Scientists aren't always tackling the most important issues of the day: like the rest of us, sometimes they need a distraction, like trying to work out the number of calories it would've taken JRR Tolkien's famous Fellowship of the Ring to make it across Mordor. The answer? A substantial 1,780,214.59 Kilocalories (kcal), as it turns out.
Students Skye Rosetti and Krisho Manaharan from the University of Leicester in the UK have had their calculations published in the Journal of Interdisciplinary Science Topics. Run entirely by students, the journal is designed to give university undergraduates practical experience of the process of writing, editing, publishing, and reviewing scientific papers, even if the subject matter isn't totally serious.
Rosetti and Manaharan may have been studying a fictional world rather than the real one, but a lot of careful calculations were still required: for the 92-day journey, the students split the nine members of the Fellowship up into individual species (hobbits, men, an elf, and one dwarf) and worked out the calorie intake required by each one. They also had to assess the nutritional value of the Lembas bread provided as sustenance for the travellers.
Even the oxygen levels of Middle Earth were taken into consideration to come up with the final figure, which is based on an 'ideal' journey where all of the Fellowship make it to the foot of Mount Doom (which - spoiler alert - may or may not happen in the books and the films). The pair of students calculated that 675 loaves of Lembas would be required in total for the adventurers to keep them on their feet until the end.
Through a careful study of the text, the final calculations took into account the activity patterns of the group (sleeping, walking, and eating), and of course the distance was carefully mapped too, as described (and drawn) by JRR Tolkien in the original novels. Even the stride lengths of hobbits versus humans was considered.
The student community at the University of Leicester are obviously keen Lord of the Rings fans: they've previously written papers on how much water Sam and Frodo would require for their trip (24 kg of water each, assuming refilling spots were limited) and whether or not a shirt of Mithril could really protect against a cave troll's spear (depends on whether you take the book or the film version of events). It's doubtful that Tolkien himself ever considered these issues, but you can find a neat summary of all the findings here.