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5 tomato feet - September 16, 2010
Rating: 4.6/5 (141 votes cast)
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Once upon a time...

Spiked Math Comic - 5 tomato feet

And they all lived happily ever after. The End.


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28 Comments

hahahhah eu AMO esse site!!!! thanks, for making me smile every day! ;]

Whoa! This is something I didn't know... Wait till I find my friends and boast to them about my new trivia knowledge ;)

wow a comic with 2 messages, 1.) never be to quick to judge some one and 2.) if can't remember how many feet are in a mile just remember 5 2m80 ft, now if only there was a way to remember the conversion factor for converting smoots into feet

So, how many metres are in a kilometre? ;-)

How many microphones in a megaphone? ;^)

Also: I loved that "shortest ever" fairy tale as a kid:
"Once upon a time, they all lived happily ever after."

I was a weird kid.

Hmm, my gravatar seems to be broken!

There are 10¹² microphones in a megaphone, I think...

That's what I get!

Excellent!

Thank god I don't have to memorize those <s>stupid</s> imperial units.

My mind has thus officially been blown.

clever. i'l have to remember that one

HAHA imperial system FAIL!
Why is it 5tomato? by what logic was this value chosen?
right! none :D

What? It's eight furlongs. Eight being a much more convenient number for even divisions. (Not as handy as 12 (inches in a foot) or 60 (seconds in a minute), but still pretty handy. Much better than 10, which hardly evenly divides by anything.) Now the furlong is (quite evidently) a long furrow, and that's what it is -- the length of a furrow on an acre in medieval times.

The correct question is "why were feet chosen to be of such a length that 660 of them fit in a furlong?" And the answer is that the inch was defined in a manner that didn't require access to a reference rod in a glass bell jar a few hundred years in the future. In fact the inch was eventually and practically defined in terms of average thumb widths of three men (of different sizes). And by the Central Limit Theorem, Bob's your uncle.

Thanks for the bits. Duly appreciated. I couldn't care less whether the basic unit of length is the average thumb or 1 ten millionth of the distance from the equator to the pole. A system of units can certainly be built around either choice. Not surprisingly I prefer the metric system. Admittedly mostly out of familiarity, but to a great extent also because the units of derived units are SYSTEMATICALLY based on a small set of "atomic units". So, pray, tell me again: How many cubic inches to a gallon? How many pounds does a gallon of water weigh? In the metric system the answers to such questions (with the obvious unit substitutions) ALWAYS come to nice round powers of ten (the zeroth power more often than not). The few coincidences with natural constants (earth gravity accelaration g very close to 10 meters per second per second, speed of light 300 000 km per second to 3 significant digits) are just icing on the cake. God is metric :-)

To my scientific mind the imperial system included too many of the pre-existing "standards" used in different trades, baking, whatever.

I do appreciate one aspect of the imperial system. Since Newcastle bought one of our local breweries, the volume the beer cans went up from half a liter to a pint (=0.586 liters). Slainté!

On the other hand, why is the "fine unit constant" = ca. 1/137? (Actually, 1/137.035 999 679 = 7.297 352 5376 x 10^-3) Who ordered that??

I also prefer the SI, but that's an accident of the Arabic number system. If we'd settled on base 8 or 16, we'd generally find the U.S. Customary Units of liquid volume much more convenient. They're mostly base 2. (And probably would have been exactly base 2 if we had used those number systems.)

1 gal = 4 qt = 8 pt = 16 cup = 32 gi = 128 fl. oz = 256 Tbsp = 1024 fl. dr

Now 252 gal = 1 tun. It *was* 256 gal = 1 tun, but being divisible as 2*2*3*3*7 was more convenient, especially when one's country has just discovered the Arabic numerals but hasn't gotten one's head around fractions. Consequent nudges are: 1 hogshead = 63 gal, 1 barrel = 31.5 gal.

If we'd settled on base 12, we'd find the time measures and the length measures much easier. Unit preference based on number base bias sounds pretty dodgy to me. :-)

Cubic inches in a gallon...
There are no cubic inches in a gallon. Cubic inches are dry measure. Gallons are wet measure. Okay... Okay... 1 gal = 231 cu. in. It *would* have been 256 cu. in. except mismatched large wet volume units (wine barrel, oil barrel, whiskey barrel, other barrels, hogshead, and tun) and small units (quart, pint, cup, et al.) resulted in a compromise value. This leads to the usual inference -- the US customary system is *actually* useful for measuring commercial transactions. It's why oil is still measured in barrels (1 bbl oil = 42 gal).

Pounds in a gallon...
Well, volume measures are binary. 1 gal water = 8 pt water = 8 lbs. The system is about as consistent as the metric, whose unit of volume (the mL) is defined by water and does not use the defined unit of length. The cm is used in the mL definition, the m is the defined unit. Equally unintelligible about the SI, the kg is the defined unit but the g is the base unit.

To iterate: The *defined* SI units include the kg, which is a prefixed unit. The common systems of units derived from them are m-kg-s and cm-g-s. So you'll have one prefix or the other.

Some people complain that the US Customary System has too many named units. Unlike SI, with 21 derived units. Heck, who even remembers the difference between the Becquerel, the gray, and the sievert. Even more excitingly, why are some proper names capitalized and others not?

The gray, ..., Gy, ... or was that a Gigayear?

Which of the prefixes are capitalized? Not deka-, hecto-, or kilo-. Heck, my keyboard doesn't even have a \mu key -- I guess I can't get its capitalization right or wrong.

30 GB?... Is that 3*10^10 bytes or 30*2^30 bytes? Oh, right, the former. The latter is 30 GiB.

Ever use the Angstrom? ... because it's a very convenient unit for atomic measurements (and customary for spectral measurements)? ... Not an SI unit. But why was it convenient? Because spectroscopy needed more precise measurement than could be provided indirectly by two scratches on a lump of metal in Paris. The Angstrom was defined spectroscopically long before the meter was.

Yeah. Unit systems. They're towering edifices covered in warts. What of it? :-)

Hmm. I was taught that 'liter' is just an add-on to the SI system (an abbreviation for 1/1000 cubic meters), and that the basic unit of volume is a cubic meter. The add-on is 'allowed', because the basic unit is inconveniently large for many a use. Same with Ångström (=10^-10 meters = .1 nm).

I agree that the SI system has its warts, too. It is, indeed, an anomaly that prefixes up to kilo- are in lower case and only from Mega- onwards in upper. You would expect 'no prefix' to be switching point. I vaguely recall that my junior high teacher gave an explanation that made sense at the time, but it escapes me now (and may have been relevant in Finnish only).

I also share your pain about the missing \mu-key. During my short stint at Nokia I was shocked to see telecommunications engineering community writing 'us' = microsecond. Well, they all seemed to understand each other, so it was pointless to argue. I could imagine that to cause a headache to a future proofreading software, though.

Agree that the imperial units are useful in trade (because they were defined by the sizes of the conveniently movable containers). It is probably my cultural bias, but I have a problem with using regular words as units. For example I would call any metal cylindrical container 'a barrel' without necessarily referring to its volume. I would think that this creates potential confusion. Admittedly the context will clarify the meaning in most cases, but an artificial unit is less likely to confuse anyone. Grain of salt?

I totally loved it, but i grew up and will always stick to the meter and kilometer... [Mexico FTW!... ... on some aspects]

A foot is the spacing of rungs on a vertical ladder. ie: the average comfortable distance to raise one foot above the other,

If you are prone to forget this item of trivia (and are unable to do the multiplications), then the simple remedy is to drive to Denver and check the sign on the city limit. They call it the mile high city for a reason :-)

@Jyrki: While I agree that SI units are simpler to remember and combine Maybe this is just another type of dumbing-down? When I was a schoolboy in the dim and distant past, the neccesity of learning How many inches to the foot, feet to the yard, yards to the rod, pole or perch, yards to the chain etc, combined with the need to work out currency additions in £SD at an early age certainly exercised the mind. The introduction of SI units along with the loss of dartboards in pubs (in my day any teenage boy could tell you what combination of singles, doubles and trebles you needed for a three dart finish from, say, 107)is part of the cause of the decline in arithmetical ability in todays young. Not to mention Times Tables!

Oh, and as any fule kno:
A pint of pure water
Weighs a pound and a quarter

so a gallon weighs ten pounds.

Yup. My Irish friend also explained the imperial gallon to me. Sell the concept across the pond!

I do concede the point about dart combinations. A very nice exercise in mental arithmetic, indeed. Not forgetting the fact that you need to be also able to it after a few pints, so routine is a must.

You call it dumbing down when you guys have one of the easiest to learn language ever? Of course, I'm not going into highly complex and advanced english, just plain simple basic english. Come on... adding -ed for past tense and no difference for future tense? Talk about difficult.

But seriously, it's about complicating what shouldn't be complicated.

One of Isaac Asimov's essays was on how education has improved by all the things we no longer have to learn: how many gills in a pint, for example, or gallons in a hogshead (or a barrel, of whatever specific kind). Let's improve it further by going Metric!

What I like about this one is that it doesn't make sense to most people from outside North America, since they pronounce 'tomato' differently, but it doesn't need to make sense to them since they use the metric system anyway.

or you can say: 5 ppl went 2 a resturant and 8 nothing. (nothing is supposed to be 0) :P

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