This week, a simple collection of facts about our planet. We are the sales force for the world's destinations. We are the means by which our citizens act on their curiosity about nations and peoples around the globe.

Here is a basic fact sheet for those who may like to refresh their knowledge just a bit:

" Our collective home, Earth, is just about 4.6 billion years old. Give or take a few years.

" Just about 71% of our home is water, and 97% of that water is saltwater.

" Seven out of 10 people on the planet have never heard a dial tone.

" Yes, Mount Everest is the world's tallest mountain at 29,000 feet. But just behind is Mount Qogir (also known as K2) in Pakistan, at 28,000 feet.

" Asia is the most populated continent by far. Almost 4 billion folks live there. Africa is the next most heavily populated continent, with 880 million residents.

" Vatican City has the fewest number of permanent residents, just about 1,000. But Mongolia and Namibia share the lowest density.

" The most people squeezed into the least space would be found in Monaco. Singapore has the second-highest density -- and wonderful chili crabs.

" It hardly ever rains in Aswan or Luxor in Egypt. They are the driest places that are inhabited by people on Earth.

" The wettest place where people live is Buenaventura in Colombia. It gets more than 267 inches of rain per year.

" The Pacific Ocean is just about double the size of the Atlantic.

" The deepest sea floor depression in the world is the Mariana Trench in the Pacific, followed by the Puerto Rico Trench in the Atlantic.

" There are now just about 6.5 billion of us. But of that number, fewer than 1% own a computer.

" The language spoken by the largest number of our planet's residents is Mandarin (more than 1 billion people). English is second at 514 million.

" The largest number of billionaires on Earth can be found in New York City. The second-largest number of billionaires can be found in Moscow.

" The most shared experience in the history of the English language is "Baywatch," a top-rated TV program in more than 80 worldwide markets.

" The Sahara is the world's largest desert. The next largest, the Arabian desert, is less than one-third its size.

" The largest lake is the Caspian Sea. The deepest is Lake Baikal in Russia. The second-deepest is Lake Tanganyika in central Africa.

" If you enjoy a dry heat, you might want to go to Daqlol in the Denakil Depression in Ethiopia. Temps there average 93 degrees. The coldest place on Earth is Plateau Station in Antarctica, where temps can get as low as minus-56.

" As the Earth orbits the sun, it is traveling at just over 66,000 mph.

" Africa has the greatest number of countries of any continent, 53.

" Measuring wealth is difficult. But if you are using gross national product in dollars, then the richest nation on Earth is Luxembourg. By the same measure, the poorest nation on our planet is Mozambique.

" The oldest country on the planet is San Marino, which dates from 301.

Contributing editor Richard Turen owns Churchill and Turen, a vacation-planning firm, and has been named to Conde Nast's list of the World's Top Travel Specialists since the list began.


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