What Is The Earth Worth?

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Hey, Vsauce. Michael here. Earth only contains 1066 people. Earth, Texas. The only place on Earth officially named Earth. There are at least two places named Moon but the Earth only has one astronomical Moon. Or does it? From September 2006 to June 2007, Earth had an additional Moon named 2006 RH120. It's a near Earth asteroid that usually orbits around the Sun but for 13 months it fell into an orbit around our planet and became another Moon of Earth. We can call it that because technically a Moon is just a natural satellite. Something in orbit around a planet that humans didn't put there. There's no official minimum size requirement for Moon status. The Moon, it's a Moon. Sputnik, space junk, the International Space Station - not Moons, they are artificial satellites. Astronomers believe that, most of the time, Earth has additional Moons. These newcomers don't always stick around that long and they tend to only be about a meter in diameter, so we don't always detect them and they could, less sensationally, be called temporary asteroid moons. But, the vagueness of the word Moon means that, yes, technically Earth usually has more than one and Earth is booking it. I mean we're moving through space incredibly quickly. A light year is an almost unfathomable distance to put in the human terms but our solar system orbits around the center of the Milky Way at about 782,000 kilometres an hour. Which means, that from the perspective of the center of our galaxy, about every 1300 years Earth travels an entire light year. In other words, the Great Pyramid of Giza, wasn't just built 4500 years ago, it was also built almost three-and-a-half light years away. Big deal - what's it all worth? Could we assign a price to the entire planet? To Earth itself? Well, Greg Loughman, an astrophysicist at the University of California, Santa Cruz devised a beautiful equation for assessing the value of exoplanets we discover. It considers their habitability, their ease of being studied and, of course, how much money we've already spent looking for them. Funny enough, you can solve for Earth and find out that compared to what we've already spent looking for exoplanets - and what we know about them - Earth is worth about five quadrillion dollars. The History Channel famously stuck to Earth and rang up all of Earth's resources like water, lumber and granite using the current market prices they arrived at a total of seven quadrillion dollars. If you removed and isolated all of the elements your body contains, and then solved them each at market price, you could fetch about two thousand dollars. Reddit user Shady Potato applied this map to Earth. If we could mine the entire planet, and separate out all of it's pure elements, and prices didn't change because of that, we could sell it all for 15.8 sextillion dollars. Of course calculations like these don't include every single possible thing earth, or any other planet has to offer, and they also don't consider supply and demand. If someone here on Earth, or some extraterrestrial group of planet shoppers, had quadrillions, sextillions of dollars, or the equivalent amount of power, well, they would have the option to shop in a much larger store. For crying out loud, there are more than 10,000 asteroids right here near Earth. And just one of them - 433 Eros - is estimated to contain a half quintillion dollars worth of platinum alone, and by weight, even more iron. So to be more realistic, instead of calculating Earth's value on Earth, let's calculate its value on the galactic marketplace, or the universal marketplace. If you, or some hypothetical group of aliens, shopping for a planet could pick any planet in the entire Milky Way galaxy, what about Earth would make it worth anything? The Milky Way galaxy is estimated to contain a supply of around 100 to 400 billion planets. As far as Earth analogues go, Kepler space mission data suggests there were probably 40 billion Earth size planets orbiting within habitable zones of stars in our galaxy. And within the observable universe? Quadrillions. So, from a raw materials and habitability stand point, Earth probably isn't that rare. But Earth does have some unique selling points. For one, it's probably the only planet like itself within at least 12 light years. So its location might be prime real estate for an intergalactic rest stop or imminent domain. And secondly, statistically speaking, life as we know it might not be unique to Earth, but there probably isn't life elsewhere that formed exactly like it did here with jaguars, palm trees and hairless bipeds who made the same buildings and jokes and art and music that we have. These might be the truest unique selling points for Earth. Aliens wouldn't have to understand, or appreciate any of it, if it merely amused them it might be worth purchasing as a sort of museum, or zoo at the least. Of course, interstellar planet shoppers wouldn't have Earth currency to buy it with, and space cash isn't worth anything here. But the technology it would take for them to get to us would likely be at least thousands of years ahead of what we currently have. So, an equitable trade might be, say, limited use of Earth in exchange for their knowledge. Or full use - or abuse - of Earth in exchange for their knowledge and fair relocation of all earthlings to some equally habitable exoplanet. Boy, this type of speculation is totally sci-fi. But you know what's not? The next part of establishing Earth's value: demand. Despite what Earth has to offer, despite what makes it unique, and despite National Geographic's list of ten reasons other life forms might want Earth so far we have received 0 offers. The Fermi Paradox formally phrases this puzzle. With so many friendly to life as we know it planets out there, many of which have been around longer than even Earth, why haven't we been visited by, or heard from, intelligent life yet? Maybe Earth, and its intelligent life, really are rare and special. Or maybe Earth is so typical, so unremarkable, no other intelligent advanced lifeforms could be bothered to stop by. But this raises another question. Even if something came by, what makes us think it would make an offer? Why would it consider our wishes at all? In Star Trek 4, the aliens wanted to talk to whales and humans were just an awkward third wheel. When Thomas Jefferson made the Louisiana Purchase, he didn't ask, say, squirrels in Nebraska for permission. He just did it. And all those squirrels were suddenly in America, without knowing it. For all we know, that may have already happened to us. Earth could be owned by some larger interstellar landlord. Furthermore, this entire question rests on an even more fundamental assumption, the assumption that other intelligent life forms share our concept of ownership; and the belief that physical things can be bought and sold. Amongst earthlings, human bartering is pretty unique. Only we have developed complicated, socially agreed-upon norms, for the barter of goods, the use of currency for goods, or the concept that you can own a piece of Earth's surface. Sure, animals can be territorial, but they haven't developed that into a more rigorous expansive sense of fair exchange. And when it comes to an individual owning more things than they could possibly hold or defend on their own, well, we humans have systems for that. We can teach some animals to use tokens as currency to exchange for treats, but left on their own they don't incorporate economic ideas into their regular social lives. At the most, we observe animals bartering amongst each other for services - but not goods. Why? Well, they may lack the cognitive ability required to keep track of long-term transactional histories. But they also lack two other extremely important things: communication and enforcement. Services, like grooming, are difficult to steal, so animals can easily trade them. But without a language to facilitate snitching, non-humans can't easily report thefts or devise systems for reporting and punishing violations. Animals create some pretty beautiful things. Bowerbird nests, Pufferfish circles, termite mounds, or the dramatic costumes decorator crabs fashion out of sea floor debris. But ownership, and the right to buy or sell what you make, is only as useful as the power you have to enforce it. And if you don't have enough power, someone or something else will make decisions for you. For instance, we have decided that animals don't own the selfies they take. Three years ago in Indonesia a monkey stole photojournalist David Slaters' camera. He later retreived the camera and found that the monkey had snapped these fantastic images. Slater maintained that he should receive royalties from people who reproduce the images, like Wikimedia, but US federal regulators recently ruled that since a non-human animal created these photos, they're officially in the public domain. They belong to all of us. The same goes for selfies taken by elephants, or lambs, or Asian short-clawed otters, named Musa. And it's not just selfies at play here, the same goes for paintings made by chimpanzees or dog artists. So, maybe Earth is worth quadrillions or sextillions of dollars. Maybe it's worth renting in exchange for technological know-how. But the mere fact that we can conceive of ourselves selling our own planet is pretty incredible. I mean, we don't have a deed to planet Earth, we really only own it via finders, keepers. But we didn't stumble upon Earth like a hermit crab in its shell, we really just emerged from it. We didn't build Earth, if anything, its selective pressures built us. Does that mean Earth is sort of like a womb? Does that mean us selling Earth would be the same as a child selling his or her parents? Well, not really. Because we aren't here for the purpose of leaving, analogous to being born. Honestly, the most fitting metaphor might be not that we are Earth's owners, or children, or one in the same with it, but rather that we are Earth's first willful effluvia. In the context of the human body, effluvia are little emissions of things built-up within. They often make us giggle and can be gross. And isn't that what we are? A sometimes messy, stinky presence that has built up within and will one day inevitably, and to the extent already have, discharged out into space? I guess what I'm saying is that putting a price tag on Earth is all speculation. We don't know if we will never be Earth's sales person. But what we do know is that we are Earth's first fart. And as always, thanks for watching.
Channel: Vsauce
Views: 8,870,490
Rating: 4.930315 out of 5
Keywords: Earth, economy, economics, math, elements, vsauce, michael stevens, michael, stevens, asteroid, aliens, ufo, Milky Way (Galaxy), universe, copyright, worth, ownership
Id: nt6ab7BTlgE
Channel Id: undefined
Length: 13min 16sec (796 seconds)
Published: Thu Aug 28 2014
Reddit Comments

I don't know why, but I get surprised every time he pops into the shot.

👍︎︎ 15 👤︎︎ u/count2infinity2 📅︎︎ Aug 28 2014 🗫︎ replies

I kept getting distracted by his sweat/snot drop on his nose..

👍︎︎ 12 👤︎︎ u/[deleted] 📅︎︎ Aug 28 2014 🗫︎ replies

I love how his videos always start with one goal, the title of the video, and end up somewhere in left field where what he's talking about isn't even related to the original goal but is still somehow interesting.

👍︎︎ 8 👤︎︎ u/Wrestlefox 📅︎︎ Aug 28 2014 🗫︎ replies

I think the thing that amazed me most was the idea that maybe Earth is already part of a great Interstellar civilisation, just like the squirrels in the Louisiana purchase.

👍︎︎ 5 👤︎︎ u/okmuht 📅︎︎ Aug 28 2014 🗫︎ replies

I may alone in this, but I always find his videos to be very interesting. For me at least, he raises some very intriguing questions.

👍︎︎ 5 👤︎︎ u/GeezusKreist 📅︎︎ Aug 28 2014 🗫︎ replies

That guy freaks me out.

👍︎︎ 5 👤︎︎ u/Mitth_raw_nuruodo 📅︎︎ Aug 28 2014 🗫︎ replies

1 million dollars.

dun nun nun.

👍︎︎ 2 👤︎︎ u/[deleted] 📅︎︎ Aug 28 2014 🗫︎ replies

I was eating chicken with a spoon while watching this.

👍︎︎ 2 👤︎︎ u/Skippable 📅︎︎ Aug 28 2014 🗫︎ replies

Its priceless

👍︎︎ 1 👤︎︎ u/Jenksz 📅︎︎ Aug 28 2014 🗫︎ replies
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