New Formula Values Earth at $5,000,000,000,000,000

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Planet Earth

Kevin Gill / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

Sure, it may be a little hot and crowded around here, but our planetary home is still easily the nicest on the block -- with a hefty a price-tag to boot. In fact, according to one astrophysicist who came up with a calculation for valuing planets, Earth is worth a bank-breaking $5 quadrillion dollars, unsurprisingly the priciest in the solar-system. Based on this special formula, however, whether or not our cosmic abode retains its value depends on how well we, the tenants, keep it.

Determining the Price

Perhaps our solar-system's first planetary appraiser, Greg Laughlin, who also serves as assistant astronomy and astrophysics professor from the University of California, Santa Cruz, developed a special formula for determining how much worlds are worth. The admittedly less-than-scientific calculation accounts for such factors as a planet's size, mass, temperature, age, etc. to arrive at a price. There is no Kelly Blue Book for this kind of thing, after all. As would be expected, Earth is the most expensive planet measured by Laughlin -- surprising, in a way, considering the shabby shape our neighbors' places are in. On one side there's Mars; ringing in at a modest $16,000. Venus fairs far worse, valued at about a penny.

Clearly Laughlin doesn't expect his formula to lead to a planet-grab, rather for him it's merely " a quantitative rule of thumb for determining the relative observational value of the extrasolar planets that are being discovered."

The Message Behind the Price

While putting a value on something as important and irreplaceable as the setting for our existence may seem like to neglect its true pricelessness, the astrophysicist tells the Daily Mail that he thinks the monetary terms actually help drive that point home. "The formula makes you realize just how precious Earth is and I hope it will help us as a society safeguard what we have"

Truth is, humanity cannot afford to replace the planet in a "your break it, you buy it" sort of situation. Picking up a $5,000,000,000,000,000 tab would require a century's worth of the global GDP -- but by then it's bound to be just a bit less inhabitable as climate conditions slip into decline due to factors related to global warming and unchecked population growth.

Lucky for us, but at the same time perhaps to our detriment, Earth is freely inherited by all of its inhabitants -- and in turn, it's our most important family heirloom. We could trash this $5 quadrillion orb like the some pricey college pad in the final days of our last semester, but there's no cleaning deposit and there's no moving out. It would be wise of us then to keep things tidy for the long haul.

After all, who really wants our great-great-great grandchildren to have to clean-up our petrified pizza crust from behind the couch?