The shimmering wall of windows that makes up Manhattan is breathtaking, and seems almost infinite. But Michael Pollack—the wizard behind The New York Times' "F.Y.I" series, which plumbs deep and weird questions about New York—got down to brass tacks this week, estimating exactly how many windows are on the island.
You might be asking yourself questions like who cares? and Why does this matter to me? It sounds like you've never interviewed for a job at a prestigious consulting firm before. Pollack's letter comes from a young MBA graduate prepping for a job interview at one such firm, which is storied to ask candidates questions that test their critical reasoning skills—things like "how many table tennis balls could you fit in a 747?" along with zingers like the window question.
Pollack begins with a complex answer: Estimate the number of square blocks in the city, then the number of windows on a single floor of a single block. Then, times that by the average building height in New York (he chooses 10 stories)... And so on, and so forth.
But then he realises there's a simpler way: Just look at the number of housing units and daily workers in Manhattan by assuming the average unit has ten windows and the average office gives each worker a window (psh!). All in all, his maths works out to a rough 10.7 million windows. Though, to be fair, that doesn't necessarily mean they all get daylight anymore. [New York Times]