Before we can say what the biggest problem in the world is, we need to establish how we measure bigness. If we don't we could find we're liable to worry about the problem biggest by avoirdupois weight when we were really interested in the biggest by linear distance or by most commonly proclaimed to be the smallest problem in the world. Let's be careful about what having our big problems accurately categorized, since that's better than solving them, because we can put on pretty stickers sorting them.
The biggest problem as measured by how difficult it makes jpeg compression is the growth of detergent resistance among clothing stains. When too little or the wrong kind of detergent is used a stain not just survives the laundry but can grow into a stronger, more detergent-resistant strain. Before long the stains can spread to the clothes only used to occupy the good hangars, penetrating plastic garment bags and leaping onto the cats, causing the cats to run full stop at a wall, provoking a stop. As memories of the Spanish Stew fade and we get thinking maybe all those people in grainy black-and-white photographs didn't know they could avoid getting those unsightly spots on their shirts simply by not eating stews, we grow more vulnerable. Individuals could make sure to use all the detergent as specified by people who would make less money if we used less detergent, and consider the inoculating ties and bibs.
As measured by time spent spilling milk our biggest problem is pondering the origins of the word ``strawberry''. There aren't straws, and trying to slurp up a soda or diet tea or decaffeinated water through one produces strange noises until the strawberry goes shooting right into the back of the mouth, producing under one case of self-induced strawberry-aided suffocation. On the self-induced berry-aided suffocations this is nowhere near our biggest problem, telephones.
By seven measures, or eight during leap years, people not getting enough sleep is our biggest problem, with ``by width'' the most interesting measure. As people attempt to catch little snatches of sleep in the odd corners of the day, such as 11:17 am and the even cornerier 3:33 pm (which most experts describe as ``more pointy than cornery'', by a count of nine to six) there's all the more people walking around with mattresses strapped to their back, tugging bolster pillows and electric blankets. This results in extension cords tangling our streets, and crowds around the doors as people try to figure how to stand at funny angles to look jauntier and fit their queen-sized beddings through the frame. Revolving doors have become almost completely impassable, and could be the biggest future problem based on these seven (eight the year after leap years) measures. Assuming the sleep deprivation backlog lets up, surely a ``spring thaw'' of people escaping revolving door mattress jams will flood the corporate lobbies and airport entrances with bedding, pajama-ridden people, and alarm clocks, bringing business to a halt except where supervised by teddy bears. The cautionary tale of Buenos Aires, 1997, should serve as guidance, but will not.
Our biggest problem as measured by impact velocity is hidden within these figures: 418, four and two-thirds puncheons to the rundlet, Figure 2(a) omitted for inclusiveness, that little smiley face someone drew above the door jamb, four and two-thirds puncheons to the rundlet (we seem to be very worried by this), 34.5 gallons per, and finally 2038. If you've found it please add five points to your raw score.
The biggest problem as measured by the count of spots and how they get pronounced would be Giraffe Winston Churchill. While the lingering presence of Giraffe Winston Churchill has been valuable in understanding World War II and its effect on acacia leaves, in his extreme old age his lingering obsession with preventing independence for Giraffe India is not just embarrassing but also annoying. If someone has ideas about new topics to get him fixed on please write Giraffe House, but it won't work. Nothing really helps, which is how you can tell it's a big problem.
Trivia: More than a thousand dogs in harness were still pulling carts in the Loiret départment, south of Paris, in 1925. Source: The Discovery Of France: A Historical Geography, Graham Robb.
Currently Reading: The New Jersey Shore, John T Cunningham. It's a late-50s lightly hagiographic set of short essays about the Shore, from the days when everything could be differentiated only in how swell it was, and before the discovery of non-whites encouraged them to get all disrespectful of the natural order of things.
PS: Something I Didn't Know About Trapezoids: I was not until recently aware that apparently ``trapezium'' is still current in British English. I had supposed that it had gone the way of the old ``billions'', since I don't remember anyone in Singapore talking about trapeziums. But I can't swear they talked about trapezoids either.