An open letter to the International Bureau of Weights and Measures

Dear Bureau International des Poids et Measures,

First and foremost, we the undersigned and commented, would like to thank you for a job well done. The kilogram? Wow. What an idea. And the tidy way a degree, milliliter, cubic centimeter and gram all relate so that, without needing to consult a calculator or slide rule, one can deduce that a cubic meter weighs a metric tonne, and would require exactly one million calories (i.e., 1,000 Kcal, or approximately one pint of Ben & Jerry’s) to raise its temperature one degree? Bloody brilliant.

Gladhanding out of the way, we would like to propose uniting systems for a number of standards which either add to or update those currently employed internationally, or which address measuring needs not currently met. Sure, many of these don’t have that nice Russian doll compartmentability of your fancy schmancy metric system, but you’ve got to admit there’s an understated elegance to the traditional English system. Can you take a meter and divide it tidily into halves, thirds, and quarters using only whole numbers? No, I thought not. So tell those whiny metrics people to shut the hell up about how difficult it is to convert teaspoons to gallons.

Please note that this is an open list, and may be amended over time (see comments which follow). We appreciate your consideration.


Eric S. and the following commentors.

Planetary volume, in diameter at equator

  • 1 Texas (TX) = 942 km
  • 1 Earth (E) =  13.54 TX = 12,756.2 km
  • 1 Jupiter (JO) = 11.209 E = 142,984 km

Velocity, in exits per hour, Jersey Turnpike standard

  • 1 Exit = 6.8 miles @ 82 mph = 12.05 eph

Vehicle size, in gross tonnage

  • 1 Cooper (mc) = 650 Kg
  • 1 Monte Carlo (MC) = 2.26 mc = 1469 Kg
  • 1 Hummer (Hmm) = 1.98 MC = 2903 Kg
  • 1 Winnebago (RV) = 2.5 Hmm = 7272 Kg

Ferocity, in cows devoured/hour

  • 1 piranha (Pi) = .005 cow/hour
  • 1 wolverine (Wo) = 4 Pi = .02 cow/hour
  • 1 tyrannosaurus (Tr) = 150 Wo = 3 cow/hour

Elapsed time, in parsecs
Note: sorry, you’ll have to consult Captain Solo for the specifics on how this works out.

Button mashing (BM) as a measure of game complexity, expressed in (buttons pushed per second)(number of buttons available)

  • Space Invaders = (8)(3) = 24 BMs
  • Mortal Kombat = (20)(7) = 140 BMs
  • Halo = (60)(14) = 840 BMs

Ecological disaster (OMG), in (area covered, in miles)(clean up time, in months)

  • 1 Valdez = (11,000)(228) = 2.5 million OMGs
  • 1 Chernobyl = sorry, I can’t find reliable statistics to base this one on

Google (G), as a measure of popularity

  • Into All That = 411,0000 G (or 411 kG)
  • All Your Base = 2.71 million G (or 2.71 mG)
  • Jesus = 188 mG
  • Beatles = 61 mG

9 Responses to “An open letter to the International Bureau of Weights and Measures”

  1. I must say that I am highly pleased to see that the cow standard of ferocity is being upheld. That said, I do have a comment regarding the “parsec” as a unit of time. I do believe that the canonical stance regarding this unit is that Han Solo knew full well what he was saying. The Kessel Spice Run has been traditionally followed a convoluted route full of astronomical hazards, and a linear route is impossible. The shortest route (in parsecs, of course) is sometimes the quickest, however one must always be careful not to bounce too close to a supernova. That would end your trip real quick now, wouldn’t it?

  2. Ecological disaster (OMG), in (area covered, in miles)(clean up time, in months)
    I believe this unit is actually in fact an S.I. unit, subject to modification by prefixes and arithmetic suffixes. Hence: 1 Chicxulub event = 1 ZOMG!!!?!

  3. Sez Wikipedia:
    “The crater is more than 180 kilometers (110 mi) in diameter, making the feature one of the largest confirmed impact structures in the world; the impacting bolide (asteroid or comet) that formed the crater was at least 10 km (6 mi) in diameter.”

    Ten kilometers?!? Are you telling me the dinosaurs were wiped out by a comet smaller than Rhode Island? What a bunch of wusses.

  4. Ten kilometers?!? Are you telling me the dinosaurs were wiped out by a comet smaller than Rhode Island?

    I’m sorry; how big is that in Texases? I never got the hang of these new-fangled unit conversions.

  5. Using this new fangled slide rule I had the boys down in R&D throw together, the asteroid that hit Chicxulub was only .0105 Texases. Which I beleive is also the approximate mass of Egg McMuffins sold by a certain unnamed restaurant chain on an average weekday.

  6. hangingcurve Says:

    1 Chernobyl = sorry, I can’t find reliable statistics to base this one on

    You could use Chernobyl as your limit… as x moves toward Chernobyl, OMGs move toward infinity…

  7. Setting a limit? Stupendous idea. In the grand scheme of things, I’m thinking that neither Chernobyl or even Chicxulub qualify as the end of our prospective yardstick (any Geology geek will tell you the cataclysm at the end of the Permian made the extinction of the dinosaurs look like a rainy picnic). I’ll bet this guy has some things to say on the matter:

  8. Into All That (437,000,000 G)
    Jesus (181,000,000 G; or about 0.4 IAT)

    Huh. Leaving the quotes off of the above searches increases the number of hits by 3 orders of magnitude for Into All That, but actually drops Jesus by a few percent. Maybe you should put some Ads by Google over there on the right-hand side. Seems like this is becoming a gold mine, just waiting to be tapped.

  9. Late-breaking entry into the proposals for useful yardsticks of natural phenomena: according to Idiot Toys, Sony is actually using the “Blu-Ray” DVD case as a sensitive measure of TV thickness! I’m running out to BestBuy this afternoon to pick up a stack of these babies to measure all of the TV’s in the house. However, given the age of our TVs, I’d better make sure to pick up Box Sets.

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