SF Scale

I sit on the pavement of the hill behind Fort Point, staring into the red cables and Pilar’s of the Golden Gate Bridge, a marvel of man’s control of his environment. In the mist of early eve, it just seems like a moving backdrop, painted by exceptional prop painters to entertain the masses on the bay’s grand stage.Consider here that the bridge is approximately 90′ wide (source). Remove guard rails and separation barriers and you may have 85′ or less where people can stand. The width of a person from shoulder to shoulder is an average of 18″ (rounded down), about 1.5 feet. Comfortably, that’s 56 people standing shoulder to shoulder across the bridge. With a wild guess of about a foot of depth to an average person, the 8,981 feet of expanse from abutment to abutment puts enough square space for about 502,936 people in total.

The population of the San Francisco Bay Area in 2010 was 7.15 million people. Using the above estimations, this is the equivalent of 14 times the area of the Golden Gate Bridge. At a conservative 5.5′ tall on average, and considering each tower from the roadway stands 500′, a fully crowded bridge with each person standing stacked feet on shoulders 14 people high would create a 77′ tall block of humans, approximately 15% of the height of the towers.

To reach a human pile the height and area of the bridge from the roadway, you would need to have a ladder of bodies standing upright 91 people high. That would calculate to 45.77 million people in one place.

At an average of 195 pounds per American, that’s 8,925,150,000 pounds – 4,462,575 tons. The bridge can hold 4,000 pounds per linear foot. That’s 340,000 pounds of weight across by 35,924,000 long. That’s way more pounds of weight load than needed as a whole (1.221416×1013 pounds) if calculating square foot load capacity. But expect that, per linear foot, there are more than 17,000 pounds of humans in a 90-person standing ladder. So the bridge would collapse unless it was 5 bridge roadways thick.

Noted, these calculations do not consider other factors like the weight load of pillars, the strength of rocks on either side to hold something like this, and environmental issues like wind and increased gravitational fields. These are estimates, not exhaustive formulas.

What does all of this mean?

There are 7 billion people on Earth today. That’s 1000 tines the population of all towns claiming to be in the SF Bay Area.

We are small. So cosmically small. But, together, we are one big ball of energy riding another bigger ball. Consider a universal soul made up of all the souls in the world. What could such a being do? Far more than an individual, for sure. Bring us closer together and we become a power no one person has the capacity to be.

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