An update

i. I wrote about the exam/hospital stuff ect. on the twitter, I will not comment much more on that stuff here – go there for more info, I posted quite a few tweets about it (scroll down a bit and start from the bottom…). If you have questions/remarks related to that stuff, you can post them here though, I don’t mind. Anyway, right now I’m just glad it didn’t go any worse than it did, it was a very scary experience – I had enough of those kinds of episodes in my youth to consider the ‘found dead-in-bed from hypoglycemia’ one of the most likely scenarios when considering the question how I’d eventually die and the ‘severe hypoglycemia while sleeping’-fear has always been one of my biggest fears. I had an episode a few years back that required hospitalization as well, but that wasn’t sleep-related. I’ve not experienced anything like this in almost a decade. My room-mate will probably never see me completely ‘the same way’ again.

ii. Yesterday evening I started reading one of my christmas presents, Mistakes were made (but not by me). It’s pretty good, but I don’t think there’s a lot of new stuff in there to someone who’s read lesswrong and that kind of stuff for a while (at least not judging from the first 50 pages). I still like it though.

iii. Some data:

(From the website of the University of Leicester, direct link here). Most of Russia is pretty empty, the average population density is just 8,4 people/sq km – but regular readers of this blog will know that such average numbers can be quite misleading. 78% of the total population of Russia (110 million) live in the European part of Russia – and about 75% of Russia’s territory lies within Asia. The population (/40 million/) density of Siberia is 2.5 persons per km². Another way to put it – Siberia is (significantly) larger than Europe but the population of that area is about the same as Poland; the population of that enormous area is smaller than the population of countries such as Germany, France, UK, Italy, Spain or Ukraine.

But Russia’s not the only big country with a low population density – actually, a lot of places on Earth are very empty, compared to the places where most humans live. Canada’s population is a bit smaller than Siberia’s (34,7 mil), and if you add the two, their combined population size is smaller than that of Germany – despite the fact that they cover roughly 23 million square kilometers, more than 15% of the total land area of Earth. Incidentally, just like it’s a bit problematic to consider ‘the population density of Russia’, the same problems arise when you take a closer look at Canada. Northern Canada (Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut) makes up roughly 40% of the total area of Canada but it has a total population of little more than 100.000 people.

If you add Antarctica (14 million sq km) to Canada and Siberia we’re at 37 million square kilometres, or roughly one-fourth of the total land area of Earth. Add Australia to the list as well and you’re at maybe 44,5 million square km, about 30% of the total land area – and we’ve still not yet reached 100 million people combined. Remember that there are more than 7 billion people to account for – we’re clearly looking the wrong places. For fun, you can add Greenland, Mongolia, Namibia, Mauritania and others to the list yourself. There are a lot of relatively empty places on Earth and the empty areas are not small by any means. Here’s one way to look at ‘the big picture‘ (but again, averages can be deceiving):

One thing to remember here is that it isn’t just countries with low total populations that contain large empty areas – countries with huge populations often contain likewise huge areas with very low population densities. It’s easy to forget that a big total population combined with a big total area doesn’t mean that the country/area is not subject to large regional variations all the same; actually there are a few reasons why it seems quite obvious to me that the default hypothesis should rather be that d(var(population density))/d(total land area) should be positive. China is the country with the largest population on Earth, but the Tibet Autonomous Region has a population density comparable to Siberia (2,2/km2) and that area covers more than a million square kilometres. Another example would be Alaska in the US. Or consider Egypt:

(Wikipedia). “The great majority of its over 81 million people[3] live near the banks of the Nile River, in an area of about 40,000 square kilometers”. “Nearly 100% of the country’s 80,810,912[1] (2011 est.) people live in three major regions of the country: Cairo and Alexandria and elsewhere along the banks of the Nile; throughout the Nile delta, which fans out north of Cairo; and along the Suez Canal.” (link) The country has millions and millions of people, but actually most of it is almost completely empty because people just can’t live there.

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January 24, 2012 - Posted by | books, data, demographics, personal

1 Comment »

  1. Oh my. I’m glad you are well. Take care.

    Comment by info | January 24, 2012 | Reply

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