6.20.2008

Our National Debt: 1/200th of everything in the world

According to the U.S. National Debt Clock, our government is currently 9.371 trillion dollars in debt. Just how much money this is is actually pretty interesting.

I emailed Steven Levitt (of Freakonomics fame) for a rough estimate of how much (at current prices) it would take to purchase every economic right in the world-- i.e., how much money every sort of thing, property, and salable right in the world is worth. Now, this is back-of-the-envelope math, so there are plenty of caveats, but Levitt suggested the following as a rough estimate:
WDP (World Domestic Product) * 30.

Now, since cia.gov says the WDP as of 2006 (purchasing power parity) was estimated at $65.95 trillion, we get:
9.371/(65.95*30)=.0047

So, bottom-line? Our national debt is roughly equal to half a percent of the economic value of everything in the world. 1/200th of Every. Thing.

(Until we start to inflate it away, of course!)

6.18.2008

Quote: 13.7 hours of education

John Hawks, summarizing a recent study on the state of our science education:

We're entering an age in which health decisions will be made based on genetic information -- when everyone may know their own gene sequences if they want to. New diseases are emerging, new crops are being developed, and new organisms are being transplanted from one continent to another. Decisions about the economic development of entire regions -- perhaps entire nations -- are now subject to the evaluation of biodiversity, including threatened and endangered species.

The people making these decisions ten to twenty years from now will have an average of 13.7 hours of education on evolution.

I think positive change in our culture's approach to scientific literacy is coming. Painfully slow, but coming.

Update 6-22-08: Hawks has a nice post up arguing that evolution education matters- that evolutionary theory sheds light on how we should think about many pressing current issues.