studio (http://youtu.be/JZSdrtEqcHU) at 90-square feet and what looks like 12 foot ceilings as a reference which looks like it can probably house a couple in love we get 1080 cubic feet per couple of 540 cubic feet of apartment space. Multiply that by 7.3 billion people and you end up around 4 trillion cubic feet of apartment space. Let’s assume you need at least an equal volume of common area/infrastructure (hallways, elevators, stairs, piping, ducts; support beams) and we up our requirements to 8 trillion cubic feet which nicely reduces to a building cube of around 20,000 feet each side which is serendipitously close to a cube of 6 km a side. If we limit the height of our apartment building to 1km (about 20% higher than the burj khalifa) we’ll need a square building with 14.7 km a side and a height of 1km high. In other words 216 square kilometers by 1 kilometer high or a little over the area of Manhattan plus Staten Island (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borough_%28New_York_City%29) filled completely with UBER-burj khalifs. Figuring out the parking is an exercise I leave for the reader.

Assumptions made (if anyone wants to redo the calculations with different assumptions, be my guest)

Minimum cubic foot studio apartment for two people: 1080 ft^3
Factor of residential space to infrastructure space: 1-to-1
Maximum height of apartment: 1 kilometer (3280 feet)

Anything I missed? Any errors in my calculations?

• jaime_arg

Don’t use imperial units at all, that way you’ll help to accelerate the transition towards the metric system in the US. Every bit counts.

• Tommy Maq

“Nine Chains To The Moon” was R. B. Fuller’s illustration.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nine_Chains_to_the_Moon

It was his first book, and some say his best, because it was written before he gave up drinking.

• I wanted to look at it the other way. Wikipedia says the landmass surface area for earth is 57.51 million sq miles. For 7.3 billion of us, that is 7.88 square miles each (5041 acres). Wikipedia goes on say about half of the landmass is inhabitable, so that cuts you down to 2500 acres a person, but still, WOW. A family of four gets a 10,000 acre ranch.

• OOPS! Small math error. We actually get 0.01 sq miles each (5 acres), or more like 2.5 acres if we insist on living somewhare habitable. The world just got a lot more crowded.

• Malthus

2.5 acres might seem like a large plot to build your house on–it’s a little shy of 2 full American Football fields–but consider that all your food, water, energy, clothing, building materials, etc. needs to come from that same 2.5 acre plot. Yes, the world is very crowded indeed.

• Jason Kay

Now what would happen to earth’s orbit if everyone jumped at the same time in the blue box?
(Assuming the floor of the building could support such a dynamic load…)

• Joe

Not much. Average human mass = 62kg * 7.3 billion people = 5 x 10^11 kg. The earth has a mass of 6 x 10^24 kg, 13 orders of magnitude larger. This would be as if you got hit with a single cell.

• sabs546

Vsauce also made a video on this
Not much
The earth will just fall back to where it was

• jebmak

xkcd covered this in one of his “what if” posts, I believe.

• Allen Thomson

The human basal metabolic rate is, if google doesn’t mislead, about 100 watts and therefore human race produces around 7.3e11 watts (730 gigawatts). So the 1 km cube containing it, with a total dissipating area of 5e6 square meters (leaving out the side on the ground), is having to get rid of some 146 kilowatts per square meter. If it did that via blackbody radiation, it would have a surface temperature of close to 1000 C, 1800 F. (Assuming i did the Stefan-Boltzmann thing right.)

• sabs546

Dats one hot M&M

• DeeDee Massey

It would definitely melt in your hand.

• Jochen Kirn

Genius! Could you please work a little bit with Tim on a post or another, that would add just a little more scientific nerdiness to WBW!

!!!!!!s!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!d

• Daisy Fowler

➧➧➧➧➧➧➧ waitbutwhy Best way working online ,google yahoo,

• Sandra Seely

• hneyjhon

►➤➤♫♫With♫you♫ ♪waitbutwhy♪♪♪.-. < my roomate's mom makes \$85 /hr on the internet . She has been without work for eight months but last month her paycheck was \$17976 just working on the internet for a few hours.

• TV

Putting the Jews and Muslims together in Brooklyn is the best idea anyone has ever had.

• sabs546

Lol never thought of that
Come to think of it since nobody can move it’ll just be one big argument

• irp

But that Non-Affiliated Atheism island I’d be in sounds freaking awesome!

• Anglave

After all that work, who wants to stop now while there’s still so much empty space in all of our atoms?

• Satan’s Child

I’m disappointed. This post is so stupid.

• CaribbeanIce

Great post ! Is 1.65m the average height of ‘all humans alive’, or is that the worldwide average height of an adult ? If the latter you can cram in more babies and make the ‘house’ even smaller for fun !

• Tresselt

No! Scandinavia is Norway, Denmark and Sweden. this has a lot to do with language, historic and cultural ties, and geography. Finland is part of Fennoscandia, and along with Iceland is part of the Nordic countries (which, incidently, does not include the Baltics).

Sorry to pick on this, but it’s a common mistake I see online, and being from Scandinavia I can confirm that no one here includes any other countries than those three I mentioned at the start. Just a heads up 🙂

Oh, but apart from that, wonderful post!

• Swedish expat in Denmark

Thank you! I came on here for exactly the same reason. As a Scandinavian, I find it very important to clarify the distinction between the Nordic countries, the Scandinavian peninsula and Scandinavia.

It’s true enough that the Scandinavian peninsula, or Fennoscandia, refers to Norway, Sweden and Finland. However, this should not be confused with Scandinavia, which only refers to the three countries Norway, Sweden and Denmark that have very close linguistic and cultural ties. It is only nationals of these three countries that can rightly refer to themselves and their languages as Scandinavian.

• Louis A. Cook

This post makes me think of this thing I saw recently for scale:

Thanks for sending a lighter post than the anxiety-mare-causing AI series. 🙂

• PepijnNL

Actually, being in space without a suit would not instantly kill you… You’d suffocate pretty soon, yes, but the whole exploding because of zero pressure thing doesn’t happen in reality, sorry 😉

• Dren^ Odeb

Your blood would reach boiling point instantly, so there won’t even be time for suffocating…

• PepijnNL

Yeah, that sounds terrible, but you still don’t die instantly. According to the Wikipedia page on space exposure you have about 14 seconds before losing consciousness, and up to 90 seconds before you can’t recover from it.
I know wiki isn’t the best of sources but I have read a document from NASA before stating about the same and specifically debunking the idea that you or parts of you would actually explode. I went on a bit of a Google tangent after seeing an episode of farscape in which John Crichton jumped from one space ship to another without a suit, and I felt really disappointed because I thought it was so unrealistic. Turns out, they actually did it very well. It is in fact possible if you’re fast enough and they did a very good job of giving him the symptoms you’d expect from doing that 🙂

• Kayne Hellwin

The first example of jumping through space relatively suitless was in “2001 – A Space Odyssey” where Dave has to get back into the main spaceship after Hal the (going neurotic) supercomputer “locks” him out, and he must bust a hatch to get back in.
The scene is great because it uses the knowledge as outlined above; showing the short space of time he has to close the ship hatch behind him and repressurize, before either passing out or suffering other effects.
And, realistically, the scene is done in complete silence… the kind of thing you expect in an airless environment.

• Jeff Lewis

Not really. Your body’s a good enough pressure vessel that that wouldn’t happen. During a space suit test back in the ’60s, a failure subjected a guy named Jim LeBlanc to a near vacuum for several seconds, and then reduced pressure for the 87 seconds it took to repressurize the chamber. “As I stumbled backwards, I could feel the saliva on my tongue starting to bubble just before I went unconscious and that’s the last thing I remember.”

http://www.spacesafetymagazine.com/aerospace-engineering/space-suit-design/early-spacesuit-vacuum-test-wrong/

• Dren^ Odeb

Thanks, that useful.

• d

Lovely, lovely, thank you Tim.
On the other hand, if all the edges of what we are a basically electrons orbiting a vast expanse of ’empty’ space around their nucleous – by that reckoning, we are defined by ghost perimeter and where we end and the rest of the world begins is not at all clear cut, just like that little girl told Neo that one time.

• Mirko

I don’t know if I’m the only one, but I started clicking on the links from the first paragraph and re-read most of your articles instead of reading this one.

• If you put all the humans in a blender first, it works out to a cube of liquid humans roughly 2445 feet on a side.

• bbroome62

That’s a lot of soylent green.

• Zonnestraaltje

it would perfectly fit in a giant rubber bag.

• dogfood411

So now we need to figure out how long it would take to get everyone in there to prove this.

• Jeff Lewis
• dogfood411

Precisely the post I was thinking about.

• Sus

One of the first of your articles that made me ask “Wait but why…would anyone want/need this information?” I kept waiting for some philosophical insight at the end to answer the question but was left wondering instead. I guess for the sake of curiosity? :S

• Wait but why…. NOT?

• DeeDee Massey

…So we can figure out how big of an ark to build, only we’ll have convert all those measurements to cubits, which means Noah will have to be the one we bring back from the dead. 🙂

When I started reading, I thought “I’m sure we’ve been here before” (with the Tunisia post), but this was very interesting.

To go even further, expand “humans” to “all animals”. How much space do non-human animals take up? How big a building do you need to fit all animals on earth? Going beyond that, how about other organisms? Plants? Bacteria? Viruses? I understand that the statistics required might be very difficult to find (if even vaguely reliable estimates exist at all), but does anyone have any clue at all as to how much space non-human organisms take up?

• Tim Urban

I had a few dark moments while working on this post where I’d realize I was 37 minutes into research on how much space all ants take up or how heavy all combined rhinos are and be like “COME ON” and get back to the post.

• JP

What If but why

• JFV

That squishing of atoms reminds me of a neutron star or some other celestial object in which everything is squished down. I think the mass of the planet Earth can fit into a teaspoon. Too bad Spock (RIP) can’t weigh in on this.

• Sam

I wonder if, in the two-dimensional configurations, it could be arranged so that no one stood next to a stranger?

• barry

Excellent question! Centre your calcs on hermits….

• The Gingerbeardman

This last point reminded me of the Morpheus/battery analogy.

• v43

this rationalism about human bodies bears a vague reminiscence of Auschwitz

• v43

PS: not that you should care or worry, but I really don’t like this kind of posts or post about numerology in general. I’ll wait patiently for those about introspection, or the inspiring kind, or the adventurous ones.
bye

• Kayne Hellwin

Whhaaaatt??
Do you even OWN a dictionary??
“Numerology” is the fakey pseudo-science of casting fortunes or “seeing into your future” using numbers series derived from analysis of the letters in your name.
The article above is about mathematics, statistical analysis and arithmetic extrapolation.
All of which apparently escapes you.
Better go back to bed and get introspective.

• v43

I don’t know, I am not gonna read it this time. I had enough with the size of cubes water, big numbers and stuff like that (which I really really did not like): those were just posts about numbers, with little significance. If you like this kind of stuff, good for you. I am waiting for things that better suit my taste

• Markoff

yeah, it was waste of time, I came here waiting for some design of building which could house all human rice, probably something of shape huge pyramid

• bbroome62

It seems we don’t have a population problem that could cause a food shortage, but an efficiency problem in the distribution of food. Keep procreating folks.

• Zonnestraaltje

don’t worry, the prediction for 2020 is 9 billion people, that is in 1,7 billion in no more than 5 years.

• AKmotorider

At 19, I sure hope the world isn’t overpopulated by the time I, or my generation, dies.

• Zonnestraaltje

the distribution must not be to efficient, because the world population would grow even faster, just like pollution.

• drew66

Why is one guy smiling while everyone else is so unhappy? And who is this one guy anyway?

• tim urban

• Steve H

He’s the guy that farted.

• Aaron, just…. Aaron

Here’s a question; would concentrating all that human mass in such a small area have any affect on the earth’s rotation; on it’s axis or in orbit? Would it start out like a tiny irregularity and then get progressively bigger the longer that mass stayed uneven? Or would there be no effect considering the relatively tiny proportion of our combined mass vs that of the earth? Earth is estimated to weigh around 1.317×10^25 lbs (13,170 with 21 more zeroes), and our combined human mass would be around 5.069 quadrillion lbs, which means we’re only actually concentrating 0.00000000003849% of the total mass on one spot on the surface. Would that have any effect?

• Louis A. Cook

Are wind turbines affecting the rotation of the earth?

• Aaron, just…. Aaron

Is this a serious question or are you trolling? Because i don’t see the relevance to my point.

• Kayne Hellwin

A couple years ago somebody did a mockumentary-style panel discussion with a bunch of TV talking heads discussing how “wind turbines are slowing the earth’s rotation”, and making such deep and probing statements as “And wind…. what IS wind? We don’t even know what WIND is…”, as they discussed the implications of this “newfangled, mysterious technology”. Pseudo-science taken to bizarre extremes.
It was hilarious.
Louis A. Cook may have seen it. And believed it.

• Louis A. Cook

It was just a joke for your benefit. No trolling. Have an awesome day 🙂

• Zonnestraaltje

trolling? just a little off-topic
mathematical you may concentrate all mass in one point-singularity-
the Earth would stat wobbling as an excentric system , which although would be dempened by the vast amounts of the seawater, as is caused by the movement of the moon

• Zonnestraaltje

yes

• Zonnestraaltje

not relevant , dr. Spock would say

• Kayne Hellwin

EEEEE-ffect! “Effect”. NOT “Affect”. “…would all that human mass in such a small area have any EFFECT on the earth’s rotation…”.
There IS a big difference between “affect” and “effect”. And an even bigger one between “affected” and “effected”. And so on.

• Aaron, just…. Aaron

Jesus christ, I messed it up once out of the four times I used it. Clearly you read my entire post. Appreciate your super condescending reply though.

• DeeDee Massey

It follows in the mind that such weight-shifting probably would make a difference. But then, look at the size of the iceberg calving video that Louis A. Cook posted earlier in the comments. That magnitude of mass movement has to have some type of affect on the Earth. I’m just not sure what the effect would be. 🙂

• Jeff Lewis

I think you answered the question yourself (I ran a similar calculation and came out a couple orders of magnitude different than you, but still at a miniscule number). The effect on the Earth’s rotation would hardly be noticeable. Another way to look at it is that the mass of Mount Everest is something like 3e15 kg (according to this site, at least: http://www.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_mass_of_Mount_Everest ), several orders of magnitude more than all of humanity, and all concentrated in one spot. Do you notice anything weird caused by Everest?
If you somehow manage to move large enough amounts of mass around the earth to measure any change in the Earth’s rotation, the change will stabilize as soon as you stop moving the masses. The Earth will spin about it’s center of mass, wherever that mass happens to be. By moving things around, you’re mainly just shifting the center of mass.

• Aaron, just…. Aaron

Indeed, though, I might counter the Everest argument with Everest having been in one place for millions of years vs. Tim’s people concentration happening over a significantly shorter period of time.
Realistically though, I would be inclined to agree with your second paragraph. Any adjustment would likely be miniscule, and most likely would be balanced out (or possibly ignored completely, given the ultra-low percentage of the total mass) by the planet in relatively short order. : )

mindblown with that M&M human mass fact…

• Zonnestraaltje

“if” everybody would love everybody we wouldn’t need in between space at all
give erverybody a hug!

• Titus Groan

ok ok, a question please. At the current rate of population growth, when will we make up the mass of a single M&M?

We’re a bit short at the moment you say? So on what date will we be able to completely fill up a single M&M?

I ask because on that day, that momentous M&M day, I want to celebrate. And mark it as a milestone in population growth. The day we hit a whole M&M. Its like a population singularity.

Please tell us! When will it be!?

• DeeDee Massey

sometime(ish)

• DeeDee Massey

While you’re calculating that, Tim, at what point, if not already, would the space-bagged mass of all the world’s nerds fit inside the size of one average.. Nerd?

ok, ok, I’m going back to read the post, but just wanted to say SQUEEEE about the e-reader version of year one! Have gone straight off and bought it 🙂 Hope you guys are making a few cents out of each edition at least. Keep it up!

• momtarkle

How is a circle “one dimensional”?

• sabs546

It has no face
Just an outline
It has not corners either just one edge

• momtarkle

A circle is two dimensional. In polar coordinates its radius is one coordinate, its arc, 2 pi, is the other.

In the x, y coordinate system it is an evenly curved line with “width” d and “length” d, where “d” is the circle’s diameter.

If the circle’s center is at point x=0, y=0, its equation is y2+x2=1. (Those 2s are supposed to represent “square”.

• DeeDee Massey

A circle is one-dimensional.

In mathematical terms, a “circle” is line without a surface that completes the circumference, with each point on the line equidistant from a common center. The line has a measurable length – the 1st dimension. The filled-in surface is a “disk” with a measurable width, the diameter – the second dimension. In the 3rd dimension, it has depth, either as in the shape of a “cylinder”, where 2 circles (disks) on separate planes have a parallel distance from each other, or as in the case of a “sphere”, where all points of the outer surface are equidistant from the center.

• sabs546

This whole thing just got blown out of proportion
He just made a ring and decided it would be simple to call it one dimensional since it wasnt filled in

• momtarkle

So, the perimeter of a triangle is also one dimensional, right? (It isn’t filled in.)

• sabs546

not like that
I’m it wasn’t meant to be anything meaningful
I’m surprised you don’t just get the gist of it
People are just overthinking this

• momtarkle

You live in a peculiar world, DeeDee. If we ignore time (actually duration) as the fourth dimension: A point has no dimensions. A straight line segment, no matter what its length is, has one dimension: length. A curved line, such as a circle, must have at least two dimensions or it would be straight. (A curved line can have three dimensions.) Got that straight?

By your logic, the surface of a sphere is one dimensional. Balls, I say!

• DeeDee Massey

Please politely provide a reliable source for your definitions. A line does not necessarily have to be straight to possess one dimension.

http://www.fractalwisdom.com/science-of-chaos/the-five-dimensions/first-dimension/

Dimensions in the article’s context are topological measures. For the circle, the measures correspond as:

0 – point on a circle, “the point”

1st – circumference, the “line”

2nd – area, the “plane”

3rd – volume. the “solid”

It’s semantics, but it can be argued that a circle is one-dimensional and the disk is the two-dimensional shape. At any rate, the use of “one-dimensional” is accurate within the context of the article. Individuals standing in one of those lines that takes a curvy, circular path, would have the intrinsic view of only being able to move forward or backward in line. If they were standing on the surface of a sphere, they’d have more options.

http://www.learner.org/courses/mathilluminated/units/8/textbook/06.php

• momtarkle

Sorry, I don’t do politely.

You are right; I am wrong. A circle can exist in either two-dimensional
or three-dimensional space (or even higher-dimensional spaces), but it
is a one-dimensional object.

A line segment, which is one-dimensional, can be deformed into a
circle. We can think of the line as elastic. A circular disk, which
is two-dimensional, can be deformed elastically into a sphere.

Somehow, I still feel right.

• DeeDee Massey

In some contexts, we both are. 🙂
The universe and the “laws” that govern it are amazing and intriguing. And to think, as a species, we likely have only scratched the surface in our attempt to fathom and define it in a way that makes any coherent sense.

• dudebuddypal

a circle has no width, only length. Hence it is one dimensional

• Jay
• How long would it take to eat that M&M?

• Seth Heristal

How long would it take to digest that?

• Strange but untrue

7.3 billion humans in four-dimensional configurations

If we had access to a fourth dimension, you could could create a hypercube out of the whole world population with side length less than 300 people… If you could travel around it at walking pace, you could get to any other living person within a few minutes.

But then again, if people were infinitesimally thin in the fourth dimension, you could stack all 7.3 billion up in a single 4D pile that basically didn’t take up any more room than a single human.

• dudebuddypal

The 4th dimension is time. are you referring to a 5th dimension or a 4th spacial dimension?

There is no (agreed upon) ordinality to dimensions, and although time is conveniently described as a dimension for many purposes, mathematically speaking it is not (it is, there and in science, sometimes treated similarly and sometimes identically, but on the whole it is not the same). The implied meaning was definitely spatial.

• Siron

This M&M would collapse in a tiny black hole)

• ericsp23

Actually, no it wouldn’t. You would have to shrink humanity down to the size of a proton before it would be dense enough to become a black hole. The M&M would be the same density as a neutron star though.

• Vysakh S

Did anybody else spot the sole smiling and winking dude amongst that sea of desperate and angry stick figures?

Nice touch, Tim.

• Scott

Ha yes, I was looking for a while on a hunch that tim would do something like that. Of course he didn’t disappoint.

• Rodrigo Gomes

Oh! Actually I had skipped the drawing assuming that it was just a bunch of people. Now I am coming back to the picture, it is so rich in details, so full of expressiveness… I cannot stop looking at it.

• dudebuddypal

That’s one of those weirdos on the Japanese trains who tries to cop a feel of everyone. One man’s hell is another’s heaven. It’s all about attitude!

• Pingback: Saying it's photoshopped makes no sense()

• GoneCamping

Has anyone read Riverworld, by Philip José Farmer? All humans that have ever lived are reincarnated on the banks of a very long river.

• I have read. Judging by these calculations, this should be *a VERY* long river, given that aliens have given a lot more space for each person than a 1 m squared. 🙂

• Steve H

20 million miles long in Farmer’s books, but the figure he uses for all the humans who ever lived is 36 billion.

• airira

Except, according to Arthur C. Clarke, the number of humans who have lived and died on this planet in totality is around 100 billion. And he came up with that figure almost 60 years ago.

• Martijn Müller

I know you’re just trying to fit everyone in, but I chuckled when organizing for religion, you decided to put Jews and Muslims together in Brooklyn.

• passerby

Haha I think he hates Brooklyn

• Wrong Bobby

Surprisingly interesting subject. I’d like to know how large a buildig it would take to have everyone actually live comfortably, say in a two room apartment each.

• Max_White

is the 2rm for a single person, couple or a family of 4?

Now, it’s been a million years or so since I’ve used math, but if we go for the couple, we get a volume of 934 billion m^3 if each couple had an apartment sized 16*8*2.

Or so..

• Amazing. 🙂

• NA

I’m disappointed that there was no mention of a Dyson Sphere of people linked to each other by their limbs.

I would be much more interested in the amount of space people need (built-up, and land). You can get this from the ecofootprint, but then you could take it further to see if in the future, we could reduce that space down, say if all people worked from home so we didn’t need offices, and used virtual reality to visit friends, so we don’t need transportation networks.

• Max_White

That would be a sort of lonely existence.

I’m all for the work from home stuff, but I’d rather see my friends in meat space then in vspace

• Ilpalazzo

So out of curiosity, since this has no practical application and only serves to try to take things further (albeit discarding usefulness and only serves to question the means of the NY test)— what drugs is this guy on?

• AH yes, the ol’ John Varley Stand on Zanzibar – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stand_on_Zanzibar

• Seth Heristal

Would the M&M surpass the Schwarzschild Radius and become a Black Hole?

• Max_White

No.

Mt Everest has a mass of around 3*10^15 and the Schwarzschild limit for it is a nanometer.

Humanity weighs around 3 orders ofagnitude LESS

• Martin Stoehr

Interesting–I missed this post from last month. I actually did a comparable analysis a few years ago…

http://gargoyleeyes-rsf.blogspot.com/2009/04/i-was-talking-with-paul-kalthoff-today.html

My estimate of pureed humans was made with about 6.8B people on the planet but comes pretty close to Tim’s estimate considering the 14ppl/m^3 versus 6ppl/m^3 volumes.

• kalsonmandela

☁☁☁☁it’s Easy Make With waitbutwhy < i started working online, completing some basic jobs that only requires from you a computer and internet access and I am happier than ever… It's been 6 months since i started this and i got paid so far total of 36,000 bucks… Basicly i profit close to 80 bucks/h and work for 3-4 hrs most of the days.Best part to whole this thing is that you can decide when to work yourself and for how long and you get a paycheck
at the end of each week.
Here’s A More Detail

• GenderEquality

It’s Easy for make with waitbutwhy < i started working online, completing some basic jobs that only requires from you a computer and internet access and I am happier than ever… It's been 6 months since i started this and i got paid so far total of 36,000 bucks… Basicly i profit close to 80 bucks/h and work for 3-4 hrs most of the days.Best part to whole this thing is that you can decide when to work yourself and for how long and you get a paycheck

• MJSANTILLI

It’s very Easy with waitbutwhy < my neighbor's mom makes \$64 hourly on the computer . She has been without work for 6 months but last month her check was \$14236 just working on the computer for a few hours.

learn the facts here now SEE MORE DETAIL

• ElizabethLicata

It’s simple to work with waitbutwhy < my neighbor's mom makes \$64 hourly on the computer . She has been without work for 6 months but last month her check was \$14236 just working on the computer for a few hours.

learn the facts here now SEE COMPLETE INFO

• DarrynBonthuys

♫♫With♫♫ ♪♪♪waitbutwhy♪♪♪.-. < my neighbor's mom makes \$64 hourly on the computer . She has been without work for 6 months but last month her check was \$14236 just working on the computer for a few hours.

• thewildnath

No she doesn’t.

• Gwen

▬▬▬▬★★★★ that’s a full enjoy with waitbutwhy——- ▬▬▬▬▬☛ Continue Reading

• Dawn

▬▬▬▬★★★★ that’s a full enjoy with waitbutwhy… ▬▬▬▬▬☛ Continue Reading

• Helen

▬▬▬▬★★★★ that’s a full enjoy with waitbutwhy ********* ▬▬▬▬▬☛ Continue Reading

• Sawly1971

< col Hiiiiiii Friends..''.——–''.▬▬▬▬★★ that's a full enjoy with+ waitbutwhy+ ********* < Find More='' ……..''

????????????????????????????????????????????????????y

• Brandi

——— SSSSSSoooooo Extra Cute profit with waitbutwhy ——- ——— Keep Reading

• Lorraine

——– i like me waitbutwhy… _________ Keep Reading

• jeffhre

Hi Tim, and Shawn too. With 7.3 billion inside, what would be the rated capacity of the AC units on a hot humid NYC Day?

And I bet the concessionaires could do a great business at that building. If they could just think outside of the box.

• Nils Sens

let’s just say that NYC would be heated to body temperature

• Gayle

———- that’s a full enjoy with waitbutwhy ****** _________ Continue Reading

• Margaret

———- that’s a full enjoy withwaitbutwhy… < Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for \$6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least \$177 per hour. I work through this link,

go﻿ to tech tab for work detail _________ Continue Reading

• Lefuld

< ✜✱✪✪✲✜ +waitbutwhy +*********….. < Now Go R­e­­a­d M­o­r­e

22

• Alexstrazsa

What happens when you try to expand it so that each human has a (semi) comfortable room to live in? Sort of like a massive, humanity-encompassing apartment. How much power would it need for lights? What about the plumbing!?

• JohnASilcox

Reset your job with waitbutwhy Find Here

• JohnGBolin

Your first choice waitbutwhy Find Here

• KarenDWingo

All time hit waitbutwhy Find Here

• Troarat45

< ✜✱✪✪✲✜.+waitbutwhy+ ********* ….. < Now Go R­e­­a­d M­o­r­e

4

• ChristyCTaylor

fddfdfdf

• ChristyCTaylor

Some time hit the waitbutwhy. Find Here

• AshleyJMille

….All time hit the waitbutwhy Find Here

• Hannah

—-*****—- i like me waitbutwhy… ………… Continue Reading

• Losent

< ✜✱✪✪✲✜.+waitbutwhy+ ********* ….. < Now Go R­e­­a­d M­o­r­e

19

• ElsaCWalker

Your first choice waitbutwhy Find Here

• MichaelHFerguson

22222Ultra Income source by waitbutwhy Find Here

• TimothyMBennett

Next few days start your new life…waitbutwhy… < Find Here

• NancyCPalmer

….next few days your life success days…waitbutwhy….. < Find Here

• JeremyEHayes

Some New Features with waitbutwhy….. Go To Next Page

• MaxMWheeler

Some New Features with waitbutwhy….. Go To Next Page

Some New Features with waitbutwhy….. Go To Next Page

• Hollie

Last 40 year Best Home Income with waitbutwhy < ……. Find Here

• Mikebjones

Go toOur Community w a i t b w- Online money

• norarcarr

• Roberto

Good. Now think about all this cramped space speculation whenever you’re eating chicken.

• xieheihei

good

• BonVoyage

Whole topic can be collapsed with a possible synchronous jump.

Vivid illustrations 🙂

Home Archive