It was early 2004 when Matt Riggott and I were walking past the old Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh. This beautiful Victorian hospital had recently closed and was to be converted into fancy apartments; we wondered who would want to live there given the high frequency of human deaths that must have occurred there.
Our idle banter lead us to question how likely it was that at some point in time a member of the human species had died at a given position on the planet? (Note: where they died and not where the body is interred.) Thus, the notion of density of death was born (no pun intended) and we came up with a simple equation to estimate the area of land needed for each human death.
The equation has two variables: the number of homo sapiens to have died; and the size of Earth’s land surface. The first of these we found in an article by in which Haub estimated 1,000,000,000 humans[ in Population TodayP] have died, and the second from the Wikipedia article on Earth where land surface is estimated to be 148,940,000 kilometres[A].
On average a human death has occurred on Earth’s surface every 37.48 square metres. With every passing death, that area is getting smaller and smaller.
We simplified the equation and made some assumptions that would only negligibly affect the answer:
We've deliberately kept the equation simple so as not to get bogged down in the mathematics. There is, however, at least one modest improvement that might be made — either by us in the future or by the interested reader:
Last modified: October 11, 2009 10:12:43 UTCCopyright 2002-©-2017 Brian Suda