How many spheres the size of 65-centimetre exercise balls, stacked so as to maximize their density, would it take to form a square pyramid the size of Egypt’s Great Pyramid? By my calculation, roughly 14.85 million. A 65-centimetre sphere has a volume of about 144 litres. So 14.85 million 65-cm spheres have a collective volume of roughly 2.14 billion litres. That is enough to hold 4,214 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), the principal man-made greenhouse gas.
And how much is that? Well, in the 13 hours since Monday February 23 began, gas-fired power plants in Ontario have dumped 21,205 tons of CO2 into the air. That’s enough to fill more than 75 million 65-cm-size spheres, and enough to make five packed-sphere square pyramids the size of the Great Pyramid. Where in Ontario could you put five Great Pyramid-size stacks of packed 65-cm spheres?
The length of each side of the base of the Great Pyramid is 230 meters (according to Britannica). That means that the thing sits on 52,900 square meters, or 5.29 hectares. So you would need to find roughly 26 hectares of Ontario to put those five pyramids of packed spheres.
And that is to store the waste from just a bit more than half a day’s gas fired power generation. And that was from less than 15 percent of our power. The rest of our power came from zero-emitting sources, mostly nuclear and hydro.
The nuclear waste from half a century of continuous generation of the bulk of Ontario’s electricity would fill six NHL hockey rinks up to the top of the boards. An NHL rink is roughly 1,580 square meters. The height of the boards is let’s say 2 meters, so one NHL rink up the the top of the boards is roughly 3,160 m3. Six of them is 18,960 m3.
The base of one pyramid the size of Egypt’s biggest pyramid, up to a meter, has a volume of 52,900 m3.
It has been guessed that the Great Pyramids were built by slaves. No one knows for sure, since they were built thousands of years before the Toronto Maple Leafs won their most recent Stanley Cup. But I’m cynical about how heavy work was done in the days before machine power, so until somebody can prove the pyramid builders used machines, I buy the slave-labour hypothesis.
If anyone ever gets the idea to build another pyramid the size of the big one at Giza, I trust they will use machines. I hope they don’t make it using 14.85 million packed spheres filled with carbon dioxide. I hope they build it for some useful purpose, and I hope the machines making it run on zero-carbon energy.