## What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

What if there was a forum for discussing these?

Moderators: Moderators General, Prelates, Magistrates

squall_line
Posts: 163
Joined: Fri Mar 20, 2009 2:36 am UTC

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

keithl wrote:We could devote another cubic millimeter to the DNA for the computation system that figures out what to fill the rest of the shoebox with, along with DNA to embed the user manuals in our primitive brains.

I'm sure all of this would eventually work itself out, if for no other reason than because a Female US Size 11 shoe works out to an EU size 42. (and, yes, I know it's a male shoe, and female US 11 is really EU 41-42)

And, let's face it, if we're creating a DNA computer to create such a massive computation system and other information, it's eventually just going to spit out 42.

gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 26087
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

moody7277 wrote:I'm only certain of how to calculate the number of digits of the first third of that monstrosity in the check. It's something like 10^4500 digits, plus whatever the Knuth and that third bit add.
I dunno what the third bit adds, but the arrows add enough to make a piddly few 10^4500 digits utterly negligible. (Though 1000^1000^1000 is 1000^(10^3000)=10^(3*10^3000), which of course has 3*10^3000 digits.

20^20 has 20 digits (in base 20, naturally). So log of this number is 20.
20^^20 is a 20-story power tower. You have to apply log20 20 times to get to 1. So log* of this number is 20 (where log* is the number of times you have to apply log to get to or below 1). The number of digits in the number of digits in... in the number of digits (iterated 18 times) is 20. The number of digits in the number of digits in the first part (with 3*10^3000 digits) is 4.
20^^^20 is the above process iterated 20 times again. You have to apply log* 20 times to get to 1. We need to invent a new function, log**, to manage this. The number of digits in the number of times you'd have to iterate the poor little log function is too immense to manage otherwise.
20^^^^20, predictably, requires 20 applications of log**.
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

cantab314
Posts: 45
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2012 6:03 pm UTC

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

OK yet another idea:

Fill it with something that will preserve the shoebox indefinitely, while still leaving it usable as a shoebox.
Wait ten thousand years.
Even at a mere 1% inflation rate, the shoebox is now worth about 1043.

Appletank
Posts: 1
Joined: Fri Aug 15, 2014 2:16 am UTC

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

cantab314 wrote:OK yet another idea:

Fill it with something that will preserve the shoebox indefinitely, while still leaving it usable as a shoebox.
Wait ten thousand years.
Even at a mere 1% inflation rate, the shoebox is now worth about 1043.

One problem. Some may argue that at that point in the future, \$10^43 may not be worth all that much, once adjusted for inflation.

Mikeski
Posts: 963
Joined: Sun Jan 13, 2008 7:24 am UTC
Location: Minnesota, USA

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

cantab314 wrote:OK yet another idea:

Fill it with something that will preserve the shoebox indefinitely, while still leaving it usable as a shoebox.
Wait ten thousand years.
Even at a mere 1% inflation rate, the shoebox is now worth about 1043.

Or worth zero, if technology 10000 years from now has obviated the need for a shoebox full of whatever.

Unless it's something that's worth that much simply because it's old, in which case, just throw a ten-thousand-year-old artifact in it in the first place, and skip the waiting part.

PayasYouDraw
Posts: 91
Joined: Tue Jan 07, 2014 12:57 pm UTC

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

Foible wrote:I'm with bachaddict, I don't think Randal quite answered the question that was asked. He was focused on the value in the box and not the cost of getting it there.

If every human destroyed everything they owned (including themselves) and a tiny sample of each mess was added to the box, it would then cost everything humanity ever created along with everything we'd ever be capable of creating. The total worth of our species used to fill a shoe box.

Yet such a box would be utterly worthless. It would be a box of dust, and nobody would be left to give it any value.
Ah-ooooh! Rolling back the rivers in Time!

Neil_Boekend
Posts: 3220
Joined: Fri Mar 01, 2013 6:35 am UTC
Location: Yes.

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

KarenRei wrote:
Zowayix wrote:
KarenRei wrote:Haha, checks.
Spoiler:
I find it amusing how most Americans have no clue how backwards their banking system is that so many people have to use checks. Here you can't even *get* checks. I mean, what a stupid concept, a non-verifiable piece of paper that the user can write for an arbitrary sum? Can you say "just asking for fraud"?

Checks? Come on, join the modern world. :Þ
What country is this?
Iceland, but my understanding is that there's lots of other countries in Europe that are like this as well, not just us.

The Netherlands for example.
Haven't seen a check in ages. I never used one myself and I am 30 years old.
Mikeski wrote:A "What If" update is never late. Nor is it early. It is posted precisely when it should be.

patzer's signature wrote:
flicky1991 wrote:I'm being quoted too much!

he/him/his

The Moomin
Posts: 339
Joined: Wed Oct 13, 2010 6:59 am UTC
Location: Yorkshire

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

Neil_Boekend wrote:
KarenRei wrote:
Zowayix wrote:
KarenRei wrote:Haha, checks.
Spoiler:
I find it amusing how most Americans have no clue how backwards their banking system is that so many people have to use checks. Here you can't even *get* checks. I mean, what a stupid concept, a non-verifiable piece of paper that the user can write for an arbitrary sum? Can you say "just asking for fraud"?

Checks? Come on, join the modern world. :Þ
What country is this?
Iceland, but my understanding is that there's lots of other countries in Europe that are like this as well, not just us.

The Netherlands for example.
Haven't seen a check in ages. I never used one myself and I am 30 years old.

I liked cheques, they had a re-assuring grown up feel to them having to write them out.

All this using cards, and transferring using phones and online accounts makes the money seem unreal.
I possibly don't pay enough attention to what's going on.
I help make architect's dreams flesh.

argonaut
Posts: 10
Joined: Wed Dec 12, 2007 10:07 pm UTC

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

We need to distinguish between the cost to fill the shoebox and the resale value of the stuff inside it. For instance, I could in principle buy every available work of art by Picasso and Van Gogh, set them on fire, and put the ashes in the shoebox. It would cost me a lot more than \$2 billion to fill the box, but the value of the box would be zero. (Okay, somebody on eBay would give me a few bucks for it.)

Filling the box with iTunes purchases on SD cards is exactly the same thing.

Laura_G
Posts: 1
Joined: Fri Aug 15, 2014 1:09 pm UTC

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

Enriched isotopes are quite expensive. For my research using cosmogenic isotopes, I require a chlorine solution that has an unnatural ratio of 35Cl to 37Cl (the natural ratio is about 76% 35Cl and 24%37Cl- i.e. what you would find in table salt). Large government labs typically make this material (they don't like to tell you exactly how they make it, sometimes nuclear reactors are involved) and it is very expensive. It is possible to buy enriched 35/37Cl with 99.9% 35Cl (so ~0.1 %37Cl). It is produced as NaCl... which means that we pay a huge amount of money for salt!

Costs vary widely. Good material can cost at least \$8.70 per mg of NaCl. I figure that you can fit approximately 27,000 g of NaCl in a 12.5 L shoebox (based on a density of NaCl of 2.16 g/cm3). At \$8.70 per mg, this would cost nearly \$235 billion! This isn't even the most expensive enriched isotope... but using enriched NaCl would make for a very expensive meal of fish and chips!

Unfortunately, 27,000 g of NaCl doesn't exist because it's difficult to make and there isn't a huge demand. It would be nice to have though because it would keep my lab going for a very very long time. The material could be resold if it was packaged in a very clean shoebox, and if more people started measuring cosmogenic chlorine.

origimbo
Posts: 41
Joined: Fri Jun 21, 2013 4:16 pm UTC

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

The Moomin wrote:All this using cards, and transferring using phones and online accounts makes the money seem unreal.

If other people also agree that this is a problem, would they join me in returning to the barter system and using goats? There are few things in life realer than a goat.

rmsgrey
Posts: 3312
Joined: Wed Nov 16, 2011 6:35 pm UTC

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

origimbo wrote:
The Moomin wrote:All this using cards, and transferring using phones and online accounts makes the money seem unreal.

If other people also agree that this is a problem, would they join me in returning to the barter system and using goats? There are few things in life realer than a goat.

I'd prefer something that doesn't depreciate quite so quickly in value

JeffR23
Posts: 14
Joined: Tue Jul 30, 2013 10:16 pm UTC

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

Trickster wrote:
tagno25 wrote:I am prety sure that that check/cheque is more expensive than the number of plank lengths in the universe. That assumes that any bank would accept that check/cheque.

That's actually not as useful an estimate as it seems, given that 10^200 is trillions and trillions of times larger than the number of Planck volumes in the visible universe. That check becomes ridiculous once it hits the seventh digit.

But is it larger than the magnitude of the power set of the phase space of the observable universe? (I'd mark that as the largest possible useful number...)

teelo
Posts: 746
Joined: Thu Apr 08, 2010 11:50 pm UTC

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

Why do they call them "cheques"? Why not "yugoslavians"?

Xenomortis
Not actually a special flower.
Posts: 1412
Joined: Thu Oct 11, 2012 8:47 am UTC

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

Alas, "slav" has already lent itself to another English word.

iChef
Posts: 343
Joined: Fri Oct 15, 2010 9:33 pm UTC
Location: About 5 cm. south of the ring finger, USA.

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

Ok first off \$100/g is insane prices for cocaine. Actual street level price for good quality is closer to half that. Second if we want to talk value for illegal drugs heroin will get you over the \$100/g mark. Depending on the location good quality china white will average closer to 150/g. Heroin has a density of about 1.5g/ml. If we are still using the 13L number for our shoe box that works out to \$2.925 million per shoe box. But that is street value for the 19.5 kilos you can pack in a shoe box. In reality it isn't usually packed that densely and costs far less buying in bulk.
Those whom God loves, he must make beautiful, and a beautiful character must, in some way, suffer.
-Tailsteak author of the Webcomics 1/0 and Leftover Soup

sotanaht
Posts: 198
Joined: Sat Nov 27, 2010 2:14 am UTC

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

AJMansfield wrote:Although, if you were to fill the shoebox with plutonium, it would not in fact cause a gigantic nuclear explosion, but rather only a small one, just enough to eject the plutonium ingots out and away from each other, ready for the next person to try it.

I think your mistake was where you assumed it would be in the form of ingots. In order to maximize cost/volume, any material fill would need to be solid. If you managed to assemble a SOLID shoebox-size block of plutonium, I doubt the explosion would be small.

Myta
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 1:07 am UTC

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

Laura_G wrote:Costs vary widely. Good material can cost at least \$8.70 per mg of NaCl. I figure that you can fit approximately 27,000 g of NaCl in a 12.5 L shoebox (based on a density of NaCl of 2.16 g/cm3). At \$8.70 per mg, this would cost nearly \$235 billion! This isn't even the most expensive enriched isotope... but using enriched NaCl would make for a very expensive meal of fish and chips!

You have a few zeros too many... its only 235 million, not billion.
As far as (stable) isotopes go I already mentioned Cerium136 with a much higher price per mg (80\$/mg for only 20% enrichment) and a better density.

KarenRei
Posts: 272
Joined: Sat Jun 16, 2012 10:48 pm UTC

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

Myta wrote:
Laura_G wrote:Costs vary widely. Good material can cost at least \$8.70 per mg of NaCl. I figure that you can fit approximately 27,000 g of NaCl in a 12.5 L shoebox (based on a density of NaCl of 2.16 g/cm3). At \$8.70 per mg, this would cost nearly \$235 billion! This isn't even the most expensive enriched isotope... but using enriched NaCl would make for a very expensive meal of fish and chips!

You have a few zeros too many... its only 235 million, not billion.
As far as (stable) isotopes go I already mentioned Cerium136 with a much higher price per mg (80\$/mg for only 20% enrichment) and a better density.

Prices like these are nothing compared to good gemstones. Top-end jadeite is \$3m/carat (\$15k/mg), red diamond is \$2-2,5m/carat (\$10-12,5k/mg), serendibite a little less, blue garnet a little less still, etc. At 3,3g/ml (3,3kg/l) for jadeite and 12,5L that's 41.25 kg, at the top end price of works out to \$618B.

The problem once you start getting into these huge figures is that you quickly exhaust the demand for whatever you're talking about. Top end jadeide or red diamonds or whatever would become far cheaper if a whole shoebox of them was dumped on the market all at once. So you have to mix it up to have the most valuable sorts of items from each field in the shoebox. You want to have at least something in your shoebox that's highly desireable for every billionaire, every government, and every multi-billion-dollar company, so that everyone opens up their wallets and buys them.

(In terms of governments, and probably corporations too, top secret information/plans from their enemies/competitors on SD cards will probably get you some crazy high dollar figures for your gram... assuming it doesn't get you assassinated or thrown in jail)

Mirkwood
Posts: 70
Joined: Mon Dec 06, 2010 9:10 am UTC

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

CraXy wrote:Wouldn't an SD card filled with RSA keys for all current bitcoins be like 7 billion dollars (and not even fill up the sd card)? and then you could put something else on top of it? I feel like there was a lot of opportunity to mix and match things that are small, and extremely valuable.

I like that idea! Buying all existing cryptocurrency would cost about 9 billion dollars. Of course the price would rise as it was bought, increasing the cost.
I wonder what zero-day exploits are worth by data size.

Purchasing cryptocurrency wouldn't work--they have no inherent value, and if you own literally all of them they have no exchange value. Why would anyone buy a bitcoin from you if they know the market is entirely dependent on how much you're going to be selling? Cryptocurrencies need to be buoyed by enthusiasm to start up, and you having bought them all up would probably dampen people's expectations of how good of a system it could be.

carrion pigeons
Posts: 2
Joined: Sat Aug 16, 2014 10:29 pm UTC

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

Turn the box inside out.

hrun0815
Posts: 1
Joined: Sun Aug 17, 2014 1:00 am UTC

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

Well, if we stick with material stuff and exclude digital currency (e.g. arbitrarily large prepaid debit cards), there is still some stuff that blows the \$2 billion out of the water.

Some chemicals, especially if they have to be purified from biological sources are extremely expensive. Cholera toxin, for example, costs about \$200/mg. The specific density of an 80kD protein is about 1.4g/cm^3, so if we assume the box contains 15l we should be able to cram about 21000g of that stuff in. That would cost about \$4.2 billion.

Cholera toxin is certainly not the most expensive substance by weight. Aflatoxins are more expensive and as far as Sigma is concerned Aflatoxin M1 (a metabolite of the much cheaper aflatoxin B1) is the most expensive of the lot at ~\$2100/250ug or \$8400/mg (A6428-250UG). Now, the specific density of Aflatoxins is hard to come by, so I will employ a bit of guesswork here. There are only very few solids that have a specific density lower than water and virtually all of those contain a lot of air (aerogels, styrofoam, cork, wood). So I think it is safe to assume that Aflatoxin M1, which should be a solid white powder should have a specific density higher than at least cork (0.24g/cm^3). If this were true we'd be able to pack in 3600g, which would still cost a whopping \$30 billion. However, my experience with such organic drugs is that they most commonly are denser than DMSO (1.1g/cm^3). So if we assume 1.2g/cm^3 (which is probably a better guess) we are now at \$150 billion.

That's not only a very expensive, but also a very deadly shoe box!

origimbo
Posts: 41
Joined: Fri Jun 21, 2013 4:16 pm UTC

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

Post gold standard does any currency have inherent value? I'd understood anything likely to be transferable was fiat these days.

KarenRei
Posts: 272
Joined: Sat Jun 16, 2012 10:48 pm UTC

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

It occurs to me... we have to define the terms for this.

Who is filling this shoebox? Is it one person? Many people? Everyone on Earth working together? I could only fill the shoebox with maybe a few tens of thousands of dollars worth of stuff, but Bill Gates could do a far better job. And how do you define an entity? Is the US government one entity? If the US government declared martial law and tried to suspend the constitution in order to maximize what of value it can put in the box, would, say, the courts or military not stop it - are we assuming everyone goes along with it? Can the box only be filled with things that we physically have / can get right away now, can we fill it with things that we don't know exactly what/where they are but could find with reasonable reasonable expenditure, or can we assume that our box-filler is omniscient and all powerful?

The terms greatly affect the outcome.

The most value you can put in the box is "all of the wealth on Earth today and that sufficient to indebt the Earth up until mankind goes extinct". It's hard to envision things that go to that extent, but one can envision trying to approach it. If everyone worked hard together to set up bombs on everything of value on the planet and implanted in everyone's bodies, and made sure that the only code to stop them was in the box and nobody outside knew the code, that would surely be a good approximation, at least of all current wealth, if not all future wealth. For a more cheerful box contents version, we could include (if the box was filled under the omniscient-entity scenario) the locations of all major undiscovered exploitable mineral resources on earth and in the near universe, as well as and detailed plans for the construction of all desirable future technology that people have been speculating about and desiring for ages (eternal life, cures to all diseases, extreme energy storage, supermaterials, flying cars, whatever).

The most important thing is, no matter what you want to put in the box, it can't simply represent a single field of interest, because you'll just devalue everything in that field when you flood the market. You need to make *everyone* have a huge stake in the box. Ideally one that they'd give up everything they have and sign away the futures of their descendents in order to get

SuperSteve
Posts: 28
Joined: Sun Mar 09, 2014 10:20 pm UTC

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

In discussion on this website of What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit", user Locathah wrote: "I'm almost certain that by weight, the most valuable thing that's ever been sold on the open market is a human egg cell" and claimed a price of \$10,000.

Estimates for the size of an egg cell include 0.15 to 0.2 mm http://dynamisch.nu/feno/english/e8embryo3.html and "approximately 0.12 mm in diameter" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egg_cell.

Depending on which figure we use and how we pack them, we get a few hundred to over 600 egg cells per cubic meter. That's a few hundred thousand to over 600,000 per cc or a few hundred million to over 600 million per liter.

Multiplying by \$10,000 each, the value of the shoebox is at least a few trillion.

And human egg cells are something that do exist, and there are enough of them in the world.

gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 26087
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

origimbo wrote:Post gold standard does any currency have inherent value? I'd understood anything likely to be transferable was fiat these days.

True, but a few billion dollars of US currency retains its fiat value because it's such a small fraction of all the US dollars in existence.
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

KarenRei
Posts: 272
Joined: Sat Jun 16, 2012 10:48 pm UTC

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

SuperSteve wrote:In discussion on this website of What-If 0096: "\$2 Undecillion Lawsuit", user Locathah wrote: "I'm almost certain that by weight, the most valuable thing that's ever been sold on the open market is a human egg cell" and claimed a price of \$10,000.

Estimates for the size of an egg cell include 0.15 to 0.2 mm http://dynamisch.nu/feno/english/e8embryo3.html and "approximately 0.12 mm in diameter" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egg_cell.

Depending on which figure we use and how we pack them, we get a few hundred to over 600 egg cells per cubic meter. That's a few hundred thousand to over 600,000 per cc or a few hundred million to over 600 million per liter.

Multiplying by \$10,000 each, the value of the shoebox is at least a few trillion.

And human egg cells are something that do exist, and there are enough of them in the world.

1. That price sounds too high. Isn't \$10k the amount that a woman gets paid for a whole round of donation?
2. Who's your buyer whose willing to pay a few trillion dollars for 13 billion human eggs? The value of anything is only what someone else is willing to pay.

Caffeine
Posts: 24
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 6:06 am UTC

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

ZeusTKP wrote:This: https://arkencounter.com/

I find it strangely pleasing that the number of family passes left (at the time I took the screenshot) is 666

LAV25
Posts: 1
Joined: Mon Aug 18, 2014 11:07 am UTC

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

I'm curious how he got 10-15 liters for a men's size 11 shoe box. Most of the numbers I could find ran around 30cmx20cmx9cm (or thereabouts), around 5.4 liters. 15 liters is nearly 4 gallons US, or the size of the office water cooler jug....

mathmannix
Posts: 1408
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2012 2:12 pm UTC
Location: Washington, DC

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

teelo wrote:Why do they call them "cheques"? Why not "yugoslavians"?

I hear velociraptor tastes like chicken.

kiochi
Posts: 5
Joined: Wed Sep 25, 2013 10:24 pm UTC

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

Did no one else see the statement "A men's size 11 shoebox is about 10-15 liters" and immediately want to smack a [citation needed] sticker on their screen?

My shoes are bigger than 11 and I've never seen anything close to a 15 liter shoe box. Maybe we are supposed to picture cowboy boots or large rubber waders?

An average shoe-box is about 5 liters, which, if we're using the Fermi estimation that Randall is so fond of, then that's about 2 liters, whereas 10-15 is off by an order of magnitude.

[edit: not sure what I was smoking when I wrote the above, but I remember thinking of powers of 2 (hence the 2) in which case what I wrote is still wrong since then the rounding would be 5 --> 4 and 10-15 --> 8-16]

The upshot is that a shoebox of gold would only weigh as much as a human. Still a heavy box, but you put it on wheels and move it around just fine.
Last edited by kiochi on Tue Aug 19, 2014 12:44 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

mathmannix
Posts: 1408
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2012 2:12 pm UTC
Location: Washington, DC

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

kiochi wrote:Did no one else see the statement "A men's size 11 shoebox is about 10-15 liters" and immediately want to smack a [citation needed] sticker on their screen?

My shoes are bigger than 11 and I've never seen anything close to a 15 liter shoe box. Maybe we are supposed to picture cowboy boots or large rubber waders?

An average shoe-box is about 5 liters, which, if we're using the Fermi estimation that Randall is so fond of, then that's about 2 liters, whereas 10-15 is off by an order of magnitude.

The upshot is that a shoebox of gold would only weigh as much as a human. Still a heavy box, but you put it on wheels and move it around just fine.

Hmm. I get an answer between yours and Randall's.

Shoeboxes obviously differ in dimensions by brand, but the United States Postal Service standard shoe boxes are 7.5" x 5.125" x 14.375", which Google calculator tells me is 9.05449298 liters. Let's say 9 liters. I don't have an actual shoe box handy to measure, but this seems like a reasonably-sized shoebox to me.
I hear velociraptor tastes like chicken.

gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 26087
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

kiochi wrote:An average shoe-box is about 5 liters, which, if we're using the Fermi estimation that Randall is so fond of, then that's about 2 liters, whereas 10-15 is off by an order of magnitude.
Why does no one ever actually understand how orders of magnitude work? By powers of 10, anything over 3.16... is closer to 10 than to 1, so 5 is about 10 while 2 is about 1. If you're using base-2 (which is the only reason I can think of to say something is closer to 2), then obviously 5 is approximately equal to 4, while 10 is approximately 8. So in that case it is an order of magnitude, but I still don't get where "5 is about 2" comes from. You'd need to use a base greater than 25 for order-of-magnitude approximation to allow that rounding.
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

Xenomortis
Not actually a special flower.
Posts: 1412
Joined: Thu Oct 11, 2012 8:47 am UTC

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

kiochi wrote:An average shoe-box is about 5 liters,

My intuition tells me that I can pour about two gallons of stuff into a shoebox (since I can imagine pouring two of those near-gallon bottles of milk into one).
A gallon is about 4.5 litres.
Certainly, a shoebox is quite a bit more than a gallon - I'd expect to easily more than three large bottles of coke into one (2L each).

Then again, humans are pretty bad at estimating volumes in my experience.

operagost
Posts: 102
Joined: Tue Dec 21, 2010 6:23 pm UTC

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

Mikeski wrote:
Trickster wrote:
tagno25 wrote:
And since a bounced check is worth nothing and I doubt anyone's bank account contains (1000^1000^1000*etc) in any currency, I think you have to step back to the trillion-dollar commemorative coin. Or (1000^1000^1000*etc)-dollar commemorative coin, if you like that number better.

Because the US government is definitely good for that money...

operagost
Posts: 102
Joined: Tue Dec 21, 2010 6:23 pm UTC

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

KarenRei wrote:Haha, checks. I find it amusing how most Americans have no clue how backwards their banking system is that so many people have to use checks. Here you can't even *get* checks. I mean, what a stupid concept, a non-verifiable piece of paper that the user can write for an arbitrary sum? Can you say "just asking for fraud"?

Can you say Argumentum ad ingnorantiam? Checks use MICR ink, and fraud (using legitimate checks) can be verified post facto through signature analysis, although the case doesn't often get that far.

So, enlightened Eurotrash, does every landlord, independent tradesman, and, frankly, every private citizen have some sort of EFT account and carry card-swipers with them? No? So you have to use cash, eh? Now that's really non-verifiable, and subject to theft with little chance of recovery. Check fraud exists, but electronic fraud is far more common today. Would that mean checks are better?

I don't like to use checks either-- in fact, I use very few now. Why? Because we have all the same bill-paying technologies you're talking about here in the USA. But some (mostly older) people still use checks, and basically don't give a crap if some haughty Icelander thinks it's quaint.
Last edited by operagost on Mon Aug 18, 2014 5:59 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

operagost
Posts: 102
Joined: Tue Dec 21, 2010 6:23 pm UTC

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

cellocgw wrote:
mathmannix wrote: You can't "hack" a check, but who knows what can happen when the computers and satellites know your information?

Sadly, checks are rather easily hacked. Granted, for a significant fee, you can have your bank refuse a check (at least under some circumstances), but more than once a crook printed his own checks w/ someone else's account number in the mag-ink codes along the bottom. I recall one case where a fella printed "vanilla" deposit slips with his account number on them and stuffed them in a bank's lobby. Everyone who used one of these slips to deposit ended up crediting the crook's account.

That's pretty stupid, considering you have to write your own account number on there. How do you not notice someone already filled it in?

KarenRei
Posts: 272
Joined: Sat Jun 16, 2012 10:48 pm UTC

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

operagost wrote:
KarenRei wrote:Haha, checks. I find it amusing how most Americans have no clue how backwards their banking system is that so many people have to use checks. Here you can't even *get* checks. I mean, what a stupid concept, a non-verifiable piece of paper that the user can write for an arbitrary sum? Can you say "just asking for fraud"?

Can you say Argumentum ad ingnorantiam?

Can you say, "I lived in America for three decades"? Oh, wait, your entire argument was premised on me not knowing anything about America, sorry about that!

Checks use MICR ink, and fraud (using legitimate checks) can be verified post facto through signature analysis, although the case doesn't often get that far.

Right, which is why check fraud isn't estimated at \$20B a year in the US. Oh wait it IS estimated at \$20B a year in the US. Not counting checks helping enable other types of crime, like return fraud.

So, enlightened Eurotrash, does every landlord, independent tradesman, and, frankly, every private citizen have some sort of EFT account and carry card-swipers with them?

Practically every business, actually (those little portable card readers are everywhere), even remote places, but that's a side topic. (I was going to insert a region-based slur here in a tit-for-tat for yours, but after thinking about it, I decided that "American" is enough of one )

No? So you have to use cash, eh?

Like I just told you, we use instant bank transfers. Were you even reading, or were you so eager to write uninformed insults that you didn't even take the time? You can bill me to my bank which then shows up in my unpaid bills section (which I can then pay just by clicking on it and punching in my code), or I can just send you money directly. All you need is a computer or smartphone. Cash is less used here than in the US. Heck, I just sent someone about \$70 today - a friend was going to the doctor but didn't have enough money for the time-of-service copay, so he messaged me on Facebook and I sent him the money.

Because we have all the same bill-paying technologies you're talking about here in the USA.

As I mentioned, I lived in the US for three decades, and no, you don't have anything even close. You do *not* have a system where anyone can freely send anyone else in the country any amount of money instantly, automatically, digitally with a full certified transaction record, without the need for any special hardware any more significant than a computer or smartphone, plus having integrated into it a single system for all billing and bill-paying of all types for all purposes along with digital documents for all of the above in the same system. It simply doesn't exist in the US. Which is why you're stuck dealing with fraud-prone and horribly inconvenient checks.

Get over yourself and accept that other people can do things better than you.

gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 26087
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

I'm not saying checks aren't a fairly stupid and insecure way to pay for things, but you're not really helping your case against ignorance, KarenRei, with some of these claims.

KarenRei wrote:Right, which is why check fraud isn't estimated at \$20B a year in the US. Oh wait it IS estimated at \$20B a year in the US.
[citation needed]

Based on what I could find, you're off by more than an order of magnitude.
The American Bankers Association's 2013 Deposit Account Fraud Survey wrote:Fraud against bank deposit accounts cost the industry \$1.744 billion in losses in 2012, according to ABA estimates. Debit card fraud accounted for more than half of 2012 losses (54 percent), followed by check fraud (37 percent). Online banking and electronic transactions such as wire and ACH accounted for the remaining 9 percent of losses.
That works out to about \$650M. For a country with a population 1000 times higher than Iceland's.

Are you really certain your own country has significantly less than \$650,000 annual losses from check fraud?

So, enlightened Eurotrash, does every landlord, independent tradesman, and, frankly, every private citizen have some sort of EFT account and carry card-swipers with them?

No? So you have to use cash, eh?
Like I just told you, we use instant bank transfers.
Okay, but again you're not actually addressing the question. The question was about the ubiquity of the technology required to do so.

If I want to send you \$70 by instant bank transfer, what equipment do we both need? Because for a check all I need are the physical check, a pen, and a stamped envelope. If I'm standing next to you, I don't even need the stamped envelope.

without the need for any special hardware any more significant than a computer or smartphone
Ah, so you need a computer or smartphone to do this.

Newsflash: not everyone has the money or inclination for one of those.

Other newsflash: people in the US who do have one of those have peer-to-peer money transfer options. It may not be a single integrated system, but it's doable nonetheless.

I suspect your intimate firsthand knowledge of America is at least as out of date as the end of those three decades you lived here.
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

Mutex
Posts: 1240
Joined: Wed Jan 09, 2008 10:32 pm UTC

### Re: What-If 0108: "Expensive Shoebox"

gmalivuk wrote:
without the need for any special hardware any more significant than a computer or smartphone
Ah, so you need a computer or smartphone to do this.

Newsflash: not everyone has the money or inclination for one of those.

Those are edge cases though. It is strange that bank transfers aren't more common in the US, when just about everyone in the UK at least uses them, including old people (my parents are 70). Even my girlfriend (in NY state) sends her landlord a che(ck|que) every month and she works in IT...

I mean, you might as well say "You need a PEN to write a cheque? Newsflash: not everyone has the money for one of those or the ability to read and write."
Last edited by Mutex on Tue Aug 19, 2014 10:36 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.