What Can Happen When Your Knowledge of Measurement Conversions Is Only Measured
Submitted by David B. Spangler
People make mistakes with measurement conversions all the time. Sometimes the errors occur in advertisements, such as this sign that appeared on Jay Leno’s "Headlines":
Try Our New 2-Liter Size.
Contains 50% More Than Our 1-Liter Size.
In 2003, there was a news story of a British brain surgeon who failed to calculate correctly the difference between U.S. gallons and metric liters – and crashed a light aircraft into the roof of a house when it ran out of fuel. When “filling up” a chartered U.S.-made aircraft, he took on only 23 gallons instead of 30 gallons, a miscalculation caused by his confusion converting liters to U.S. gallons. Why he didn’t just fill up the tank, no one knows. The brain surgeon survived the crash; he only suffered head injuries. He obviously had no brain inside his head to injure before the crash.
Some conversion errors are quite costly. Back in 1999, NASA lost its Mars Climate Orbiter because the orbiter was programmed to speak to NASA in metrics, but the engineers were replying in non-metric English! NASA engineers were making adjustments in feet-per-second of thrust. However, the spacecraft computer interpreted the instructions in Newtons-per-second. The difference is 4.4 feet per second. The result: the $125 million spacecraft was sent crashing too low and too fast into the Martian atmosphere. The spacecraft likely burned up. You wonder who worked on this mission – rocket scientists?? Maybe that brain surgeon should have been on this team. Instead of burning up, the orbiter would have simply run out of fuel!
Maybe knowledge of some of these conversions would have been helpful:
10 millipedes = 1 centipede
1 million microphones = 1 phone
1 trillion microphones = 1 megaphone
2,000 mockingbirds = 2 kilomockingbirds
1,000,000 aches = 1 megahertz (or 1,000 kilohertz)
453.6 graham crackers ≈ 1 pound cake
1 billion mosquitoes ≈ 1 gigabyte
1/2 large intestine = 1 semicolon
10 cards = 1 decacard, so 52 cards = 5.2 decacards.
This should not be confused with the familiar conversion, 52 cards = 1 deck-a-cards.
2,000 lb of Chinese soup = won ton
Basic unit of laryngitis = 1 horsepower
Time between slipping on a peel and smacking the pavement = 1 bananosecond