Earth. The blue planet. Probably the only home we’ll ever have. Unique among the other floating orbs in our solar system, our small rock (thus far) appears to be the most abundant and the most hospitable to life – especially human life. It should – given its uniqueness and sentimental value, as well as the fact that we depend on its prime location in the solar system and cozy, protective atmosphere – be priceless, right? Well, it turns out it isn’t and that even this most beloved of planets can come with a price tag. Ignoring the fact that finding a buyer for the entire planet would be tricky, how much exactly, does Earth cost?
Calculating the cost of the earth
According to Michelle Debcvak at Mental Floss, when looked at objectively, the earth and all its resources can actually be tallied up and one scientist has gone and done just that. Greg Laughlin, an assistant astronomy and astrophysics professor from the University of California, Santa Cruz, has calculated our home planet to be worth approximately $5 quadrillion. If, like me, you need to see all the zeros on that to truly understand what it means, it looks like this:
Laughlin reached this figure by calculating the planet’s mass, temperature, age, and a host of other factors correlating to the plant’s ability to harbour and sustain life.
Clearly, he had some time, because he didn’t stop there. Laughlin also calculated the value of other plants in our solar system in order to figure out just how important ours was in the grand scheme of things. “Our nearest neighbour Mars costs about the same as a used car at $16,000,” writes Debcvak. “That’s a fortune compared to Venus, which he appraised at the meagre value of one cent”.
Is the Earth the most expensive planet?
According to Laughlin, technically yes – if we’re talking about planets that exist. Alexander Barnett, a math professor at Dartmouth University, and Stephen Skolnick, editor of Physics Central, however, have found a planet that would cost far, far more: The Death Star.
“After accounting for factors including the number of people aboard (2,068,937), the approximate cost of their meals (£237,531.31), and the energy needed to power the ship, Barnett and Skolnick arrived at a final answer: more than £6 octillion,” writes Kirstin Fawcett, also for Mental Floss.
Here’s how they reached their final figure:
Why do we care how much the earth costs?
When he decided to calculate the cost of the earth, it’s unlikely that Laughlin expected a buyer to turn up and start negotiating. Rather, he wished to emphasise how valuable our planet really is – not only sentimentally, but physically.
As we battle a growing climate crisis, it’s important to remember why we do so. Not only because we happen to like our home planet, but because it is actually pretty damn expensive (even if less expensive than the Death Star). Losing it to circumstance we do have some measure of control over – or could if we tried – would be a massive shame.