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11 Odd Units of Measurement

How many Wheatons of Twitter followers do you have? Do you know how many Smoots long the Harvard Bridge is? Sometimes meters and minutes won't cut it, so here are 11 odd units of measurement.

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  • 1. 1 Wheaton = 500,000 Twitter followers

    Coined by cartoonist John Kovalic when the former "Stand By Me" and "Star Trek: The Next Generation" actor acquired 500,000 twitter followers. Since few twitter users have 1 million+ followers, the milliwheaton (500 followers) is much more common. Check your Wheaton index here.

  • 2. 1 Dirac = 1 word spoken per hour

    Named for physicist Paul Dirac whose taciturn nature prompted his colleagues in Cambridge to name a unit of very slow information flow after him. He also has a Nobel prize in Physics, so he's got that, too.

  • 3. 1 Smoot = 5 feet, 7 inches

    Oliver R. Smoot was 5'7" in 1958 when his fraternity, Lambda Chi Alpha, used him to measure the Harvard Bridge. The bridge is 364.4 Smoots long +/- 1 ear. If needed, Google Earth can also provide measurements in smoots in addition to miles and kilometers. Perhaps coincedentally, Oliver Smoot later became the chairman of ANSI (American National Standards Institute) which coordinates standard measurements.

  • 4. 1 Potrzebie = 2.263348517438173216473 mm

    Or, the precise mathematical thickness of MAD Magazine #26 (pictured). Based on a running gag in the early days of MAD magazine, the potrzebie was invented in 1957 by 19-year-old future computer scientist and Stanford Professor Emeritus Donald Knuth. It is still available for conversion in Google calculator.

  • 5. 1 Helen = Beauty to launch 1,000 ships

    It may have been Christopher Marlowe who said that Helen of Troy had "the face that launched a thousand ships" but it was Isaac Asimov who decided to turn it into a unit of measurement. Oddly enough, Helen herself launched 1,186 ships, so she gets 1.186 helens. Comparatively, David Goines theorizes that 1 microhelen is enough to start a motorboat and possibly a grass fire.

  • 6. 1 Canard = Standard unit of Quackery

    The Quackery index measures dubious health claims by how often words like 'energy', 'holistic', 'vibrations', 'magnetic healing', and 'quantum' are used in conjunction with other more skeptical words. Buzzfeed scores 0/10 canards, but scores 7/10 canards.

  • 7. 1 Beard-Second = 5 nanometers

    Or, the amount the average beard grows in one second. It was designed to be the equivalent of a light-year but for very small distances.

  • 8. The Stobart (UK)

    A more generalized measure which indicates the intervals between bacon sandwiches and cups of over-sweet tea for UK lorry drivers. Neither a measure of time nor distance, the stobart is generally used to slight its transport company namesake.

  • 9. 1 Barn = 10^-28 m^2

    This one is for realsies. A barn is about the size of the cross-section of a Uranium atom and is used in particle physics. Other related units in this field are the shed and the outhouse. For real.

  • 10. 1 Friedman = 6 months in the future

    Named after New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman who constantly surmised that progress in Iraq could better be determined in "six more months."

  • 11. 1 Sheppey = 7/8 mile

    Or the approximate distance from which one can stand from a herd of sheep and still have them look like little cottonballs. From Douglas Adams' book "The Meaning of Liff," the sheppey is named after the Isle of Sheppey in the UK.