back to article El Reg official units of measurement: Linguine, Jubs, Hiltons and all

Earlier this week, the Beeb described IBM's Sequoia supercomputer as being so potent that it could do in one hour "what otherwise would have taken 6.7 billion people using hand calculators 320 years to complete if they had worked non-stop". This latest, highly suspect piece of mathematical jiggery-pokery - with no mention of …


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  1. ukgnome

    "what otherwise would have taken 6.7 billion people using hand calculators 320 years to complete if they had worked non-stop"

    Or 1 person with 10 fingers 21440 years (i think)

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      That's because they haven't seen this Japanese woman. Saw her on a show when I was in Tsukuba; In the show she also did calculations from a board on one calculator and calculations someone was saying on another. Also the presenters tried to do just the calculations read out at the same time as the woman. I seem to remember that one got lost, and the other one got the answer wrong!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Learn something every day

    What do you know, I always thought "jub" and "bulgarian airbag" were synonyms.

    The video had a few moments of genius but it could have been half as long.

  3. Trollslayer

    A bit off topic

    but is there a name for Apple HQ?

    If not, can I suggest "The Emerald City"?

    1. Sir Sham Cad

      Re: A bit off topic

      The Fruit Loop?

    2. Armando 123

      Re: A bit off topic

      "Microsft R&D South"? That's what the MS engineers called it in the not-too-recent past. (Might still, for all I know.)

  4. DJ 2

    Speed of Sheep in a Vacuum?

    Very well done,

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: Speed of Sheep in a Vacuum?

      "Speed of Sheep in a Vacuum"? Coming soon to a monitor near you...

  5. John 98

    Units of Time

    These are notoriously complicated involving factors of 7, 28 or 29, or 30 or 31 depending, 60, 365 etc. and appear to have escaped your researcher's attention.

    We need some uniformity, perhaps based on panda breeding cycles. I look forward to reading this unfortunate omission has been addressed.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Units of Time

      You can use the already defined units of linguine and the maximum velocity of sheep in a vacuum to represent time. Using these units, I propose the following time unit:

      linguine / maximum velocity of a sheep in vacuum

      1 second is defined (assuming my math is correct) as 21410714.2 linguine / maximum velocity of sheep in a vacuum. Inversely 1 lg/mvosiav is 4.67055882 x 10^-8 seconds.

      As an example of using these units, the video is 1.01058571 x 10^10 lg/mvoasiv or 10231178.8 brontosaurus/mvosiav long.

      The real fun would be trying to define the Planck constant in these units.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Units of Time

        Bugger that! Time is obviously defined relative to the time it takes to down a pint of non-fizzy beer. This allows for relativity making Mondays very slow, lunchtimes too fast, and an excuse to knock-off early on a Friday so that you can "recalibrate your watch!"

        1. annodomini2

          Re: Units of Time

          Here you go!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Lego has come a long way...

    ...when I was a kid they didn't make rectal thermometers.

    1. Code Monkey

      Re: Lego has come a long way...


      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lego has come a long way...

        Fail is me.

  7. Schultz

    Geting complicated...

    How about a move back to the basics, with the pint defining volume (obvious), surface (just lift the P. and look at the wet ring), distance (to the next P.), time (obvious), force (to separate a boffin from his P.), ... After all the idea is to make things easy and who, really, has an unboiled Linguini at hand when the need arises?

    1. Vulch

      Re: Geting complicated...

      Ah but...

      Then you'll get confusion between those who derive from the straight glass and those who use the jug, not to mention the Americans whose pint is mostly froth and probably involved rice somewhere in the process.

    2. AdamWill Silver badge

      Re: Geting complicated...

      Pedantry alert: no-one has 'an unboiled linguini' at any time, as linguini is a plural. I think the singular is linguine, but I'm no Italian scholar.

      See also: panini.

  8. BigG

    Schoolboy error mixing weight and mass? Or have I fallen into some boffin trap?

    1. Old Handle

      They clearly stated these units are for "quantifying the world". And as long as you stay on this world, weight and mass pretty safely be used interchangeably.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        To clarify

        As long as you stay on the surface of this world, and don't go up any particularly tall mountains.

        Going down any particularly deep mines is also obviously out, as they don't have decent beer down there.

      2. Michael Dunn

        @Old Handle

        Shirley the weight of any given mass depends on distance from the centre of the earth - variable slightly over the surface, e.g., from poles to equator.

  9. Liam Proven Silver badge

    As Douglas Adams wrote...

    "Many respectable physicists said that they weren’t going to stand for that sort of thing, partly because it was a debasement of science, but mostly because they didn’t get invited to those sorts of parties."

  10. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. Steve Knox
    Thumb Up


    a subscription to New Boffin magazine!

    1. John Gamble

      Re: I DEMAND

      Does a subscription to New Boffin include a complementary (and apparently child-friendly) pipe? If so, I'm in for a 3-year subscription.

      1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

        Re: Re: I DEMAND

        I'm reliably informed that the first issue will indeed come with a free boffin's pipe, although you'll have to supply your own tobacco and quizzical chin-scratching...

      2. Jan 0

        Re: I DEMAND

        I trust that the pipe will be made of Silly Putty.

        (Or is New Scientist still waiting for the first practical use of Silly Putty? An early issue of New Scientist had a clear plastic box of blue Silly Putty attached and asked its readers to suggest a practical use for the material. My favourite was Daedalus' , much later, suggestion of Silly Putty parking bays.)

  12. Ed 13


    Lucy's expression as she got to the "Bulgarian fun bag" sequence nearly cost you a keyboard!

    P.S. I'd sign up for the New Boffin Magazine too!

  13. Yobgod Ababua

    Dear Register (Re: Standards Video)

    Please have your sound tech/intern soundly flogged with the archaic implement of your choosing.

    While the content in this broadcast seemed fine, the balance between speech (both narrator and host) and sound effects was glaringly off-kilter. I had to either struggle to hear the barely audible (YET EXTREMELY IMPORTANT) definitions of standard measurements or have my eardrums violently pierced by sound effects. I do applaud the choice of sound effects (the radio "breaking news" in particular) but the sound balance renders them all totally useless and, frankly, a menace to society.

    In the interests of our future survival as a species, please take the following actions:

    1) Rebalance the bloody video so that it is headphone-watchable.

    2) Chastize those resonsible as you see fit. (There were images from the "Temperature" section that suggest a reasonable course of action... and I am referring to those more "bent over" rather than the "by the pool".

    Thank you for your time and consideration.

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: Dear Register (Re: Standards Video)

      We monitor the sound here through a couple of Yamaha NS10 studio monitors (yes, old school paper cone and all that), so that's our reference.

      Apologies if the mix blew your timpani when listening through cans. We'll take your comments on board for future reference.

  14. Matthew 3

    Anyone else wondering about the Morse code?

    It seemed to be the same each time and I wondered what it spelt out.

    I have to ask this otherwise I'd just end up making some trite observation that it's 'Celsius' not 'Centigrade' (because both Celsius and Fahrenheit are grades based on 100).

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: Anyone else wondering about the Morse code?

      Well, the morse in the music doesn't mean anything, but in the "SPB" vid intro, yes...

  15. genghis_uk
    Thumb Down

    Another example

    Can I also submit the Channel 4 mobile phone unit of measurement:

    "The Sequoia is capable of performing roughly the same number of operations per second as 10 million mobile phones put together."

    No mention of what mobile phone or what particular NukeWatch app they are running...

    1. annodomini2

      Re: Another example

      It's also the equivalent of 838,632 Raspberry Pi's.

  16. GitMeMyShootinIrons
    Thumb Up

    A Big Thank You...

    My youngest is doing weights and measures in primary school at the moment. Given the state of UK education, I will refer him to this video instead. Far more constructive than the metric nonsense they're failing to teach him at the moment.

    I was going to suggest that the Curly Wurly as a length of measure, however, as these seem to have decreased in length at a rate that corresponds to the receding of my hairline, I think I'll leave that one alone.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: A Big Thank You...

      It's a well known among astrophysicists that the CurlyWurly has actually remained the same but the universe has expanded

      1. Glen 1

        Re: A Big Thank You...

        does that mean the milky way has stayed the same size as well?

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: A Big Thank You...

          No - the universe isn't expanding that fast.

          One worrying possibility, based on US fast food drinks is that the universe is contracting rapidly in some places.

      2. Aaron Em

        Curly Wurly "created by a long-serving research confectioner"

        It's a hard life, toiling away unheard-of and unrespected in the bowels of Cadbury Plc's giant R&D labs in Hull. And can you imagine the bittersweet (hah!) taste of it, when you've finally hit something big -- finally created something that'll write your name forever in the choccy-stained leaves of confectionery history -- only to discover that nothing truly great belongs to anyone for long. Watching the engineers come in and working with them to design a cold, impersonal machine to stamp out by the dozens what you've heretofore created each individually with your own two loving hands -- watching them discard the first try for jamming and redesign it into a hot-nozzled beast that can pump out forty bars to the minute -- sure, there's an award ceremony when it sells its first million, you get a lovely wall plaque and there'a always the gold watch at the end of it all, but you'll always wonder if it was really worth it, the twin occupational hazards of diabetes and dental caries, the long hours away from family, with only pointless locker-room banter (candy R&D is a very messy job) to show for it -- do your kids know you at all? Mine hardly do...last I was home, my oldest has decided she's vegan now and so instead of proper dinner I got a two-hour lecture over soy milk and tempeh. I don't even know what tempeh is but I'm eating it now apparently! And she told me working here, doing what I do, meant I was "exploiting" everything from cows to children to the whole bloody planet, it turns out, and I said "well then, love, suppose you'd better come home from that fancy college of yours, seeing where the money's coming from for it, and go to school to learn a proper job instead", and she stormed out! How about you, Frank? Didn't I hear your oldest wants to be a graphic designer? May as well be a hairdresser! You can't get a proper day's work out of the lot of 'em!, what's in this stuff? Should make work today a treat!

      3. Michael Dunn

        Re: A Big Thank You...

        the universe has expanded as would one's waistline, depending on the number of Curly-Wurlies consumed.

  17. Matt 33

    A tiltle may be required...

    Your graphic artist appears to have invented another unit: °K. There is no such animal. It's Kelvin and °C. The voice over talent (and, one assumes, the scriptwriter) appears to know better, however.

    1. Aaron Em

      Graphic designers

      Worse than drummers, honestly. Of course, we have machines for that now -- much better than the real thing, too, you only have to punch the details into it once -- I wonder how long it'll take before graphic artists go the way of the dodo as well, and you end up with the leftovers chopping off one arm and pushing crayons with the other because you've got to have some kind of gimmick to stand out against utter perfection. Sad, really -- you could maybe do something with a flamethrower, or a neutron bomb.

  18. MrT

    Madder than...

    ... George III, but in a good way.

    I welcome the day that Michael Gove stops mucking about worrying people with the 'return to O-Levels' and finally realises that the answer to basic numeracy has just been playing "on a YouTube stream near you."

    Cheers, El Reg!

  19. BristolBachelor Gold badge

    Web video

    I can't see from here, but how have you embedded this?

    It's 2012; web videos don't don't appear as blank spaces or blue lego bricks anymore. If you don't have something inhouse, you could even use something like vimeo or similar that support video on tablets or HTML5.

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Re: Web video

      OK an update here. It doesn't play on the workstations that have the latest Firefox, but certainly not Flash, it asks for a plugin. On a normal PC with IE8 AND including Flash, just a white square.

      Is it just me? If I logout and try from a different IP address will I be allowed to see it?

      I think that 0 out of 10 might be generous.

      1. Aaron Em

        Re: Web video

        Your browser can't render video properly and you're blaming it on the site? No wonder you're still a bachelor, mate -- making mistakes and blaming them on others is the wife's job!

  20. Chris Miller

    It's pronounced 'Jill'

    unlike a fish's oxygenating apparatus (though the delightful Lucy looks several decades too young to be aware of this).

  21. Don Jefe

    Hostage Lucy

    I miss Lucy. She was a fun writer.

    Also, I fear for her life as it appears she's been taken hostage along with a small child and forced to read from a script. Set up a PayPal account and I'm certain El Reg readers will pay the ransom save them from decapitation and any extra funds can be used on LOHAN.

    Also the Playmobile/Lego work production values have skyrocketed. Yay!!!!

  22. Captain TickTock

    Old trillions used

    (10^18) - is this Reg std?

    If so, bravo, I prefer billion as 10^12, but everyone seems to use 10^9

  23. Jolyon Smith
    Thumb Up

    Trillions and Squillions

    I fully expected about 1/2 of the comments to be about the long scale trillion from a publication emanating from a short scale country, and couldn't believe it when a read of said comments yielded no commentary on this most commentable of content at all... right up to Capt Tick Tock that is.

    Bravo sir, with spots on.

  24. Parax

    Lager?!?!.. Oh Dear..

    I've never seen a Boffin on the horse piss before.. usually it's Ale all the way, unless bearded ,where a 0.9867 Bulgairian Airbags of Mild is acceptable.

    1. Martin Budden Silver badge

      Re: Lager?!?!.. Oh Dear..

      Mild is a style of ale.

  25. Simon B

    Nice jubs indeed!

    Nice jubs indeed! ;)

  26. testpilot

    unit of feminine pulchritude

    The stimulant effect of your attractive boffinettes can be calibrated against the standard Helen (H); Helen of Troy was described as "the face that launched a thousand ships." Most modern women rate at least one millihelen (mH).

    1 mH = a face sufficiently lovely to launch one (1) ship.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Quit the chat

    Just get the norks out

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