No, giant humans aren’t a thing, despite what a popular conspiracy theory might tell you – and it’s all because of the square-cube law.
It seems every time you look away from the Internet for more than a few minutes, there are about five new conspiracy theories to catch up on by the time you come back.
Go for a jog, look at the computer, and suddenly the Internet believes that Hillary Clinton and Tom Hanks flay children alive in order to harvest their blood (no, really, this is an actual conspiracy theory). But even given the strangeness and speed of conspiracy theories these days you might be shocked to learn that the Vatican – in conjunction with the Smithsonian, no less – is suppressing the truth about the existence of gigantic human skeletons, confirming the existence of giants and somewhat messing up our evolutionary tree.
There’s even “evidence”, in the form of the worst Photoshop jobs you are ever likely to see.
Really, just the worst.
The post, unfortunately, is not isolated. There is a whole genre of posts where people claim that a giant skeleton has been found, as evidenced by a picture of a tiny person photoshopped in or next to a massive pile of bones.
Posts dating back several years are often accompanied by claims that an excavation in India has uncovered a giant 24-meter (80-foot) skeleton.
The believers have further “evidence” to back them up.
While a depressing amount of people have accepted the “proof”, others have obviously mocked the conspiracy theory in its latest incarnation.
The skeleton photos are not only ridiculous, but a quick reverse Google search will also tell you that many of them were created in 2002 for – wait for it – a competition that asked contestants to create a fake archaeological discovery using Photoshop. Seriously, have a look. They may seem kind of obvious fakes now, but they’d have made you soil yourself in 2002.
Nevertheless, let’s entertain this (albeit briefly). Giant 24-meter (80-foot) tall humans are not possible. We did warn you the entertaining would be brief.
It’s all because of the square-cube law, which states that as the size of any object grows (be it a cube or an accountant) its volume grows faster than its surface area. The area grows in proportion to the square of your size, whereas your volume scales up in proportion to the cube of your size.
So as you scale up humans, our volume dramatically increases in proportion to our size, while the cross-section of our muscles and bones are squared. Say you are 18 meters (60 feet) tall – 10 times the height of a 1.8-meter (6-foot) tall person – your body would have to support 100 times the volume.
A cubic inch of bone can support 8,600 kilograms (19,000 pounds), which is a lot, but at 180 meters (60 feet) tall it would need to support well over 250,047 kilograms (551,259 pounds) (assuming we’re scaling up a 63 kilogram or 10 stone person, the average weight for a human).
Essentially, if you got big enough to make the Vatican want to cover up your bones, your bones would have crumbled into dust because of your own weight long before that point.
Earlier versions of this article were published in July 2020.