

Subject:
probabilities of a human birth
Category: Science > Math Asked by: timespacettega List Price: $5.00 
Posted:
14 Aug 2006 11:52 PDT
Expires: 13 Sep 2006 11:52 PDT Question ID: 755900 
the Buddhists have an analogy they use to describe how rare it is to attain an incarnation in human form they say picture a sea turtle. he's rising up from the bottom of a huge ocean and he just happens to poke his head through the hole of a piece of driftwood on the surface of this ocean . . . those are the odds that any particular sentient being would attain a human birth (as opposed to birth in any one of the billions of other life forms on this planet). for the purpose of a writing project, I would like to get a hypothetical ball park number for the odds of this happening. Say the ocean is the Pacific Ocean. Say the piece of driftwood that is floating aimlessly on the surface has a hole in it that is one meter in diameter. Say the sea turtle is exactly half way between Tahiti and Hawaii. Disregard the effect of tides, season, the sea turtle's aversion to driftwood, and other variables. what are the chances (some number to one) of the sea turtle coming up through the hole in the driftwood? * * * 

Subject:
Re: probabilities of a human birth
Answered By: efnga on 14 Aug 2006 19:51 PDT Rated: 
Hi timespacette, First, sources disagree about the area of the Pacific Ocean, presumably because they disagree about where the boundaries are. The area is typically listed in millions of square kilometers. Numbers available on the Web include 155.557, 165.25, 165.384, 166, and 179.7. Wikipedia and the New American Encyclopedia (printed) have the high number. As kemloga noted in the comments, assuming the hole is circular, the area of the hole would be pi times the square of the radius. The diameter is one meter and the radius is half the diameter, so the radius is half a meter, the square of the radius is 0.25 square meter, and the area is approximately 0.785398 square meter. There are 1,000 meters in a kilometer and a square kilometer is a square with a kilometer on each side, so there are 1,000 x 1,000 or 1,000,000 square meters in a square kilometer. So if we take the low estimate, the area of the Pacific Ocean is 155,557,000,000,000 square meters. Dividing this number by the area of the hole, 0.785398, we get odds of 198,061,365,065,864 to 1 that the turtle will hit the hole. If we take the high estimate, the odds are 228,801,193,789,645 to 1. So it's roughly a couple of hundred trillion to one, good news if you hope to avoid the annoyances of human life the next time around. Additional Links Pages with the area of the Pacific Ocean: 179.7 on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_Ocean 155.557 on Worldatlas.com http://worldatlas.com/aatlas/infopage/oceans.htm 166 on Pacific Island Travel http://www.pacificislandtravel.com/nature_gallery/pacificocean.html 166 on MSN Encarta http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761564220/Pacific_Ocean.html 165.25 on Encyclopaedia Brittanica Concise http://concise.britannica.com/ebc/article9374340/PacificOcean efn 
timespacettega
rated this answer:
"So it's roughly a couple of hundred trillion to one, good news if you hope to avoid the annoyances of human life the next time around." That's comforting. I've always thought I'd like to be a Sea Otter next time anyway. * * * thank you! 

Subject:
Re: probabilities of a human birth
From: probonopublicoga on 14 Aug 2006 12:09 PDT 
Fret not, Timely One, all your friends are hard at work assembling the necessary computer power to perform the calculations. But first, tell us, does this event occur during the day or at night? Note to Tisme, You do the easy stuff ... I'll do the difficult parts. OK? 
Subject:
Re: probabilities of a human birth
From: markvmdga on 14 Aug 2006 12:31 PDT 
Instead of driftwood can we make it a plastic sixpack holder that then strangles the turtle? I see a cool irony to that scenario. 
Subject:
Re: probabilities of a human birth
From: jack_of_few_tradesga on 14 Aug 2006 13:25 PDT 
Area: total: 155.557 million sq km http://geography.about.com/library/cia/blcpacific.htm If the hole is 1m diameter then that is about 3.14 sq meters (Mmmm, I like pi). So... 155,557,000,000 meters / 3.14 meters = 49,540,445,860. So the odds are 1 in 49,540,445,860 (about 50 billion) that the poor turtle would get his head through the hole in the driftwood. 
Subject:
Re: probabilities of a human birth
From: kemloga on 14 Aug 2006 14:43 PDT 
I would of course like to join in this thread, however I have an aversion to answers that might include the word COUNT. Know what I mean? Kemlo 
Subject:
Re: probabilities of a human birth
From: kemloga on 14 Aug 2006 14:50 PDT 
If the hole is 1m diameter then that is about 3.14 sq meters NO IT ISNT pi times the radius squared 0.785 155,557,000,000 divided by 0.785 is 198,161,000,000 Kemlo 
Subject:
Re: probabilities of a human birth
From: timespacettega on 14 Aug 2006 18:10 PDT 
oh no. between jack_of_few_tradesga and kemloga . . . I'm confoosed ! who is right? and why would it matter, anyhow, that it happened in the day or in the night? eh? * * * 
Subject:
Re: probabilities of a human birth
From: timespacettega on 14 Aug 2006 18:14 PDT 
hi markvmdga irony is good, yes. but that would reduce the odds even more, poor turtle. he would remain a turtle after all this! we could say it was a plastic hoolahoop (one meter in diameter) how's that? * * * 
Subject:
Re: probabilities of a human birth
From: probonopublicoga on 14 Aug 2006 21:10 PDT 
In daytime, the turtle would not be so stupid as to stick its head in the hole .. so ZERO CHANCE! At night, the turtle would be having a sleep ... So if he drifted off, he might find the driftwood ... And if he were to toss and turn in his sleep ... Alas, I'm still waiting for tisme. Hurry up tisme! 
Subject:
Re: probabilities of a human birth
From: timespacettega on 14 Aug 2006 23:51 PDT 
Yes, where IS tisme? there's a question just WAITING for you over at Question ID: 755645 ! ! (not all that urgent, by the way, still . . . ) * * * 
Subject:
Re: probabilities of a human birth
From: jack_of_few_tradesga on 15 Aug 2006 04:40 PDT 
Phew, bad math with Jack. Sorry about that guys (and thank you Kemlo for catching it). I guess the last time I worked with circles was longer than I thought and I calculated perimeter 2pi(r) rather than area pi(r squared). 
Subject:
Re: probabilities of a human birth
From: probonopublicoga on 15 Aug 2006 07:30 PDT 
I wonder if tisme has become a twasme? Or a usedtobeme? Or maybe it's a case of reincarnation and tisme will eventually reappear as twillbeme? Tis very frustrating. 
Subject:
Re: probabilities of a human birth
From: steph53ga on 16 Aug 2006 16:24 PDT 
I know nothing about circles... I'm kinda "square", I guess... Steph53 
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