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Population density
#1
I've been chatting with some friends this week about population density — a very convenient shorthand for working out how many people can comfortably live in a given amount of space (such as a space colony).

Of course it varies a lot, but it looks like in general, a "small town" has a density of 1000 people per square mile or less, while a major city is much higher — Tokyo is 16,000 people per square mile, and New York is a whopping 27,000 people per square mile.

Apparently O'Neill himself looked to Italian hill towns as a model of good living — they are widely renowned as beautiful and pleasant places to live.  So I looked some up:

  • Cortona is apparently one of the most famous such towns, but Wikipedia gives its area as 132 sq mi, and density as 170/sq mi
  • Perugia, the capital of the Umbria province, has an area of 174 sq mi with a density of 970/sq mi.
  • Montepulciano: 64 sq mi area, 220 people/sq mi.
  • San Casciano: 42 sq mi area, 400 people/sq mi.
  • Sorano: 64 sq mi area, 59 people/sq mi.
What about where you live?  You can probably find your own town in Wikipedia.  What's the population density there?  And as a resident, does that feel too high, too low, or just right?

Joe Strout
Lead Developer, High Frontier

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#2
Comparing population density in big cities you should probably look at floor area, not just ground area. There's also consideration of agricultural area to supply the city.
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#3
Agriculture can be moved elsewhere (I'm imagining a higher deck, with lower gravity, where you can do that sort of thing — if anything it will probably increase yield, as the plants wouldn't need to build as much structural support).

Since I doubt we will have a lot of cars, at least in a small space colony, maybe we should look at college campuses (where car use is usually severely restricted). I'm not sure what's typical there. But let's see, my alma mater, Miami University, is (according to Wikipedia) about 8 km^2 with somewhere around 25,000 students. Many of those don't live on campus, but with hand-waving, that's... about 8000 people/mi^2, or 320 m^2 per person. It felt crowded there (plenty of people swarming about) but not obnoxiously so.

At that density, a colony with a radius of 224 m (so it spins at 2RPM) and a length of 250 m would support about 1100 people.

Joe Strout
Lead Developer, High Frontier

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