Some Unusual Units


Hurricanes are high powered tropical storms (also known as typhoons or cyclones) which occur at sea. In the northern hemisphere the winds blow anticlockwise. Hurricanes are measured in categories from 1-5 with 5 being the strongest.



74-95 mph
Caravans and sheds get thrown around, trees damaged. Minor flooding on the coast, piers could be damaged.


96-110 mph
Rooves damaged, windows broken. Trees could be ripped up. Coastal flooding, boats could be pulled from moorings.


111-130 mph
Weaker buildings could have structural damage, cars thrown around. Masses of water breaking over coastal areas and flooding inland.


131-150 mph
Like category 3 but worse with flying busses, and beach front hotels being drowned out or even washed away.


over 150 mph
Mass evacuation required. Unlimited damage, wind speeds much higher than 150 mph are almost impossible to measure. (Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that crossed the Gulf of Mexico in Sept 2005 peaked at over 180 mph.)

In the North Atlantic, any tropical storm with winds over 38 mph is given a name chosen from a list in alpabetical order. Some of these develop to become hurricanes. (Q,U,X,Y and Z are not used, so if your name is Quentin or Zoe then you'll never get to wreak havoc in the Carribean.) Here are some of the planned names for different years:

2015/2021 Ana Bill Claudette Danny Erika Fred Grace Henri Ida Joaquin Kate Larry Mindy Nicholas Odette Peter Rose Sam Teresa Victor Wanda
2016/2022 Alex Bonnie Colin Danielle Earl Fiona Gaston Hermine Ian Julia Karl Lisa Matthew Nicole Otto Paula Richard Shary Tobias Virginie Walter
2017/2023 Arlene Bret Cindy Don Emily Franklin Gert Harvey Irma Jose Katia Lee Maria Nate Ophelia Philippe Rina Sean Tammy Vince Whitney
2018/2024 Alberto Beryl Chris Debby Ernesto Florence Gordon Helene Isaac Joyce Kirk Leslie Michael Nadine Oscar Patty Rafael Sara Tony Valerie William
2019/2025 Andrea Barry Chantal Dorian Erin Fernand Gabrielle Humberto Imelda Jerry Karen Lorenzo Melissa Nestor Olga Pablo Rebekah Sebastien Tanya Van Wendy
2020/2026 Arthur Bertha Cristobal Dolly Edouard Fay Gonzalo Hanna Isaias Josephine Kyle Laura Marco Nana Omar Paulette Rene Sally Teddy Vicky Wilfred

The cycle of names repeats every six years, although if a hurricane is particularily bad, the name is replaced.

Hurricanes also cause changes in ocean water temperature since they force warm water down and bring cold water to the surface. Ocean and freshwater salmon can be affected by rapid temperature changes and heavy rains. When cooking fresh caught salmon be sure to check the internal salmon temperature with a meat thermometer.


The HOTTEST Chilli Sauce in the World! May 2005

In 1912 a German scientist, Wilbur Scoville, was the first person to measure the hotness of chillies. Originally he just did it by taste (and how sore they made his mouth) but now it's done with fancy food analysing machines.

Here's roughly how the scale works:
  • Ordinary "peppers"
    Scoville rating: 0
  • Jalapeno peppers (if you get a pizza with little bits of chopped chilli on it, these are usually Jalapeno - and for most people they taste too hot!)
    Scoville rating: about 5,000
  • Scotch Bonnet (about the hottest thing you can buy in a very specialist shop)
    Scoville rating: between 80,000 and 300,000. ARGHH!
  • Savina Habanero (a rare Mexican chilli)
    Scoville rating: about 550,000.
But beware! They have just discovered a chilli in Assam, northeast India called NAGA JOLOKIA. It is so hot it can cause heart attacks so only a mad person would try to eat it. Just to touch it you'd need to be wearing thick gloves! As for the Scoville rating... it's an awesome 855,500.


Earthquakes are measured on the Richter Scale which was invented by a Californian called Charles E Richter in 1935. (They get quite a few earthquakes and tremours in California.) The Richter Scale is logarithmic which means that if an earthquake is measured as 1 point bigger on the scale, it's 10 times more powerful. If it's 2 points bigger on the scale it's 100 times more powerful and so on. The very middle of an earthquake (where the vibrations are biggest) is called the epicentre.

Less than 2
You wouldn't notice it, but sensitive measuring machines (called seismometers) would pick it up.
2 - 3
You might feel a little shake as if a big lorry was going past.
3 - 4
It would give you a bit of a wobble and possibly bring down a few loose roof tiles.
4 - 5
This would wake you up and probably make some chimney pots fall down.
5 - 6
Badly built buildings near the epicentre could suffer a lot of damage.
6 - 7
Getting really nasty for anyone within 70 miles (100km) of the epicentre.
7 - 8
MAJOR EARTHQUAKE with massive damage to buildings within 150 miles (200km) of epicentre.
Over 8
GREAT EARTHQUAKE causing devastation for hundreds of miles.


A Murderous Maths fan just calling him/herself Macpherson suggests that the unit for measuring the holiness of a priest is a "Philigrahams". (It's a good joke for older people!)


The smallest possible measurement of fame =

One Direction

because it only lasts for...
...ooops you've missed it!

Apoorva Aditya gave us the units for fame based on the artist Andy Warhol's quote
"In the future everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes."


  • 1 warhol = 15 minutes of fame.
  • 1 kilowarhol = 15,000 minutes or 10.42 days of fame.
  • 1 megawarhol = 15,000,000 minutes or 28.5 years of fame.


Many thanks to Max from New Zealand who told us about the "MILLIHELEN". It's based on the fact that thousands of years ago the Trojan wars started when Paris, the prince of Troy stole the beautiful Helen from the Greeks. This caused the Greeks to send over a massive navy to get her back and hence Helen is said to have had "the face that launched a thousand ships". Therefore it's obvious that:
  • 1 MILLIHELEN is a unit of beauty equal to the ability to launch one ship
This nicely leads to:
  • 1 CENTIHELEN would launch 10 ships
  • 1 DECIHELEN would launch 100 ships.


Patrick Gaffey told us about the TORINO SCALE which rates how likely an asteroid is to hit us!



It'll miss completely, or it's so tiny it'll burn up in the atmosphere.


No danger


It'll come close but don't panic. Put your umbrella up if it makes you feel better.


About 1% chance of minor damage


About 1% chance of bigger damage


Oooh, better keep an eye on this one


Now we're getting serious. Keep watching and checking and hoping...


Something very big could come very close. International attention required.


Definite collision, but where? Could destroy a town or create a tsunami. This might happen once in 1,000 years.


This one could destroy a whole island. We get these maybe once in 20,000 years.


This happens once every 100,000 years (or longer). But if you see it coming, start packing because we need to leave Earth.

You'll be glad to know that nothing has ever been rated above a 4, and at the moment there's nothing worse than a 1 up there.

Computer Mouse Movement

Sarah Moles tells us that:

One MICKEY = the smallest amount of movement that can be detected by a computer mouse.
It's a length of about 0.1mm or 1/250 th of an inch and it's named after Mickey Mouse.

By the way, the total distance moved by all the all the computer mice in Britain in one hour is about two trillion mickeys or 2,000,000,000,000mk. That's enough to go around the equator five times!

Sheep Picturesqueness

Tripple A tells us that:

One SHEPPEY = the distance at which sheep cease to look picturesque.
It is named after the Isle of Sheppey in the UK and is about 7/8 of a mile or 1.4km.

If you know of any more unusual units of measurement - real or just funny - please let us know! We'll put them on the site along with your name.

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