The Strange Units of Measure Used by the Media

So I’ve been watching a fair number of videos about the strange machines that make modern life possible. The heavy presses developed by Germany after WWI. Various bits of earth-moving equipment for mining. And more.

The video on the Bagger 293 compared the overall weight of the largest land-bound machine ever built to the number of “full grown elephants” it compared to. Another video (on a new aircraft carrier, I think) talked about weight in terms of “blue whale” equivalents. And since a fair few of the videos are from the UK, they tend to compare things to the British double-decker bus. The last video I watched on tunneling machines uses double-decker buses as both a size and weight measurement. For size, they also use either a football stadium, with end-zones (in the US), or the number of soccer fields (In the UK they call them “football pitches.”) The NFL stadium size came up in a video on the Oroville Dam. They also used the family car and “jumbo jets” as a measure of weight.

But the thing that made me laugh, was material moved by one machine was compared to the number of pint glasses it could fill. 400 cubic meters is apparently equivalent to 700,000 pint glasses.

That’s a big round.

I’ve said before that comparing things to the human hair, or the thickness of a sheet of paper are meaningless. So are these. Does the average Brit know how much a typical bus weighs? Does it matter if they do? Do these ridiculous units of measure add anything to the story at hand? Are these ridiculous unites of weight more understandable than millions of pounds, or thousands of tonnes, or some actual measurement of weight? What is the wieght of the standard Blue Whale? Who defined the reference adult elephant. They may sound like interesting ways to describe something, but in the end they are so much gibberish.

3 thoughts on “The Strange Units of Measure Used by the Media

  1. Interesting observation. These terms used for ‘big’ in the UK…they lend well across many articles….and trigger certain responses emotionally but do nothing to help recognise how big something is. I mean describing something in double decker buses only works in the UK . It’s hardly an international measurement! Thought provoking.


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