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The opening chapters of Asimov's Foundation characterize Trantor as being a dense, highly-populated city, to the point that it's almost exclusively indoors and extends a mile underground.

But in the Encyclopedia Galactica entry on Trantor, Asimov states that Trantor has a land surface area of 75,000,000 square miles and a population over 40 billion. That works out to a population density of 534 people per square mile, no more dense than a small town.

Is there anything to account for the metropolitan, honeycombed structure of Trantor even though it has such a small population density?

EDIT: This question has a comment noting the population density and Asimov's later revision to Trantor's numbers, but it also states that it doesn't fully make up for the discrepancies.

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    Most of the space is taken up by all the humongous computers you need to administer the galaxy. – user14111 Mar 27 '16 at 23:37
  • Possible duplicate of Why is Trantor, from Asimov's Foundation, all underground? – Valorum Mar 28 '16 at 0:09
  • A comment on that question does give some further details on Trantor's population density, though this stands as a separate question from the original. – exupero Mar 28 '16 at 0:34
  • I know nothing about this, but maybe he meant floor area. The other thing that occurs is the logistics challenge of provisioning such a large city. Maybe the additional space is required for transport purposes – user67228 Jun 8 '16 at 0:17
  • The whole planet is covered by the city, so they must have huge spaces full of crops, the underground seas which they use to grow algae, etc etc All that taking a lot of space I suppose – max pnj Jun 8 '16 at 12:35
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Well, this area has to hold, apart from living people:

  • working facilities (an small town will have many jobs "outside" in the fields), including all of the imperial bureaucracy.

  • other facilities like hospitals, universities, schools, army barracks.

  • industry and food processing factories (and probably nobody wants to be in the immediate neighborhood of those), storage space.

  • spaceports for getting the ships from 50 agricultural worlds, and some extra for the ships from other parts of the empire. Not only the landing strips, but also the facilities for loading/unloading goods and people and distributing them.

  • mass transit systems to connect everything to everything in a timely manner.

  • energy generators and radiators.

Additionally, the rich being the rich, you can count that in a place like Trantor they will covet empty, unused space a a symbol of luxury. Also, IIRC, there was a mountain range that was not build up (although it would have made little difference).

So, you have lots of structures that your typical small town will not include inside its calculated area, which should help lower considerably the population density.

Still, I agree that all of those are not enough to get the numbers to match; Foundation was written in 1950 where only buildings in the middle of cities where high enough to have elevators (elsewhere else it was cheaper to build lower buildings and avoid adding elevators) and these kinds of details do not age well.

  • Indeed, I didn't consider non-linear effects of so many people. Also, there may be a great deal of automation (robots) taking up space. – exupero Mar 28 '16 at 0:44
  • I always got the impression that places like the University were rather large open areas under the dome... And other areas would be more densely populated in proportion to those open spaces – HorusKol Mar 28 '16 at 0:48
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    @exupero If I remember correctly, the Empire did not have robots. – Liesmith Mar 29 '16 at 2:47
  • It does mention open spaces inside the Trantor quite frequently, like the parks around the University and the park where Seldon gets attacked on his first week visiting there as a young man. – Franchesca Apr 13 '16 at 20:03

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