Is this 'WW2 Fact' correct?

I recall being told this by someone who was attempting to put into a human scale the massive loss of life in the Second World War.

I was told that if every person who had been killed in that conflict marched continuously past your living room window, passing a certain point at the rate of one person every two seconds then it would take two years of constant day and night marching for everyone to pass.

Quite an image, but not being of the mathematical ilk I was never sure if it was correct.

Of course it depends on how many people died in that war, I’ve heard figures of around fifty-million as an estimate.

The math isn’t that hard. No algebra of funny looking symbols, but it does require you to actually think.

1 person per-two seconds = 30 per minute
Times 60 = 180 per hour
Times 24 = 4,320 per day
Times 365 = about 1.5 million per year
Times 2 = about 3 million

So no, it’s not right. It’s much too conservative. March them 10 abreast is more like it.

How would a dead person march?

30*60 is 1800/hr, not 180, so the total comes to ~30 million.

Well, 50 million people passing at a rate of one every two seconds would actually take 3 years, 2 months in all.

So… no, it’s not correct.

sh1bu1 made an arithmetic error - 30 times 60 is 1800, not 180.


It’s not pretty when it happens.

I try not to do that, it tends to get me into trouble.

Wow, so it was actually understated.

Just try to imagine watching that, three whole years, helps put the loss into perspective doesn’t it?

BTW, a convenient constant to carry around in your head for quick estimates regarding such calculations is that there are 86400 seconds in a day.

Not really. It’s like saying “The deficit is now five trillion dollars. That means if there was only one guy in this country, he’d have to kick in five trillion dollars!” Basically, the illustration just numbs the readers with its scale. If you want a better example, I suggest “The world population around 1939 was around 2.1 billion. In the few years leading up to and following around 50 million were killed in war, or about 2%. Now picture a group of fifty children on an afternoon field trip. Before it is over, one of them will be dead.”

We’ll see in about 2 years, when I post to this thread again.

Or 8640 if I do the math. :smack:

Don’t sweat it, bu1. Seconds count, even if you can’t. :smiley:

Way to minimize the horror.

I think there’s far better possible illustrations. Off the top of my head, how about:
Imagine that the entire population of the US States on the Pacific coast was killed.

Or if you’re in Europe:
Imagine that the entire population of England or Spain was killed.

Well, I’ll guess we’ll have to disagree on what makes for a good “perspective”. Speculating on entire states or nations being depopulated (or watching people file past a window for three years straight) strikes me as still being too big for someone to grasp, or more likely they’d be numbed long before it was over. After a week or so of watching the dead walk by, you’d kinda get used to it, lessening its impact. Similarly, wandering through an empty Los Angeles (or Madrid, or London) numbs you long before you’ve travelled hundreds of miles to see the full scope.

Fifty kids, though, is a graspable quantity. Than an argument breaks out, that turns into multiple brawls, lots of bloodied noses and one kid dead. That this could take place over a (relatively) accelerated time of ten minutes (as opposed to years), increases its horror.

What is the time period used for the 50 million number? What does it include? Basically we need the number of deaths per second to get a clear picture of what it would look like if they were passing your house on their way to die. There also must have been some time period where the death rate was particularly high, comparing the to the average might be interesting. It would also be useful for perspective to look at the average number of deaths per second at the time if we weren’t so busy trying to increase that number (we=humans, this isn’t political…yet).

Fifty million people died in the world. Last year. Fifity million people will die in the world this year. Fifty million people will die in the world next year.

At that rate we may have to close this world. In sixty years.

Well it depends on the individual I guess, the example you quoted doesn’t really do much for me (not a dig!) but when I first heard the illustration above it really threw me, for months after being told about it the random thought would strike me at home, “Yep, they’re still marching past” and it gave me the slightest glimpse of how massive a number of people fifty-million really is.

I grew up in an isolated area of the countryside so going for hours or days at a time without seeing another person wouldn’t really bother me, but I can see how it would disturb someone who was raised in an urban area.

Each to their own!