Omni Calculator is a Polish startup that, well, makes calculators. Not necessarily the pocket kind — they offer thousands of highly specific and wildly unique online calculators. They have calculators for helpful things, like how much fertilizer you need, or how many leaves are on a tree, or how to best wrap your Christmas tree. There are also some, erm, less useful but still weirdly fascinating calculators, in case you need to disprove Flat Earth Theory or assign values to Trump's Wall. They can even help you measure your individual carbon footprint from a flight.
To celebrate their milestone 2,000th calculator, Omni Calculator has made a new calculator that helps you convert measurements into wacky units. Finally, an easy way to answer important questions like:
- How many llama's spits does it take to get to New York?
- How many Harry Potter books tall are you?
- What's the square chocolate bars measurement of your apartment?
- How many human eyeballs do you weigh?
- How many "Despacito" song plays does it take to bake a potato?
- What is the air speed velocity of an unladen Michael Phelps?
By means of a more practical demonstration: we all know that it takes 1.21 gigawatts to power a flux capacitor. But now I can tell you that 1.21 gigawatts is the equivalent of 2,420,000,000 hamsters, or 4,867,844 donkeypower, which is equal to 80,667 kangaroo punches or 43,214 lightsabers.
It's a silly exercise, but I'm quite keen on the company's explanation for it: measurements are only as useful if you can relate them to your life.
For most of human history, we have only been used to quite small numbers. The ten digits on our hands and feet. The couple of hundred people in a settlement, or a thousand animals on the land. When the number of things does get large, we just use words like "forest" for thousands of trees or "flock" for thousands of birds. There was no evolutionary pressure for humans to know the exact number of these large quantities of things. In fact, there are some languages that don't have a number system. Instead, they rely on a word for "a few" and a word meaning "a lot". It certainly makes accounting super simple.
Given this background, is it any wonder that most people find it hard to grasp the enormously large and incredibly small numbers that we come across in modern life. Unless you have a good understanding of mathematics and the exponential number system, any number above a couple of thousand quickly gets meaningless.
The way we write numbers doesn't help. The difference between 1,000,000 and 10,000,000 as written is only one zero, but in number terms the difference is nine million. Worse still, the bigger the numbers get, the larger the difference an extra zero makes.
Try it out:
Weird Units Calculator [Steve Wooding / Omni Calculator]