back to article One does not simply shove elephants on a ballet shoe point and call it an acceptable measure of pressure

A bizarre American website has come up with a new way of measuring pressure by referring to the weight of elephants delivered through the area of a ballet shoe. Frankly we're baffled. To wit: a team of Australian scientists working on ways of making artificial diamonds for industrial drill tips figured out a way of doing so …

  1. Paul Kinsler


    Any fule kno that it is in units specified by the weight of the Queen (ERII) when applied over the area of a Queen "Greatest Hits" CD.

    The weight of the Queen when, you ask? Naturally when the single "Under Pressure" first topped the UK charts. When else? :-)

    1. Ordinary Donkey

      Re: Pressure

      Since Her Majesty doesn't have an official weight might I suggest substituting her namesake the QE2? Wikipedia gives that a gross tonnage of 70,327

      1. cookieMonster Silver badge

        Re: Pressure

        Tons of what precisely?

        1. Stumpy

          Re: Pressure


        2. jonathan keith

          Re: Pressure

          Tons of glove-box-resident "Queen's Greatest Hits" cassettes.

          1. Antonius_Prime

            Re: Pressure

            "Tons of glove-box-resident "Queen's Greatest Hits" cassettes."

            Though doubtless these started their existence as something else by entirely different artists altogether...

            1. BebopWeBop

              Re: Pressure

              Classical maybe?

            2. Outski

              Re: Pressure

              Are you thinking of Schubert's Seven Seas of Rhye, perhaps, or maybe Bach's Another One Bites the Dust?

              Where's the panama hat icon for Sir Terry


              1. Kane

                Re: Pressure

                "Are you thinking of Schubert's Seven Seas of Rhye, perhaps, or maybe Bach's Another One Bites the Dust?"

                It's Tchaikovsky's "Another One Bites the Dust". But there are also the options of William Byrd's "We Are the Champions" and Beethoven's "I Want To Break Free." Neither are as good as Vaughan Williams's "Fat-Bottomed Girls."

                "Where's the panama hat icon for Sir Terry"

                Pfft - as any fule kno it was a wide brim fedora. And I've been asking the same question for an infinite amount of hats.

                C'mon Vultures, Sir Pterry icon!

                A man is not dead while his name is still spoken. GNU Terry Pratchett.

    2. Outski

      Re: Pressure

      Surely it should be the weight of Her Madge applied of the area of a 7" vinyl, given the song was released in 1981, ie, before CDs became commonplace (CDs are slightly smaller than 7" singles).

      1. Paul Kinsler

        Re: Surely it should be ... the area of a 7" vinyl

        That might indeed be considered more rational and consistent, which is also why I did not suggest it. :-)

        Also CD's are shinier and more modern than vinyl , but not *too* modern; and so therefore strike the correct balance between technology and tradition.

        1. Mojave Green

          Re: Surely it should be ... the area of a 7" vinyl

          Re: 7" vinyl...additional data required.

          You may need to do some more calculations. if we assume the vinyl disc actually touches the underlying surface on the peaks of it's grooves, you'll need to know the linear length of the groove and resting width of the peak to calculate the resting surface area. CDs may be inappropriate here, but the calculation for the smooth surface would be much easier. Then again, who wants easy. Oh wait, I do. : 0

  2. imanidiot Silver badge

    But what then

    While the criticism of the El Reg standards bureau is ofcourse warranted, I must commend the effort. The Reg units do not seem to offer anything suitable for expressing pressures. Norrisses per Nanowales are not quite a suitable unit in this commentards humble opinion.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: But what then

      There's a perfectly fine pressure unit, and possibly not trademarked-

      Although may be subject to shrinkflation*. So one Savanah elephant is approximately equal to 35,840 Newtons (boxed). If one needs a more precise measurement, then it needs determining how many Newtons per 8oz. For science!

      Additional experiments are possible, such as determining which takes longer to clean up. An elephant's pressure exerted on 35,840 Newtons, or 1 ballet dancer. Legal advice not included.

      *Ok, who ate my experiment?

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: But what then

        Long ways up or laying on one of the long sides?

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: But what then

          This is why the Newton is so versatile. I'm betting that modern process engineering means consistency in both biscuits (cakes?*) per box, and per biscuit. And the biscuits have 3 sides of differing areas, allowing 1N to be used for 3 surface area tests.

          I was also going to try and define the Newton meter, but Tescos didn't have any to aid me in my culinary metrology.

          *See lengthy legal saga where HMRC tried to decide if the Jaffa snack was a biscuit, or a cake. Which possibly took so long because HMRC's lawyers realised they needed lots of evidence to 'examine'.

          1. don't you hate it when you lose your account

            Re: But what then

            It's a cake and the disinformation and mass fraud being committed by the GOBP (grand old biscuits party) is a threat to the tea dunking free world

            1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

              Re: But what then

              The Fig Newton is named after Newton, Massachusetts, United States of America, and thus is neither a biscuit nor a cake, but a cookie.

              Some vandal on Wikipedia calls it a "pastry", but this is plainly heresy and not worthy of further consideration.

              (Or were you talking about Jaffas? Definitely cakes, and safer than any biscuit. I imagine Fig-Newton-related injuries are probably also on the low end.)

              1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                Re: But what then

                I think there needs to be better definitions for cake, cookie and biscuit. As a Brit, I propose a beverage compatibility, or dunkability test. Perhaps surviving a minimum of 3x3s dunks into 1x British Standard mug of tea (milk, 2 sugars). I suspect Jaffas would fail this test, and thus be cake.

                And in the interests of the environment, and reducing plastic waste, I propose replacing single-use plastic stirring sticks with Twiglet biscuits.

                And I'm disappointed that nobody has yet to count how many Newtons per box. What's in the box? What's in the box?!?

      2. BebopWeBop

        Re: But what then

        Free the Fig Newton one!

    2. The commentard formerly known as Mister_C Silver badge

      Re: But what then

      Are you sure the Norris is a unit of force? I thought that it would be a measurement of hardness. As in "that diamond is nearly as hard as Chuck Norris".

      1. Stoneshop

        Re: But what then

        It has been defined as an unit of force by the Register Standards Soviet, and for doubting the correctness of this you will be sent to a re-education camp well away[0] from the corrupting influences that have caused you to doubt their authority in these matters. Physical work and fresh air[1] will soon cure you of your mistaken opinions.

        [0] Several tens of megalinguini

        [1] At negative double-digit Hiltons

        1. The commentard formerly known as Mister_C Silver badge
          Big Brother

          Re: But what then

          My bag is packed

    3. Stoneshop

      Norrisses per Nanowales are not quite a suitable unit

      And the elephant per ballet shoe definitely isn't, as already incompletely expounded upon in the article. Tons/tonnes, and by implication badgers, rhinoceri, Aussie trams and Queen Lizzie (both variants) are an unit of weight, not force. There's gravity involved in the conversion, and an elephant on top of Mount Everest would weigh less than at sea level, although I'm under the impression that it would be somewhat unlikely to encounter an elephant there. If so, it would probably[0] be an Asian elephant anyway, which are smaller and thus one more factor in the impreciseness of the definition.

      [0] Still, it's the African elephant that is migratory[1].

      [1] And even able to transport an entire coconut tree.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Norrisses per Nanowales are not quite a suitable unit

        Upvoted, particularly for the footnotes. It made oi larf out loud.

        1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

          Re: Norrisses per Nanowales are not quite a suitable unit

          It's ok for you - I snorted and had my facecovering on and everything ... :-(

      2. Kane

        Re: Norrisses per Nanowales are not quite a suitable unit

        "[0] Still, it's the African elephant that is migratory[1].

        [1] And even able to transport an entire coconut tree."

        Not to be confused with the Hermit Elephant, possibly the strangest and saddest species on the Disc. This creature, lacking the thick hide of its near relatives, lives in huts, moving up and building extensions as its size increases. It’s not unknown for a traveller on the plains of Howondaland to wake up in the morning in the middle of a village that wasn’t there the night before.

        GNU Sir Pterry

    4. Muscleguy

      Re: But what then

      As a physiologist I measure pressures in mmHg of course. Though knowledge of what that means physically is in danger of being lost on the young, along with how to use a dial telephone. News reaches me of a nursing course where the mercury sphygmomanometers were deemed ‘too dangerous for the students’ by some jobsworth who saw ‘mercury’ and went Aaaarrgghh!

      I demonstrated physiology labs during my PhD and we had class sets of sphygmomanometers, housed in sturdy metal boxes with the columns set well within the boxes as is standard design. In Blood Pressure week they were in constant use and never one got broken.

      Liquid mercury is not very dangerous unless you spread it over a wide area and get thin amounts on your fingers. If you were say a Victorian hatter using it to soften felt. Hence the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland. Powdered sulphur is good for cleaning up spilt mercury btw. I have done that, I was a chemistry monitor in school back in the early ‘80s.

      1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: Liquid mercury is not very dangerous unless you spread it over a wide area

        Not sure if it is still the case, but just before you got to Barons Court on the Piccadilly line, going eastbound, there used to be a gantry with "U" shaped glass tubes filled with mercury, suspended from a gantry. The idea was that if a District line train actially took that route it would break the tubes to set the signals to red to prevent it from going into the tube tunnel, where it would not fit.

        The signal department also used mercury to generate flashing lights in places such as Amersham signal cabin. The way it worked IIRC was that the gaseous void in a small U-tube was heated up. This caused the mercury to move down one side of the tube and up the other. Contacts dipped into mercury in the tube would connect/disconnect the heating element, causing the mercury to oscillate. This was before the advent of the 555 timer chip, but other forms of timer would have done the trick. However, even though the indications were not directly safety-critical, I presume the importance of correct indications to the signalman was considered critical to be "fail-safe" if, for example, manual station-to-station working were necessary.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Liquid mercury is not very dangerous unless you spread it over a wide area

          This light at Cragside appears to have no electricity supply.

          In fact one of the contacts is the copper base it stands on (the body is cloisonné enamel on copper) and the other is a wire dipping into a small bowl of mercury. Lifting the lamp turns it off, setting back in its correct position turns it on:

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: But what then

        "the mercury sphygmomanometers were deemed ‘too dangerous for the students’"

        A few years ago I was recalled to my GP. They'd taken my blood pressure on their electronic gubbins which was subsequently found to have been out of calibration so they had to redo it the old-fashioned way. There's a lot to be said for instruments where you can see exactly what it is you're measuring against (e.g. the traditional chemical balance) but the lure of a number (so it must be right) on a display is too strong for some people.

        "Liquid mercury is not very dangerous unless you spread it over a wide area "

        The second carbon-dating system in QUB used a chemistry based on acetylene. As it tends to explode at pressures of about one and a half atmospheres the entire gas processing line was run at below atmospheric with a mercury manometer at each step so that if the pressure got too great the manometer acted as a pressure release valve. IIRC the surface of the mercury in the pots was covered with oil.

    5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: But what then

      This all smacks of sour grapes and jealosy on El Reg bureau of standards! I bet the enitre division are kicking himself!!

      1. Anonymous Custard

        Re: But what then

        With a ballet shoe? And if so, how hard?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pendantry alert

    Ballet shoe? Or Pointe shoe?

    1. Jim Howes

      Re: Pendantry alert

      I originally suggested Pachyderms Per Pointe, although that didn't make it into the article.

  4. IceC0ld

    has to be said, not done a TITSUP for a while, SO

    T - rouble

    I - s

    T - his

    S - ite

    U - tilises

    P - achyderms

    so whilst I WOULD normally push for the more Narwhal comparison, we would require a new acronym, and I DO seem to recall that here, elephants have been used to express many different comparisons

  5. Grikath

    Weird choice, really..

    May be a local thing here in Holland, but the standard example for that particular aspect of physics has been the "Supermodel on Spike Heels" for yonks.

    This may be because the weight/height ratio for your standard anorexic walking coat-rack and the floor area of spike heels have been pretty much well-defined and relatively stable over decades.

    Plus that in any given highschool class there's always at least one female victim volunteer wearing the torture devices available for a practical demonstration.

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: Weird choice, really..

      I would not call that person the victim, as it is she who is wearing the devices and does the stepping. And I would refrain from such an action when said girl is in earshot. Those shoes hurt. A lot. As a former ballroom dancer (standard and latin) I know how much. And that's only on the arch of the foot. And accidentally, but with quite some energy behind it.

      So mind your manners...

  6. Mark 85

    Unexpected Reaction?

    "The team applied pressure equal to 640 African elephants on the tip of a ballet shoe, doing so in a way that caused an unexpected reaction among the carbon atoms in the device."

    They got diamonds... were they expecting something different like turning coal into gold or some other alchemy?

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Unexpected Reaction?

      I'm not sure why it's totally unexpected given that using pressure is one of ways of making diamonds for some time now. The effort to make them has only been matched by the diamond industry (De Beers) in trying to identify manufactured diamonds and to dissuade people from making them in the first place.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Unexpected Reaction?

        My impression from the article was that they weren't expecting crystalization at that particular temperature-pressure point, since the article mentions "room temperature". The original GE diamond-manufacturing commercial process uses high temperature (via electrification) as well as pressure. But I didn't bother reading the paper.

        There's plenty of commercial diamond manufacturing already. Early on GE reached an agreement with De Beers to not produce "gem quality" diamonds, according to The New Alchemists. GE's really interested in the small diamonds that are used in saw blades and that sort of thing anyway.

    2. aregross

      Re: Unexpected Reaction?

      I too wondered what they created 'unexpectedly'. It doesn't say they got diamonds.


      1. agurney

        Re: Unexpected Reaction?

        They unexpectedly created Lonsdaleite, it's tougher than diamond.

    3. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Unexpected Reaction?

      I can't help feeling that if I suddenly looked up to see six hundred and forty African elephants descending on me, I might have an unexpected reaction, too...

  7. Daedalus


    8 metric tonnes (at about 2,200 pounds per tonne) is actually less than 8 long tons (at 2,240 per). I think the writer meant 9 short tons (at 2,000 per).

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge


      It's unnecessary to specify "metric tonne"; tonne is already metric.

      1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

        Quob Ibble

        And the official international abbreviation (eg, Hz for hertz, V for volts, etc) for tonnes is MT.

        Eg, consigning 125,000MT of coal for CIF delivery Shanghai.

        1. Totally not a Cylon

          Re: Quob Ibble

          Hmmm, sure it's not MegaTeslas?

          Or is that just silly seeing as a whole Tesla is a bit like a Ningi.....

        2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

          Re: Quob Ibble

          In shipping, sure, but not in science or engineering.

        3. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

          Re: Quob Ibble

          I am intrigued by the downvote.

          It's a simple statement of fact re many many billions of dollars of trade each year.

          The downvoter typed the downvote on a machine entirely built from raw materials sold&bought entirely in MT-- metric tons.


          ElReg Commentards' downvotes appear to be increasingly meaningless.

  8. Howard Sway Silver badge

    industrial drill tips?

    Sod the industrial drill tips, I want diamond sandpaper.

    1. Francis Boyle

      Here you go

      Industrial grade diamonds are so cheap these days there's no reason not to use them in sandpaper. (Don't get me started on the De Beers Cartel, but, basically, all diamonds are ridiculously cheap to produce these days.)

  9. A. Coatsworth Silver badge

    Wrong mammal

    As any fule no, hippopotamuses (hippopotamii?) and not elephants are the ones that dance ballet.

    1. Irony Deficient

      Re: Wrong mammal

      As a second-declension Latin noun, the (nominative) plural of hippopotamus is hippopotami. As an English noun, there is a choice of plurals — either “hippopotamus”, “hippopotamuses”, “hippopotamusses”, or “hippopotami”.

      Regarding the chosen mammal, see , though no shoes were worn by that performer.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wrong mammal

        > As an English noun, there is a choice of plurals

        Not to forget the dual form, often used by those of us who cannot remember the generic plural: “a hippopotamus, and another one”.

      2. ibmalone

        Re: Wrong mammal

        Latin? Ο ιπποπόταμος, nominative plural οι ιπποπόταμοι ("oh, hippopotamus" sounds like a great clean curse, I may start using it). Although it's interesting to see my Oxford Greek/English dictionary in the English section still gives -muses or -mi, so I guess Greek speakers are not too worried about what we do to their words.

        Spare a thought for those having to deal with neurology. The hippocampus (seahorse) is the small structure responsible for memory (shaped like a seahorse, because 16th century anatomists largely named structures based on what they'd had for lunch, see also "fornix" and be glad there isn't a part of your brain called "calamari"). What is the plural? If you tend to prefer following the Greek form you get hippocampoi, and everyone thinks you're weird, you can do the funny-foreign-word-into-pseudo-latin that we tend to use in English and get hippocampi, or you can take the bite-the-bullet-it's-an-English-word-now approach and arrive at hippocampuses, to which my only objection is it's just too long. The everyday get-out clause is to do what many do and shorten it to "hippo" and then you've got "hippos", but they wont let you get away with this in journal articles sadly.

        1. Anonymous Custard
        2. Irony Deficient

          Re: Wrong mammal

          Yes, Latin — Latin got hippopotamus from Ancient Greek ῐ̔πποπότᾰμος, but English got “hippopotamus” directly from Latin, not directly from Ancient Greek. Similarly, English “elephant” came from Old French elefant (the Old French spelling was also the Middle English spelling), which got it from Latin elephantus, which got it from Ancient Greek ἐλέφᾱς. (The -ντ- is found in most of the other Ancient Greek declensions, but it’s not in the nominative singular; the Latin word probably came from the genitive singular ἐλέφᾰντος.)

          English words of ultimately Ancient Greek origin often arrive through a Latin intermediary, which is why the Latinate “hippopotami” is one of the English plurals, but the Hellenic “hippopotamoi” isn’t. Similarly, “hippocampus” came directly from Late Latin hippocampus, and is also a second declension noun, which is why “hippocampi” is its English plural rather than “hippocampoi”.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Slashme kinkyturnip

    They did an article on something old, aka synthetic diamonds. That required a 'hook' to be interesting. Elephants in ballerina shoes conjures up an image in journalists minds that makes it article worthy.

    Given the subjective size of the tip of a ballerina's shoe, why did they choose 640??

    640 elephants should be enough elephants for anyone!

    Almost as if the entire thing was designed as click bait to promote synthetic diamonds.

    First wikipedia date for synthetic diamonds is 2008, by Slashme, with kinkyturnip adding more detail:

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Slashme kinkyturnip

      > 640 elephants should be enough elephants for anyone!

      Unless you're the king of Spain.

      1. Anonymous Custard

        Re: Slashme kinkyturnip

        Unless you're the king of Spain.

        Or CMOT Dibbler.

        But then he probably branched off into a line of jumbo sausages...

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Slashme kinkyturnip

      "image in journalists minds that makes it article worthy."

      Being a bit pedantic here, but it would more likely br dreamed up by a journalist so that the image in EDITORS minds makes it more article worthy.

  11. 7teven 4ect

    823 gram spud

    Freshly harvested, too large to bake, how to convert to reg units for easier cooking?

  12. Kimo

    While the Reg prefers to measure in skateboarding rhinoceri, it is worth pointing out that there are 5 species of that particular group still turning tricks upon the Earth, with a considerable range between the Black Rhinoceros (adult males ranging from 850-1600kg) and the Sumatran variety (about 700kg).

  13. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

    From Ballet to El Reg

    Looks like Fatima's next job really was in Cyber.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: From Ballet to El Reg

      I thought she was a beer swilling spear chucker.

      (don't bother kids, you won't get it, you're not old enough :-))

  14. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    I'd have thought elephants per ballet shoe point would have been an excellent addition to the Register Standards.

  15. Grease Monkey Silver badge

    London Bus in Stiletto Heels

    I was under the impression that the London bus was an acceptable unit for almost any physical quantity. Length, height, weight, redness, lateness, etc.

    The ballet shoe is not an acceptable measure of area in these or any other circumstances (with the exception perhaps of ballet related issues) however I do remember the tip of a stiletto heel being used in this sort of context. Having heard in the past and employer justifying banning stiletto heels from a parquet floored board room by comparing the pressure exerted by a woman in stilettos being to that exerted upon a horses hoof.

    As such I think it would be reasonable to measure extreme pressure in London buses on a stiletto heel.

  16. Potemkine! Silver badge

    or 5cm x 5cm if you're calibrated for the 21st century

    Because 5 cm² doesn't sound 21st century ? :~

    1. Borg.King

      5cm x 5cm != 5 cm²

      5 x 5 = 25

  17. Munchausen's proxy

    Jumbo quarks involved?

    "African elephants can be broken down into Savannah elephants and forest elephants"

    I'm envisioning something like neutron decay here - do we have a Playmobil data visualization of this process?

  18. AbeSapian


    Well! Somebody has their knickers in a knot. Is there a Reg Standard Unit for that?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "12 per cent of an Australian Tram when correctly expressed in Reg standard units"

    I must have missed this one. Melbourne tram or Sydney tram? Or Adelaide, which I think are the same as Sydney. Or maybe it's Sydney that's the same as Adelaide, I don't know which came first.

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