Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Breaths Per Lifetime

I was hiking up a mountain at fairly high altitude and this naturally got me to thinking about breath.  I wondered how many breaths there are in a lifetime.  How many are in a day?  How many days in a lifetime?  Doing the calculation in my head, between labored breaths, led me to realize that very approximately, there are about as many breaths in a day as there are days in a lifetime.

That's fascinating.  And it might lead to some interesting analogies.  Let's see.

We start out breathing faster, then slow down gradually, and we breath slower at night.  I wanted to take these things into consideration so I put together a spreadsheet based on numbers from these sources:

And why not throw in heart beats as well:

Here are the main numbers:
per lifetimeper day

The number of breaths per day is indeed very close to the number of days per lifetime.  This could be interpreted to mean that each breath represents one day of our lives.  That each breath recapitulates a day.  This should help remind us of our mortality, right?

Let's see what that looks like.  We will take one day and map our life onto it, breath by breath.  (Our lifetime doesn't cover a complete day because there are somewhat fewer days than breaths.) Let's start from the moment we fall asleep.  10PM is our bedtime, and we will sleep 8 hours, waking up at 6AM.  Here is a table showing how old we are at each hour of this day. We wake up at the age of 25, having breathed about 9000 breaths.  We've finished breakfast by age 32, and we clock in at work at age 35.  We clock out at 63.  Dinner has been eaten and the dishes are washed by age 70.  Bedtime is at 80. (These numbers are in the "sleep first" column in the table below.)

(We could also start our allegorical life upon waking, and those numbers are shown in the "wake first" column.)

hour sleep first wake first
10:00:00 PM 0.0
11:00:00 PM 3.1
12:00:00 AM 6.3
01:00:00 AM 9.4
02:00:00 AM 12.5
03:00:00 AM 15.6
04:00:00 AM 18.8
05:00:00 AM 21.9
06:00:00 AM 25.0 0.0
07:00:00 AM 28.5 3.4
08:00:00 AM 31.9 6.9
09:00:00 AM 35.4 10.3
10:00:00 AM 38.8 13.8
11:00:00 AM 42.2 17.2
12:00:00 PM 45.7 20.7
01:00:00 PM 49.1 24.1
02:00:00 PM 52.6 27.5
03:00:00 PM 56.0 31.0
04:00:00 PM 59.4 34.4
05:00:00 PM 62.9 37.9
06:00:00 PM 66.3 41.3
07:00:00 PM 69.8 44.7
08:00:00 PM 73.2 48.2
09:00:00 PM 76.7 51.6
10:00:00 PM 80.1 55.1
11:00:00 PM 83.5 58.2
12:00:00 AM 87.0 61.3
01:00:00 AM 90.4 64.5
02:00:00 AM 93.9 67.6
03:00:00 AM
04:00:00 AM
05:00:00 AM
06:00:00 AM
07:00:00 AM
08:00:00 AM
09:00:00 AM
10:00:00 AM

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


There are currently about 7.1 billion people on the planet1.  The average American eats about ton of food per year, and the poorest average about half that2.

That works out to 4.8x1012kg, which, compacted, would make a ball about 2km in diameter3.

Here it is compared to some other objects:

Great Pyramid of Cheops0.14x0.23km5.4x109kg
Three Gorges Dam0.18x2km3.4x1010kg
just the meat40.76km2.7x1011kg
asteroid: 1999 KW41.5km2.4x1012kg
asteroid: 1620 Geographos2.0km4x1012kg
how much we eat in a year2.0km4.8x1012kg
asteroid: 2002 CE263.5km2x1013kg
Halley's comet8-15km3x1014kg

To further help comprehend the dimensions, here is a list of the world's tallest buildings.

1 - world population
2 - average food consumption (I used the average of the two numbers)
3 - mean density of compacted food waste is about 1029 kg/m3.
4 - The size of the meatball we consume each year, as a species. See source.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Explorable Universe

Ever since I saw the peculiar, foam-like arrangement of galaxies, I was intrigued.  Here is an example of what I'm referring to.  Every point of light in this image is an entire galaxy.

This inspired me to create a fly-through visualization that lets you explore nearby stars, galaxies and galactic clusters.  Please be patient while it loads all the data, there's 4MB of galactic cluster data and 2MB for the stars, so it takes a minute or so the first time you load it.
* http://marklipson.com/code-samples/galaxies1/galaxies.html

My favorite is the "galaxy" view - you can see the clustering of galaxies, and you can more or less see the filaments and voids.  The "cluster" view may not quite be correct yet, and the radii and brightnesses could all use some work.  But it gives you a sense of where we are in the universe, which was its purpose.  If any programmers or astronomers feel inspired to help, the code is here.

For a more visually gratifying fly-through, here is one based on the terabytes of data gathered by SDSS:
* http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08LBltePDZw

Here's a great little demonstration of the scales involved:

And I can't help but include a link to this article about what might lie beyond the meager confines of the observable universe: