This is When Humans Will Go Extinct (Probably)

We can predict the end of humanity — with math alone.

Matt J Weber 🦢
6 min readAug 21, 2019


Although we are just shy of 8 billion human souls on this planet, we are living on the brink of extinction. We are the last of our kind. Homo sapiens is the sole surviving member of its genus. The Neanderthals, Homo erectus, the Denisovans, Australopithecus — all gone. Add in all the existential threats we face today — nuclear annihilation, global warming, Youtube demonetization — is Homo sapiens doomed to go extinct as well?

Probably, yes!

And it turns out we can figure out how much longer we have on this Earth — thanks to math.

But before we shuffle off this mortal coil, let’s fight some Nazis!

During World War II, the allies had a problem. The Germans were building tanks. Now this wouldn’t be as much of an issue if they weren’t using those tanks to kill Allied soldiers and conquer much of Europe. But that’s exactly what those Nazi bastards were doing.

So the Allies had a keen interest in finding out just how many of these deadly war machines the Germans had. But to know the total population of tanks, they needed to know how many tanks Germany’s industry was capable of constructing in a given amount of time.

Unfortunately the Germans were not very forthright with their production numbers.

So the Allies had to guess.

But they had to make much more than an educated guess. They had to use math.

Fortunately for the Allies, each German tank came with a serial number. This number designated the tanks position in the production line. So the first tank built had a serial number of 1, the second, 2, and so on.

So when the Allies blew up one of these tanks, they rummaged through the debris and found the serial number. By collecting a random sample of these serial numbers, the Allies could theoretically estimate how many tanks the Nazis were building.

And it worked.