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Answer by smiley314Oct 11, 202030

Hi everyone! Very, very, very low confidence – these are my two very first Fermi estimates ever; so Feedback will be very much appreciated.


Let‘s assume that every train station has ten rail tracks and that every rail track at a train station is ten miles long. That makes 100 miles for every train station. How many train stations are there in the world – 10^6 (1.000.000)? Seems a bit low, let‘s go with 10^9. So that‘s 10^2 * 10^9 = 10^11 miles only for train stations.

So how long are train rails that actually connect train stations combined? Uh… Let‘s assume that there will always be two train tracks for every connection (as for both directions, one track per each direction). Let‘s assume average length 100 miles for one direction. How many connections are there? Let‘s say 10^9 (I thought, it might make sense to have around as much connections as stations), so that makes 10^9 * 10^2 * 2 = 210^11 miles. Together with our previous result that gets us
10^11 + 10^11 = 3*10^11 = 300.000.000.000 miles. That seems a bit large, but hey… First try ever.


I have absolutely no idea, and so randomly guess 10.000 metric tons in 2009 and a 10% increase if we compare 2019 with 2009. That makes 10.000+1.000=11.000 metric tons for 2019. Taking the average gives us (11.000 – 10.000)/2 = 1.000/2 = 500 metric tons as final result; at least if I interpret the task assignment correctly.

Best regards, smiley314

Answer by smiley314Oct 05, 202070

Hi everyone! First of all, thanks for the training opportunity! I did eventually come up with 50 ideas, but I took longer than an hour. I expect almost all of them to be very very very unpractical (but that's apparently not an issue); some of them are more or less deliberately absurd (in the vein of "technically, it's not excluded by the rules..."). I do want to ask around: I personally would be in favor of a "culture of practice" here. What do you think?

  1. Are you actually on board with "building a culture of practice"?
  2. If at all, how often should there be such practices? Daily? Weekly? Biweekly? Monthly?
  3. What, if existing, would you prefer to practice? I kept wondering how such a "culture of practice" could look like, and I came up with practicing (1) Fermi estimates and (2) bets. Perhaps something akin to (3) creating quizzes might also be interesting. Also I remember (4) induction games in the style of "2-4-6". More work, but possibly fun, might be (5) tasks akin to the "shut up and do the impossible" Eliezer Yudkowsky pulled at the publication of HPMOR. I hadn't the honor of seeing that one live, so I don't actually know if it was fun for everyone, but it did seem like it got massive responses... (my list of ideas is not exhaustive)
  4. I also remember that there were threads for study partners. The Hammertime sequence might also be relevant. I'm not sure if I'm under the impression that those articles are very frequented, but I also didn't look yet for that specific information (I will hopefully until tomorrow). I did start with Bug Hunt some time ago, though. If(f?) these threads turn out to be not very frequented, that may or may not be a problem for building a culture of practice, but then it might be reasonable to figure out reasons for why they lack visitors/participants.     My ideas were:
1. Fly by rocket
2. Build a giant space elevator
3. Build a giant staircase
4. get pulled up in a spacesuit by thousands of electric pseudo-birds
5. genetically engineer yourself and others to be able to breathe in universe and build a tower of people who lift each other up
6. take a really gigantic piece of wood that is capable of carrying the entire earth, pull away another planet from its orbit (maybe Jupiter?) as fulcrum and somehow manage to exert a lot of force on the effort arm in order to push earth itself up to the moon.
7. Manipulate the moon‘s orbit to collide it with earth (safely). Send whom- or whatever to the new land resulting from the moon. Problem solved.
8. Build teleporters and install both one at earth and one on the moon.
9. Humans have sent someone (and something) to the moon before. Build a time machine, travel back in time and send whom- or whatever it is you want to send to the moon with those.
10. Build a large enough cannon that can shoot a bullet to the moon.
11. Find large enough planets and a large enough stick to play space billiard with earth and/or moon.
12. Somehow build engines that can turn something to photons and back. Keep one of those engines at earth, get one to the moon. Sending photons to a very specific point at the moon is probably not a big problem. In doubt, try imitating the sun, it can do it.
13. Create a benevolent and allmighty AI and convince it to do it for you
14. Build a network of satellites able to transmit a specific information protocol built for that purpose, send them information to transmit to the moon, where stands a 3D-Printer capable of receiving and processing commands from those satellites. Sending information to satellites isn‘t a problem, we do it already all day for GPS navigation.
15. Build lots and lots and lots of intermediate stations in and out of the atmosphere and in space. Build with them a network of transportation, perhaps even with the moon as just one of multiple destinations. The transportation system knows automatically if to keep the packet or pass it on (and to where), thanks to a special number on each packet (perhaps similar to how computer networks send information in and out of their respective networks)
16. Build a highway to the moon
17. Build a giant robust thread or yarn for people on the moon to pull stuff up from earth and put stuff there to be pulled up
18. Genetically engineer or modify some animal species both capable of flying and surviving both in and out of the atmosphere, teach them to fly to the moon and back and use them as transport animals.
19. Create specific packages capable of being lifted up by light and robust enough for the purpose; and use those as transportation method. Perhaps a orientation method is necessary. Perhaps use satellites to cartograph the known universe into coordinates and to transmit signals to those packages where they are and where their destination is
20. Build a giant pile of plush sheep high enough to reach the moon, take a spacesuit and climb the pile.
21. Take disco disks, modify them to make them robuster and to have a motor (and perhaps a navigation system) and use those as transportation method
22. Invent brain up- and downloading, build loads of robots (or other vessels) on the moon, load up your brain on a server for moontransport and let yourself be downloaded on the moon
23. Build robust robots that are also capable of flying and navigating through space and let them transport stuff to the moon.
24. Discover magic that is capable of sending any object or person to any location with the right words and use that. (Also possible with instead of „sending …“ „sending a copy of...“)
25. Discover magic that is capable of creating portals between any two places. Create one on earth and one on the moon.
26. Convince arriving aliens, perhaps through trading with them, to do the transporting for you. They might have the tech. (Note: you might also threaten or blackmail the aliens into doing that)
27. Discover magic that makes water flow uphill instead of downhill and use it to create a regular waterrise from earth to the moon.
28. Create windstreams even in space and create a tunnel system of windstreams from earth to the moon and possibly to other destinations in space and use that as transportation.
29. Discover angels who will do the transportation for you

-- -- Aaaaaaaand then the 1 hour timer was up (I‘m saying that for the sake of fairness). With another one I eventually came up with the following:

  1. Hire a really good disco thrower to throw the object on the moon
  2. Jump really high
  3. Swing yourself up with a really good liana.
  4. Engineer sequoia-trees that grow sufficiently high and put your object on top of it once it has sufficiently grown but not yet fully.
  5. Engineer a really big grappler either on earth or on the moon.
  6. Build a stuff-on-the-moon-maximizer
  7. Organize a contest who can come up with the best solution to get your stuff on the moon
  8. Convince people with rockets right now to fly you or your stuff to the moon. If that fails, hack them to get control over the rockets
  9. Use a sufficiently good slingshot
  10. Put your stuff on a chair. Then stack this chair on top of another chair. Somehow come up with a method to continue building that stack of chairs up to the moon.
  11. Get people on the moon and get them to build a giant fishing-rod. Put your object on the hook to that fishing-rod
  12. Create a package format that's very flexible outward in the sense that it easily bounces off of anything and then build intermediate stations between earth and moon to bounce off of, so that the packages reach the moon
  13. Create some material so flexible, that something that falls on it bounces off of it and gets higher than the height it fell from (similar to a trampoline) – drop your stuff from very high onto that material
  14. Discover magic that lets you summon any specific object from anywhere (similar to „accio“) and get a person on the moon to summon your object
  15. Discover that the universe is actually a matrix, hack it to modify the source-code of reality to specifying that your object is not at its current location but on the moon.
  16. Somehow convince the people on the moon that they want your object very badly and let them get it themselves
  17. Create flying bicycles that work in space, take a spacesuit, and bring yourself or your stuff to the moon.
  18. Create flying cars that work in space, take a spacesuit, and bring yourself or your stuff to the moon
  19. Smuggle your object into a robot tasked with exploring the moon
  20. Set „object“ to „baseball“ and try striking it on the moon with a basketball bat.
  21. Build a rocket-propelled spacesuit, perhaps with some control-system, and use that to send yourself to the moon

Best regards!

[Edit: tried to improve formatting a bit] [Edit 2: tried to improve formatting some more]

Hi everyone! :)

So I'm actually introducing myself now!

I'm a long-time lurker, 21 years old, living in Germany, and I'm currently in… the equivalent of high school (my education path is pretty serpentine – long story). I will hopefully be graduating next spring/summer and then presumably study mathematics.

I actually don‘t know how I first ended up here – I vaguely remember stumbling across a few articles and then succumbing to link-hopping (resulting in a few dozen open tabs). It seems to be ages since I know about LessWrong. Also, last December I attended a meetup.

Currently, I am working myself through the Sequences; although I will probably revisit at least some of the parts later. Especially those with probability theory.

It‘s not like I don‘t have at least basic knowledge about statistics and probabilities – I have math as AP for Gauß‘s sake! – it‘s just (at least for now) not my particular cup of tea (I tend to like abstract stuff more – algebra, number theory, set theory, I've dipped my toes in category theory – probability and statistics seems like so much calculating) and I think, I should go over this with more time and intent to practice; instead of (just?) trying to get a complete overview.

I‘m not (yet?) used to explicitly calculate how certain I should be about whatever. -- I'm planning on starting a journal for that particular purpose, and also doing a deep dive... some time... but I don't know when I'll actually get to that, especially considering my already way-to-long to-do-list. Also, perhaps I should learn estimating probabilities (and betting) properly first, I don't know?

My interests tend to be quite broad, but very much aligned with this site and its orbit - this might actually partially be a chicken-and-egg-problem; this site might actually have influenced me quite a bit.

I originally planned to finish the sequences first before I write anything at all here; but that might take a lot of time and I'm starting to think that that might be a bad idea...

On the other hand, I don't know exactly what I could contribute just yet, except for maybe one other comment. But I think, that will be alright in time - one comment at a time.

...I don't quite know what to write, but feel free to ask me what you would like to know!

Best regards,