Yesterday I posted about the rice on the chessboard problem, and after I finished, my mind got… squirrel!
Well, yeah, that’s about how it works. I started wondering how long that much rice would last if you were feeding the entire population on a daily diet of 2027 calories. All of this is hypothetical, because living on nothing but rice is not great nutrition, but it would keep you alive – sort of – and a good percentage of the world’s population would kiss your feet if you provided them with that much rice (19.7 ounces) daily on a regular basis.
Since that squirrel just trotted through my mind, I’d like to pause here and put in a plug for an awesome book, Earthsearch by John Cassidy. This little wonder is a geography museum for kids that you can hold in your lap, full of games and facts and hands-on stuff. I was reminded of this by the fact that one section actually contains 4.8 ounces of rice, less than half of what the average kid (8-14 years old) needs per day. This is divided again into two bags, 2.8 ounces and 2.0 ounces respectively – and a spinner that shows your odds (1:20) of being born in the Western world. If your spin is lucky, you get to eat almost 500 calories. Spin poorly, and all you get is about 280 calories, enough to keep a kid hungry for a while and drive the point of world malnutrition home.
Back to our regularly scheduled programming: I’m also assuming that everyone is an adult male, 5’11” tall and about 150 lbs, which is where the 2027 calories come from. Of course that’s going to fluctuate wildly when you factor in the dietary needs of women, children, and people of different sizes and metabolisms. Still, it’s good enough for government work – all I’m doing here is coming up with a nice round number that my mind can wrap itself around.
Thanks to a handy dandy spreadsheet, I didn’t need to do much math.
- 461,168,602,000 metric tons of rice (bigger than Mount Everest, remember), at 35,273.962 ounces per ton is equivalent to 16,267,243,742,541,100 (16.2 quadrillion) ounces.
- Today, the world’s population, according to Worldometers is estimated at 7,066,853,164.
- If it takes 19.7 ounces of rice to feed our average citizen, then we’re going to require 139,266,082,699.99 (139.2 billion) ounces of rice to feed the world for a day.
Which means that with his reward from King Shihram, Sissa ibn Dahir could feed today’s world for 116,807 days, or the equivalent of 320 years. That is a lot of sushi.
The Old Wolf has spoken.