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How do you convert a slinch to a pat?
April 19, 2005 5:17 PM   Subscribe

Measuring beauty through arson and ships launched. Introducing the Helen as a unit of beauty. There are plenty of odd units of measure. Some are natural extensions of physical measures, like the microcentury or the pico-parsec, while others are constantly being invented. Can't figure out how large your apartment is? Use a handy converter to measure its area in terms of Wales (or whales, or the Prince of Wales). Of course, despite a long history of odd changes, units are still the subject of political fights and even human rights monitoring.
posted by blahblahblah (16 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Addendum: To add controversy and immediate relevance, I would also like to propose that we need units of measure for (1) Popes and (2) horrible crimes that celebrities get away with. Any suggestions?
posted by blahblahblah at 6:03 PM on April 19, 2005


Also a unit of happiness.

I recently defined one unit of happiness as the amount of happiness you feel when you wake up in the early morning with the groan-inducing thought that you have to get out of bed and go to work. Or school. Then as you're lying there you suddenly realize, hey, it's Saturday! The happiness you feel at that moment is a "satam" (from "Saturday a.m."). The great thing about this measurement is it eliminates all discussion over what happiness is, and whether we can ever know the way someone else feels. Whatever joy you take from a satam moment, that's one unit of happiness for you, and you can use it as a yardstick to express the happiness you get from other activities.

I feel about 0.13 satams sharing this new measurement with you--which ain't bad given the huge joy one satam produces--and I hope you experience some satams in learning about it.
posted by mono blanco at 6:24 PM on April 19, 2005


I always liked the unit microLenat which is used to measure bogosity (see also bogus). Named after Doug Lenat who ranks a 1,000,000 on this scale while most other things and ideas rank below 1,000.

But this unit is probably too opaque for general use, and we probably need a different unit of bogosity to measure explanations of Bush administration policy or Creationism.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 6:25 PM on April 19, 2005


I just need to say that I once added up exactly how many ships Helen of Troy actually launched, and it was 1,196, not an exact thousand. This means that all such calculations are off by 19.6% unless they take this into account.

Feel free to check my working at http://www.patroclos.de/iliad/en/samuel_butler/book2.html
posted by hostile17 at 6:30 PM on April 19, 2005


See also the Smoot which is, alas, a mere unit of distance (though it is hilariously included on this unit conversion page).
posted by rkent at 6:31 PM on April 19, 2005


Then as you're lying there you suddenly realize, hey, it's Saturday!

Just told a friend about that feeling yesterday. It's one thing to wake up knowing it's Saturday; it's another entirely to realize it after two seconds of dread.
posted by NickDouglas at 6:32 PM on April 19, 2005


The Google Calculator also recognizes the Smoot. (+0.002 satams) Unfortunately, it is unable to give the length of the Harvard Bridge in Smoots. (-0.001 satams)
posted by yarmond at 6:56 PM on April 19, 2005


This is old hat. At my University there was a common joke along the lines of:

Q: What's a millihelen?
A: The amount of beauty required to launch one ship.

It's funny if you're in the middle of reading something like the Illiad, otherwise, no.
posted by tiamat at 7:28 PM on April 19, 2005


"The derived SI unit for bad English accents is the Van Dyke and was introduced in 1981 when it became clear it was required in the film casting industry. Its definition in terms of base units is complex, but it was constructed such that 1 vD should be equivalent to an objective measurement of the accent of Dick Van Dyke in the movie Mary Poppins ("Gor bloimey Mairry Poppins!").
For all practical purposes 1 vD is vastly too large for general usage. More usually, English Accent Awfulness (EAA) is measured in milli Van Dykes ("Paltrow got her EAA down to 6 mvD in that take") or micro van Dykes ("Zellweger is easily in the micro vD range").
Unconfirmed reports do suggest of localised readings of up to 5 GvD at the Texas RenFaire.
"
(blatant self-link)
posted by thatwhichfalls at 7:40 PM on April 19, 2005


I coined a scale for humiliation based on units of milliVanillis where one Vanilli is the amount of humiliation it takes to give up a Grammy when the world realizes you can't sing.
posted by euphorb at 7:58 PM on April 19, 2005


Great post.
posted by painquale at 8:21 PM on April 19, 2005


hostile17 writes " I just need to say that I once added up exactly how many ships Helen of Troy actually launched, and it was 1,196, not an exact thousand. This means that all such calculations are off by 19.6% unless they take this into account."

Actually, Helen caused one kiloship to be launched. The common folk usually associates one kiloship with one thousand ships but, for reasons unknown to Reason herself, the experts in the field defined one kiloship to be equal to 1,196 ships, so the units are correct.
posted by nkyad at 8:53 PM on April 19, 2005


This is pretty neat.
(But blahblah, everyone knows that Popes are measured against Peter. Luckily, they were shorter then, so modern man comes out ahead.)
posted by klangklangston at 10:05 PM on April 19, 2005


Klang, so, that explains why I wasn't in the running for Pope, despite the best efforts of my many legs, as I am officially only a centipeter.
Sorry.
posted by blahblahblah at 10:27 PM on April 19, 2005


Then as you're lying there you suddenly realize, hey, it's Saturday!

A related feeling when you wake every morning absolutely dreading your job, finally quit, and then wake every morning thinking you still have to go, then realize... (in my case it was air traffic control)

And the feeling you get when you're heading home after a night on the town to an apartment you absolutely loathe because of your horrendous roommate... and the shivers you get after you move out and another evening is drawing to a close and with pure joy you realize that you're not headed back to that apartment.

I have no words for these units. They surpass my ability to quantify.
posted by dreamsign at 6:13 AM on April 20, 2005


In some blog today, I saw an idea for the "Willises," a measure of the threat level of an asteroid.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:12 AM on April 20, 2005


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