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Numeracy refers to a quantitative understanding of natural and human phenomena. Numeracy allows one to interpret phenomena in a manner that allows for constructive, fact-supported action, as opposed to responding emotionally response via a triggered reptilian brain. Thus, it is critical for a movement entrepreneur working on the open source economy to understand basic applications of numeracy - in order to take effective action.

Key Points and Principles

  • Kardashev Scale - implications that we can improve the earth - or worsen it - via human impact using available energy - by a factor of 10,000
  • Anything is possible. A question such as "can it be done" is misframed because the first answer is yes - what it really means is how much effort, energy, and resources are required. The second question is - what are the benefits, and is it worth doing?
  • Transformational Numeracy is being able to count (do calculations) to the point of understanding tactical action points in for where and how systems change can be made.

OSE Case

For OSE, numeracy refers to being quick with numbers: understanding magnitudes, orders of magnitude, back of the envelope calculations, basic physics formulas like F=Ma, sizes (like acres and square miles), distances, weights, etc. This refers to working knowledge for quantifying things to one order of magnitude:

  • how much power does it take to drive a human?
  • How many square miles are there is the USA?
  • How many cubic meters of biochar one need to apply 1/4" of biochar per acre?.006 m * 4000 sq m = 24 cubic meters
  • How much does a cubic yard of soil weigh?
  • How many millimeters of topsoil is lost per acre if the figure is 5 tons per acre?
  • How much does one cubic meter of water weight? Of steel? Of rock? Wood?
  • Based on a 1% annual growth rate of world population, how many people are born each year?


  • about 1M calories in a kW hr.
  • a human needs 3000 Calories in a day, 2000 if inactive
  • note that 1 Calorie (human diet calories) = 1000 calories (pure energy sense calories)
  • Ie, a human needs 100w on average
  • average crop photosynthesis (conversion of energy to sugar - 1-2%. [1]. 7% for sugarcane.
  • thus, 10 square meters of crop is required per person for 100% energy! theoretical, conservative, assuming the lower photosupynthetic conversion rate.
  • Converted to sugars is theoretical. Upon eating, we get 40% of food value [2]
  • this makes it 225 square feet per person assuming vegetarian diet.
  • mowing for conversion to further feedstock (grass for fungi, worms, chickens, fish ) then we essentially multiply the area used, while allowing for operation of a small greenhouse.

Numeracy Exam

Here are some questions that any numerate person should be able to answer, or at the very least, define a process for how one would approach obtaining such an answer:

  1. What is the limit of how many people the OSE aquaponic greenhouse can feed?
  2. Is it practical to make solar concrete?
  3. What would it take for nickel iron batteries be used as the main way to store night time energy. Start by assessing if there is enough materials for this to happen.
  4. Is there enough hydrogen on earth to run a hydrogen economy? Discuss the price points of each component of a hydrogen system which would make it feasible in a distributed energy scenario.
  5. How many customers would be required to support a microchip fabrication plant?

Rapid Learning Facility

  • Important numbers - from Golden ratio to pi to e to Dunbar's number to six sigma to pythagoras to physical quantities to quantum to cosmic scale to algorithms and logic - how to learn all the important numbers fast. You have to Sharpen the Axe for the first 23 hours, then cut on the 24th.


  • Wikipedia definition - [3]
  • Metric quantities and unit conversions - [4]
  • Weight of manure - 1200-1700 lb per cubic yard, or 45-60 lb/cu ft -[5]. 62 lb wet, 55 lb dry - [6]