Strange Math

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This page last updated on 01/26/2019.

Copyright 2001-2019 by Russ Meyer

...and now for something completely different.

I read an article a while back about Charles Fort.  He is semi-famous for cataloging unusual natural phenomenon and renowned for possessing an active mind.  In this article, it mentioned that he once calculated the total volume of all people living on Earth, but didn't say what the results were.  That's a very strange computation.  I thought about that on and off for about a week.  Curiosity finally got the better of me, and I decided to calculate the answer myself.

Consider these facts

  • The world population as of 1997 was approximately 5.7 billion.
  • The FAA considers the average weight of a human being to be 170 pounds.
  • A human being is almost entirely made of water.  There are some salts and proteins, but they don't contribute much by weight.
  • Water weighs about 8 pounds per gallon.
  • One gallon of water occupies 0.1337 cubic feet.

Now for the computations

  • All the people in the world weigh 969 billion pounds.
    (5.7 billion people x 170 pounds per person = 969 billion pounds)
  • Just over 121 billion gallons of water are tied up in the bodies of people.
    (969 billion pounds 8 lbs. of water per gallon = 121.125 billion gallons of water)
  • The entire population of the planet occupies 16 billion cubic feet.
    (121.125 billion gallons x 0.1337 cubic feet per gallon = 16.194 billion cubic feet)
  • The entire population of the planet would fit in a cube about mile on a side.
    (cube root of 16.194 billion cubic feet = 2530 feet ≈ mile)