How Realistic Is It To Ask Someone To “Cry A River”?

Weeping may not be the best way to fill a river after all. Amanda Carden/Shutterstock

Things are getting pretty emotional in the English city of Leicester at the moment, where the local soccer team has just pulled off what many are describing as the most unlikely sporting fairytale of all time by winning the Premier League – despite starting the season as 5,000-to-one outsiders. Inspired by the tears of joy being spilled all around them, a pair of students at the University of Leicester has just published a new paper investigating whether or not it really is possible to make good on the famous Justin Timberlake song and “cry a river.”

Obviously, no single person could ever weep enough to fill an entire natural waterway, no matter how emotionally fragile they may be. Therefore, the study – which appears in the Journal of Interdisciplinary Science Topics – takes into account the entire population of Earth, seeking to determine if the planet’s 7.4 billion inhabitants could cry a river in one day.

To make it a little easier on our tear ducts, the study authors selected the Roe River in Montana as their benchmark, which, at just 61 meters (200 feet) long, is the shortest in the world, with a minimum daily water flow of 709,190,040 liters (156 million gallons).

With the average tear measuring 6.3 micro liters, it is estimated that if a person was to sob solidly for an entire day, their total teary discharge would be 1,728 micro liters. After doing the math, the study authors sadly report that, even if every person on the planet cried that amount, the Roe River would still remain less than full.

However, clearly not river-half-empty people, the researchers finish their report on a somewhat cheerier note, by calculating that, if we all pull together as a species and pool our tears, the humans of planet Earth would be able to fill a… er... pool.

In fact, with an Olympic sized swimming pool holding 2.5 million liters (660,000 gallons) of water, we’d actually only have to shed 55 tears each in order to fill it, which means we’d have the rest of the day free to do other stuff.

Unfortunately, though, “cry me a swimming pool” isn’t quite as catchy as a song title.

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