In pictures: population statistics represented by piles of rice

June 4, 2012 • United States, Daily Email Recap

I hope you will enjoy the following pictures, which show human populations represented by single grains of rice. In descending order are 1) the population of the USA, 2) the population of China, 3) a close up of the population of China, and 4) global population. Following the photos is the companion article, which reports that these piles are now on display at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, UK.


An array of local and global human statistics have been arranged in an installation at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford in piles of rice, where each grain represents one person.

Some 1033kg of rice — with one grain representing each person in the UK (62 million) — has been divided up into piles by a theatre company called Stan’s Cafe. The piece — called Of All The People In All The World — changes over time, as a team of “auditors” rearrange the rice to represent different statistics, responding to current affairs in real time. The installation — which has been touring for a few years — is tailored to the site it resides in.

In this case, some of the rice is divided up to represent Shakespearian facts and figures as part of the RSC’s World Shakespeare Festival, for example, the maximum number of people who can fit into the Swan at Stratford or the number of French and English soldiers at the Battle of Agincourt, which is depicted in Henry V. There are also topical statistics such as the number of people who watched the penalty shootout between Bayern Munich and Chelsea live on ITV and the people whose basic state pension could be paid for by Fernando Torres’ yearly income.

Other stats include the number of arrests made during the UK riots of August 2011 and the number of athletes competing in the 2012 Olympic Games. You can follow the @thericeshow Twitter account for updates relating to the rice piles being formed.

In a previous show, the company represented the entire global population using 104 tonnes of rice in Stuttgart. The rice is divided up to represent statistics such as the populations of towns and cities, the number of doctors and soldiers, the number of daily births and deaths and the number of deaths as a result of the Holocaust. Anyone can submit statistic suggestions via Stan’s Cafe’s statistics website.

Stan’s Cafe Artistic Director, James Yarker, says: “It is one thing to know that the population of England in Shakespeare’s time was a little under five million people, but to see a mound of nearly five million grains of rice is something else again, something much more powerful. We can then compare this with the similar number of people who visited Stratford-upon-Avon last year or see it dwarfed by the current population of London, and these numbers take on new meanings.”

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