Believe It or Not: The World’s Population Can Fit Inside New York City

April 2, 2015

Though New York City is expected to surpass its 2020 population projections this year, rest assured that there’s plenty of space for all of these folks—and then some.

An amusing and quite informative experiment conducted by Tim Urban of the blog Wait But Why takes a look at just how much space you would need to fit the world’s population comfortably(ish). The investigation, which puts 7.3 billion folks cozily shoulder to shoulder, hinges on the assumption that you can fit ten humans into a square meter.

Urban’s analysis starts with the question: “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 he found is about .1 square meters, which equates to about 10 people per square meter. The figure is drawn from this above video of nine Canadian journalists squeezing themselves into said space, which although a little cozy, works out pretty well. Urban adjusted the number to account for the fact that a good chunk of the world’s population are little kids, and the fact that even adults vary in—err—width.

the world's population can fit inside NYC

Urban sets the stage telling us that you can fit 1,000 people in a 10 by 10 meter square, while 4,200 can be set up inside a regulation basketball court. A football field by comparison can accommodate 54,000 people—this is big enough to hold the population of Liechtenstein or Monaco. Putting the equation against areas of New York City, he finds that Central Park, which measures 1.3 square miles (3.41 kilometers), can accommodate the population of Australia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Peru, Venezuela, Malaysia, Nepal, Mozambique or Syria. The entire U.S. population itself could be wrangled into a space that’s 3.5 square miles (5.7 kilometers), an area Urban says would take less that five hours to walk around.

As for the global population of 7.3 billion? You’d need a piece of land that’s 18.6 miles on each side (27 kilometers), which lo and behold is smaller than New York City. More 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

human cube

Urban also breaks it down by religion and all the humans that have ever lived. And this one will be of special interest to developers—he poses the question: How big a cube would you need to build to put everyone living today in? Hint: The Empire State Building, hollowed out and replaced with floors of adjusted heights, would hold 6.3 million disgruntled folks. The answer, here.

[Via Wait Buy Why]


All images by Tim Urban of Wait But Why

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