here they are, the chicken emails. one day at work (, two other programmers and i got into a spirited debate about how many chickens humanity eats in one year. i really had no clue, but i was sure it wasn't one quadrillion (1,000,000,000,000,000), as was suggested by another programmer. never one to stop beating a dead horse just because the stick is broken (now i've got two sticks!), i spent the next twenty minutes trying to come up with some numbers and, besides satisfying my own curiousity, i didn't manage to accomplish anything useful. then i got the brilliant idea to send this to my brother ben, among others. they thought it was amusing. so, as a treat to all my loyal peeps that stood by patiently while al gore and i spec'd out protocols for darpa and labored many nights writing the first packet switching routines back in the 60's, here are the chicken emails:

The first email (8/17/01, 4:40pm)
... the other day i went off about that humans couldn't possibly eat one quadrillion chickens in a year and went into the math behind my reasoning... oh well, if she doesn't like me for being weird, tough noogies. bfree, woody, and i (programmers at sn) got into an argument about how many chickens humanity eats as a whole in one year. woody claimed it was one quadrillion, but that can't possibly be right. here's why:

the earth is 25,000 miles around, ergo it's radius is r = C/(pi * 2) = 3978.8735 miles, which is roughly 21,008,452 feet. so the area of earth is A = 4 * pi * r^2, which is 5,546,231,199,133,634 square feet. now, chickens can't live in the sea (unless they're tuna, ahahaha), so because water covers 2/3 of the earth, we're down to 1,830,256,295,714,099. and i don't know about you but i've never seen chickens living on antarctica, so subtract the area of land in antarctica and you get 1,830,256,295,714,099 - 32,349,081,364 = 1,830,223,946,632,735. and forests take up 70% of the total land, therefore, excepting forest-bound chickens, you're left with 549,067,183,989,820 square feet. supposing that a chicken takes up 1 square foot, you can fit approximately 550 trillion chickens on earth.

NOW, let's assume that humanity can eat 550 trillion chickens in one year. that means the 549,067,183,989,820 chickens divided by roughly 6.5 billion people means that each human on earth has to eat 84471.87 chickens per year. this breaks down to 231 chickens per day, or 9 chickens per hour. so each living human being must consume one chicken every six and half minutes (roughly). so now you see how ridiculous the notion that 1 quadrillion chickens are eaten per year.

oops, gotta go, my next chicken's almost done.


The second email (8/17/01, 4:55pm)
and that's not even right because i haven't accounted for chickens that die of natural causes, in-fighting between the chickens, spontaneous combustion (hey, it could happen), and a whole host of other reasons why this number is absurd. although you can't discount the room that it takes to feed the chickens because for lack of anything else to eat, they'll eat each other, so if one chicken gets hungry, eats another chicken, then you eat that chicken, you've effectively just eaten two chickens. this does have a nice side effect because spontaneous combustion amongst chickens, while rare, will save cooking time on the surrounding 8 chickens. this is a silly notion because by the time you find the accidentally cooked chickens, they'd probably be cold. not to mention, where the hell are the 6.5 billion people going to live since the entire planet is taken up by chickens? i have the solution:

one person takes up roughly 4 square feet. 6.5 billion people take up 26,000,000,000 square feet. there are 27,878,400 feet in a square mile, so 6.5 billion people take up 932 square miles. yellowstone national park is approximately 1296 square miles, so throw in the cooking pits and a couple of kegs and you've got a party. so assuming that you've quarantined off 1296 square miles, you've just displaced 36,130,406,400 chickens which now have to fit into already cramped quarters amongst their brethren. you could just remove those 36 billion chickens from the equation, relieving each of the 6.5 billion humans from having to eat 6 chickens per year. this time can be used to refill your beer or taking a crap to remove a fraction of 84465.87 chickens you've just eaten.


note: these calculations were not meant to be taken seriously, nor do they accurately reflect a situation in which chickens are crammed into every possible crack and crevice on earth. chickens were harmed during the writing of this email (i got hungry for drumsticks).

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