a new total species on Earth is competing with numbers like pi and the speed of light emblematic. However, it represents a beginning, not an end, to understand our place in the world
Some issues are fundamental and symbolic, that pi in mathematics and the speed of light in physics. Provide a foundation on which can be a vast edifice of integrated science, which eventually leads to much of our prosperity and wellbeing. Disorder in the world, but much more tangible in biology, the figures are also important. I would take $ 7 billion today as critical. The number of people can expect to live on Earth in late October
But there is another, more fundamental, biological numbers that defied attempts to specify more than 250 years: the number of different species with whom we share the planet. Now a historic document has taken a big step forward in uncovering the true richness of life on Earth, whose estimates ranged from 3 meters to 100 million species.
The number, say scientists, is 8.7 m, and I think he deserves iconic status. Why? Human beings are new developments at the end, after stalking the planet only for fleeting moments of your most recent 4 billion years of history. The biosphere, we were able to colonize was created by the myriad interactions between creatures, rocks and weather.
we begin to control these processes - entering the Anthropocene -. We are increasingly aware of how dependent we are on our fellow human beings and habitats that live in our water, food and livelihoods
course there are caveats to the figure of 8.7 million euros is biology, not physics. The number is an extrapolation of a mathematical relationship between different levels of taxonomic classification, tested against the well-known groups of animals. It has error bars of about 1.3 m, and omits the bacteria and viruses. (You can read the article here, Mora et al.)
But the fundamental importance of the ongoing series. As one of the scientists behind him, Boris Worm of Dalhousie University, said: "If you did not know - even to an order of magnitude - the number of people in a nation, how can we plan for the future ? "