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Member since May 2011 · 2461 posts · Location: Brisbane
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Subject: Measuring a crowd
You always hear conflicting reports about crowd sizes when there's a mass gathering, the organizers offer a large number and the detractors say fewer people actually turned up.  I always wondered why this was a problem, 'cause on the surface it seems a very tractable thing:

1. get a photo, the higher the better
2. take a sample of the density.  Basicaly, count heads for a small area of the photo.
3. extrapolate: how many similarly sized areas are there here? multiply the number of sample spaces by the count of the sample.  Presto, a rough estimate of the crowd size.

Wired's Dangerroom discusses the science and basically agrees with me, but they add one step I never considered, and come up with a maximum value for a given space.

Basically, a person comfortably takes 5 square feet of space, and can be packed into half that space if they really really need to.  I imagine Brisbane's Southbank during RiverFire, and I can see 2.5 square feet as quite a luxury.  ;)

Anyway, that's the science of it: Count, extrapolate, and crush the bastards with hard facts using Google satellite views.  I knew most of that already, did you?
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