Chances are, you've used one of the many useful calculating tools available online: How much would a monthly mortgage cost me with today's interest rates? What time is it on another continent? But there are far more exotic and weird calculators on the Internet. Here are ten of the most unusual.
1) Build Your Home With A 3-D Printer…Or Legos…. Or Rubik's Cubes
Over at Movoto Blog ("The Lighter Side of Real Estate"), I learned that building a 2,500-square-foot, two-level house would require 27,735 bricks manufactured by a 3-D printer at a total cost of $332,820. (That's actually less than the average listing price in my area, but it would take more than 220 years to print all the bricks, and who knows what the market will be like by then?)
Still, the price is a bargain compared to building the same-sized home with Legos: 12,014,750 bricks at a cost of $1,201,475. (Thus proving that, in the realm of Lego real estate, everything is not awesome.)
Alternatively, I could build my dream house out of 514, 731 Rubik's Cubes (which would take the world's fastest speedcuber more than 32 days to solve).
But, whichever option I go with, I found out that I would require 64,705,000 balloons to lift my house, as in the Pixar film Up.
That's actually helpful information in the event of an emergency. Apparently, the chances of a house that size being hit by an asteroid each year are 1 in 2,196,269,636,024.
2) How Many Alien Civilizations Exist?
BBC Future has designed a truly elegant interactive graphic that allows you to adjust the variables of the Drake Equation—a theoretical guesstimate of how many detectable civilizations might exist in our galaxy.
Even the slightest changes to the variables—such as the number of new stars born each year or the % chance that a habitable planet develops life—dramatically changes the outcome. It's an intriguing reminder of how many variables remain unknown to us—and how many were necessary to allow for the emergence and (thus far) survival of homo sapiens.
3) Death By Caffeine
Self-explanatory. Choose your favorite caffeinated beverage, type in your weight and find out how much you would have to drink in a single day to be fatal.
It would take 119.99 cups of brewed coffee to "put me down." Thank goodness for that extra 0.99 cup, or I'd be a goner.
4) Day And Night Across The Earth
The website of the U.S. Naval Observatory offers a cornucopia of online calculators and simulations. Among my favorites is this one, which creates an image of the Earth, precisely depicting areas in sunlight and darkness.
You can choose any year, month, day, hour and minute from 1700 through 2030 AD. The images are presented as either a cylindrical projection, or as a sphere seen from the vantage point of Earth's moon or the sun.
5) Footprint Calculator
This interactive graphic allows you to determine how many planets are required to sustain your lifestyle. [Insert your favorite Galactus joke here] After creating an avatar and answering a slew of questions—How often I eat, How much of my food is locally grown, How much furniture I purchase, etc.—I was informed that, if everyone lived like me, we'd need 4.9 planet Earths to provide sufficient resources. (If I choose to live without electricity, we'd need only 4.5 Earths.)
6) Solar System Collisions
There are actually quite a few sites that let you estimate the effects of an asteroid smashing into the Earth. But this calculator, created by the Astronomy Workshop at the University of Maryland, gives you the option of wreaking havoc throughout our entire solar system by sending an asteroid or comet hurtling toward your favorite (or least favorite) planet. (Yeah, I'm looking at you, Mercury.) After selecting your target, you customize your projectile (composition, diameter and velocity). Next, hit the KABOOM! button (very scientific), and you'll find out what sort of crater you've created and the amount of energy released by the impact.
7) Dinosaur Speed Calculator
Courtesy of the University of Sheffield, here's an online tool for estimating dinosaur speed and gait. Inputs include foot length, stride length and hip height.
Overall, it's a splendid resource for paleontologists and deranged survivalists who think that Jurassic Park was a documentary. (In fairness, though, the special effects were pretty damn convincing.)
8) Sex Degrees of Separation
Even someone who has had just one sexual partner will walk away from this calculator feeling like the rhesus monkey in Outbreak. By answering this simple questionnaire, Lloyds Pharmacy tells you the number of indirect (and direct) sexual partners you have had, going back six degrees of separation. "The calculator is not a diagnostic tool but does highlight how exposed you can be to sexually transmitted infections if you do not practice safe sex." If anybody could figure out a way to combine this with the Kevin Bacon game, we'd have a real winner.
9) Nuclear Weapon Effects Calculator
The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) created this simulator to raise awareness about the destructive potential of nuclear weapons. (Though, I suspect, most people use it as a cathartic device to periodically destroy Reno.)
High definition aerial maps of selected U.S. cities have been provided. The size of the bomb can be chosen by selecting the weapon's yield, as measured in kilotons (KT) or megatons (MT) of TNT equivalent. There is also the option of having the bomb delivered using an automobile at ground level or using an aircraft flying at an altitude that produces the widest area of destruction.
Color-coded circles represent the varying levels of damage surrounding ground zero (including wildfires in the region caused by the intense heat from the explosion).
If that hasn't left you sufficiently depressed, FAS has also produced a fallout calculator.
10) Drip Calculator
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, "Fix a Leak Week is celebrated in March of each year." I had not been aware of this—and I'm frankly embarrassed that I neglected to send my friends and family their annual "Fix a Leak Week" greeting cards.
The average household's leaks can account for more than 10,000 gallons of water wasted every year. And, to drive home that idea further, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) provides this handy tool to calculate how quickly a nation of dripping faucets can become a deluge.
There is no scientific definition of the volume of "a drip," but after measuring a number of kitchen and bathroom sink faucets, USGS has determined that the average drip contains 1/4 milliliters of water. So, using their calculator, if , for instance, 50 homes each have one faucet that drips at a rate of one per minute, that translates into 72,000 drips per day or 1,735 gallons per year. Grab your wrenches, America.