11 Ways Geeks Measure the World

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Image © Wikimedia CommonsImage © Wikimedia Commons

Image © Wikimedia Commons

We geeks seem to have a peculiar attachment to quantifying things. It’s why our games involve complicated character sheets, or score sheets or little plastic thingies for putting wedges in. I’d go so far as to say that, were any of us inclined to get into a bar fight, we’d first try to calculate the other guy’s hit points. Allowing, of course for the effects of alcohol (+2 Courage, -3 Wisdom, Roll D20 for effects on HP and Charisma).

Way back in 1958, the MIT chapter of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity used pledge Oliver R. Smoot to measure the Harvard Bridge in Massachusetts, coining the smoot as a unit of measurement in the process — one smoot equaling 5 feet, 7 inches. Smoot (the man) lay down on the bridge, his position was marked, and he moved on (or was moved on — eventually, he was so tired from the movement that his frat brothers carried him), until the bridge was established as being 364.4 smoots, plus or minus an ear, in length. Appropriately, Smoot would later become chairman of the American National Standards Institute.

But not everything is measured as easily as lying down a few hundred times in a row. In much the same way as baseball now uses the WHIP statistic, or NBA analysts are so interested in quantifying defensive play, we at GeekDad feel it’s our duty to introduce some new and pass on some existing ways of quantifying your world. Think of us as the Bill James of nerdiness. This is by no means an exhaustive list; they’re just some of my favorites. Feel free to mention your own favorites in the comments.

Milliwheaton (Twitter followers)
Assistant Editor Matt Blum turned me on to the milliwheaton (and inadvertently inspired this post) — although, he points out, Dork Tower creator John Kovalic appears to be the originator of it. In the comic, a milliwheaton is 500 followers (calibrated, they say, the day Secretary for Geek Affairs Wil Wheaton hit 500,000 followers). However, at time of writing, Wil Wheaton had 1,479,459 followers, making a milliwheaton considerably higher. Do we recalibrate? I say we wait until he hits an even 1.5 million, and every half million after that.

I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t mention that Twitter followers were previously measured in Coultons, based roughly on the same idea.

Milliscobles (Tweeting activity)
Yeah, another Twitter one. Hold on, this one gets complicated, so I’m going to let Followcost.com explain:
“A person’s follow cost is calculated in terms of milliscobles, named after technology personality and prolific Twitterer Robert Scoble.
One milliscoble is defined as 1/1000th of the average daily Twitter status updates by Robert Scoble as of 10:09 CST September 25, 2008. At that time, Scoble had tweeted 14,319 times in 675 days, for an average tweets per day of 21.21. Thus, one milliscoble is defined as 0.02121 tweets per day.”
Got that? Me neither. Apparently overall, I rate 181.21 milliscobles, though I’ve been up to shenanigans on Twitter lately, and have pushed my rating for my last 100 updates to 335.49 milliscobles. And I honestly don’t know if that’s good or bad.

Let’s move on from the ubiquitous blue bird. Here are nine more you should know:

Megafonzies (coolness)
We don’t know if Professor Hubert Farnsworth, inventor of the Finglonger, coined the term ‘Megafonzie.’ We can assume that one Fonzie is the amount of coolness generated by Arthur Fonzarelli but his coolometer tells us that two kids acquiring a lot of swag by dishonest means rates 40 megafonzies. Maybe I’m a goody-two-shoes, but that seems discordant to me.

Millihelens (beauty)
One millihelen is enough beauty to launch one ship. I could make a ‘she floats my boat’ joke here, but I’m bigger than that. Incidentally, another definition of the Helen is in terms of the number of women that one woman will, on average, be more beautiful than — one Helen being the quantity of beauty required to be more beautiful than 50 million women (the number of women estimated to have been alive in the 12th-century BC).

Warhols (fame duration)
1 Warhol equals 15 minutes of fame, So if you’ve been famous for three years, that’s just over 105 kilowarhols. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that there’s a critical point — varying from celebrity to celebrity — where that person has outstayed their welcome, and uh … becomes synonymous with a feminine hygiene product (and the bag it came in). In keeping with nuclear physics, I’m happy for this to remain as k=1 (where ‘k’ is for ‘Kanye’).

Thaum (magic)
In Terry Pratchett’s The Last Continent, the thaum is the unit used to quantify magic. One thaum is the amount of mystical energy required to conjure up one small white pigeon, or three normal-sized billiard balls, and can be measured, up to one million thaums, by a thaumometer. If there is more magic than that around, measuring it should not be your primary concern.

Sheppey (distance)
I have to include Douglas Adams’ co-creation (with John Lloyd) here — It’s from The Meaning of Liff, their dictionary of things there aren’t any words for yet. All the words in the dictionary are British place names (the Isle of Sheppey is off the Kent coast). One sheppey is the closest distance at which sheep are still picturesque, and is about seven-eighths of a mile.

Hyneman (mustache density)
I nearly called this the Burgundy, but a) Hyneman is geekier, and b) Ron Burgundy’s was too well trimmed to be a good indicator of density. One hyneman is the density of Jamie Hyneman’s mustache in the first episode of Mythbusters. My attempted beard from earlier this year could only really be measured in millihynemans, which is why I don’t have it anymore.

Emmett (power)
1 emmett = 1.21 gigawatts, or the amount of power required to operated the flux capacitor in a modified DeLorean DMC-12. GeekDad note — when describing the emmett, it’s pronounced ‘jigga’ watt. There was briefly some debate as to whether this should be called a ‘lloyd’ or a ‘docbrown’, But for simplicity (and to honor the character rather than the actor — though don’t get me wrong, Christopher Lloyd rocks) I’ve gone for ’emmett.’

DDN (diaper difficulty number)
I’m proposing, seeing as we’ve probably all argued with our spouses at some point over who has changed the “worst” diapers, a way of settling this argument. I figure there are five factors at play here, and for the purposes of this exercise, we need only talk about, um … number two:

  • Odor – ranked one to 10, where one is barely noticeable and 10 is concentrated evil.
  • Viscosity – Again, ranked one to 10 but I can’t emphasize this enough — if you’re reading this at lunch, skip to the next one. Ready? OK. Dry and solid, good. Sticky and liquid, bad. Extrapolate from there.
  • Leakage – Not always a factor, depending on the quality of the diaper, and how quickly you get to it, but if all you have is the emergency cheap one and you have to get through a shopping center to the change room, you’re probably going to have to score high. Anything that requires a full change of clothes? Bonus points. If you need to change clothes too, you automatically win the argument.
  • Baby movement – Depending on how giddy our little guy is, he might cooperate, he might kick, or he might try to escape halfway through. Score one to 10 accordingly.
  • Location – I’ve never had to change my son on a moving train, or in a moving car. My wife has. Score zero if the change occurs on a clean, level, ample-sized change mat. Increase your score accordingly.

Once you have your scores, weight them accordingly — I’ll take a foul odor over leaky and liquid, for example, so I’d multiply the odor number by 0.75 and the other two by 1.25 — add them up, and there’s your DDN. Argument solved. You’re welcome.

Professor John FrinkProfessor John FrinkFrinks (geekiness)
I’m sure I’ll take a lot of flak for this, but take it as a suggestion, at least — a standard unit of geekiness called the frink, and that it be measured on the ‘Hoyvin-Glayvin’ scale. Simpsons fans won’t need to ask why. To figure out where you fall on the Hoyvin-Glayvin Scale, I’ve compiled a handy reference:

0 Frinks – thought the JockDad April Fool’s Prank was a good direction for this blog.
10 Frinks – believes Greedo fired first.
20 Frinks – you’re the family friend who “knows” computers.
30 Frinks – on Twitter, but only following Ashton and Oprah.
40 Frinks – you don’t hate sci-fi, but don’t have an opinion on things like Kirk vs. Picard either.
50 Frinks – You’re the family friend who actually does know computers. You probably watch the Battlestar Galactica reruns, too.
60 Frinks – Solidly geeky. Almost stereotypically so.
70 Frinks – Geeky enough to know geeks don’t like fitting into stereotypes.
80 Frinks – You’ve probably attended several cons, contemplated which dice to bring to the game, and own at least one Starfleet/Colonial Fleet/Galactic Empire uniform.
90 Frinks – It’s been a long time since you told a joke that didn’t reference C#, Linux or the Dune saga.
100 Frinks – Aren’t you Dr. Sheldon Cooper?

Many thanks to fellow GeekDads Matt, Kevin, Chuck and Z for the help on this list.

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