19Sep07

A few weeks ago I was bugging my astro-buddy* to write a blog post about the funny-sounding units he uses, such as the jansky (watt per meter squared per hertz). Well, astro-bud, welcome to academia because you got scooped by Wired magazine. (*-Ok, so he’s not my astro-buddy’ but rather my friend who is an astrophysicist… but astro-buddy sounds cool and retro.)

Particle physicists use $\bar{h} = c = 1$ and so don’t have many exciting units. So it’s nice to read about the silly-named units people in other fields use. Here are a few highlights from the Wired article and the associated comments:

• nibble: half a byte, also known as a nybble’
• mickey: measuring the ratio of mouse-to-cursor movement
• butt: two hogsheads, ~477 L of alcohol
• jiffy: time for light to travel the radius of the electron

A few others they missed, (mostly from Wikipedia):

• slug: an English unit of mass (the slimy-slugs that eat leaves are huge here, trust me)
• sydharb: the amount of water in Sydney Harbor
• jerk: 10^9 joules
• warhol: unit of hype, equal to fifteen minutes of fame
• pub-on: minimum amount of new information required for a paper to qualify as original research’
• gillette: amount of power for a laser to burn through a razor blade
• fonzie: unit of coolness (fictional, courtesy of Futurama)

3 Responses to “Check your units”

1. 1 Charles Tye

So you don’t find anything amusing at all about “barn”?
Or 1 shed = 10^-24 barn.
Those humourless particle physicists….

2. Haha! Good point Charles — I’d taken barn’ for granted! The barn is a unit of cross sectional area roughly equivalent to the cross section of the uranium nucleus. It may also be the only `silly unit name’ that was classified: http://www.symmetrymagazine.org/cms/?pid=1000258 .

Cheers!

3. Stupid Wired magazine scooping me …

ah well. i have not blogged in ages. the start of my time here in Manchester has been HECTIC!! i will no doubt unleash a barrage of posts altogether sometime soon.

🙂

Evan