Daily Archives:September 28th, 2010

Measure for Measure

I still remember my delight in realising – from a throwaway comment by my physics-teacher father – that a Newton, the unit of force, was roughly equivalent to the weight of an apple. I had known its scientific meaning for some time, but all of a sudden I could visualise it in a way I never had before, and an apple… well it just seemed so appropriate!

I’ve been thinking about scientific units and measurements, and illustrations that can help one understand them in terms of daily life. Here are a couple of others that I find pleasing:

* Thanks to plate tectonics, America and Europe are moving apart at about the speed that fingernails grow. (Thanks to Bill Bryson)

* The distance from London to Cambridge is about one degree. (I worked that out before realising it was a nice academic double-entendre!)

* A nanosecond is the time it takes light to travel one foot.

* A microwave oven is about one horsepower. (Not sure if that’s useful, but it’s interesting)

Anyone got any others? Please add them in the comments if so!

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser