Fantastic Measurement System
The green line represents a hypothetical offspring of Cruella de Vil and Sauron.note
Instead of going with normal measurement unit names, fiction will make up their own. Expect a guide
to have conversions between them and real units.
In some cases, especially Science Fiction
or Sufficiently Analyzed Magic
, units will have to be invented where they do not exist in normal speech. Magical energy is likely to have some unit. Particularly well developed settings may even specify what the unit is; for example, one Merlin might be defined as the magical energy required to push a specific object a specific distance.
Compare Hiroshima as a Unit of Measure
, where a unit is scaled to a specific object. See Microts
for units relating to time and Alternative Calendar
for different ways of arranging time units.
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Anime and Manga
- Though it's never named, there obviously is a unit to measure one's strength in Dragon Ball. In the games it's often referenced as B.P. (Battle Power), and the English dub of the anime just calls it one's "Power Level". In this system, the average human would rate 2-5 and a master martial artist would top out around 10. By the middle of Dragon Ball Z, the numbers we're dealing with are in the millions. So yeah.
- And as we all know, over 9000 of this unit is already... a lot.
- Babidi uses his own scale to measure power, in "kilis". According to him, 300 kilis is necessary to destroy a planet, and Goku as a Super Saiyan had 3000. Due to the difference between those two numbers not making much sense (Goku has far more than ten times the energy to blow up a planet, Piccolo vaporized the moon when he was about 1'500), some have assumed it's a logarithmic scale.
- In Trigun, distances are measured in "Iles," which are just "miles" with one letter removed.
- Not to mention, the unit of money is called "Double Dollars", represented, of course, with "$$" (seems like just a waste of time and ink really)
- When fans ask Eiichiro Oda things like the extent that someone who ate the Gomu-Gomu fruit can stretch, Oda's response is something along the lines of "100 Gomu-Gomus" without telling us how long a Gomu-Gomu is. He does the same thing for the Bara-Bara fruit and the Hana-Hana fruit, except the measures are in Bara-Baras and Hana-Hanas.
- Toriko manages to go along with and avert this by using (kilo)calories to describe maximum energy levels, or the amount of energy that attacks use up. Although the kilocalorie is a real and quantifiable unit of measurement of energy, the numbers reach the hundreds of millions of kilocalories (the energy an average person would exert in 140 years or so) so frequently and without the backlashes that would come from the real-life use of these real units that the actual units bear little meaning whatsoever.
- In Slayers, a spellcaster's magical prowess is determined by two of these applied to mana: pool capacity and bucket capacity. Pool capacity is how much mana a caster can safely store at one time, and this increases with practice and regular use of spells. Bucket capacity is how much mana a caster can actually take from their pool at any one time, and this limit is fixed from birth. For this reason, bucket capacity is what really defines how powerful a spellcaster is, since all spells have a minimum amount of mana that they need before they can be cast. The most powerful Fire Shamanism spell, Blast Bomb, has effectively been lost to humanity because no person in centuries has had a bucket capacity high enough to cast it. To put this in perspective, Lina Inverse doesn't have the bucket capacity to cast Blast Bomb without wearing power-booster talismans!
- In The Familiar of Zero, a mage's power level is based on a scale of one to four, with higher numbers being more powerful. Level 1 is Dot, level 2 is Line, level 3 is Triangle and level 4 is Square. Mages need to be at least Line rank to be able to use two kinds of Elemental Powers, though it's unclear if this is a matter of training or natural affinity, and even single-element mages are exponentially more powerful in that element depending on their rank. It's unclear if rank is simply something a mage is born with or if it can be trained to make them stronger.
- When Amadeus Cho studies magical phenomena, he measures the reality-warping field strength in "hercs", one herc being equal to the field strength of his friend Hercules. It sounds like "hertz" so it's pretty natural to tack on SI prefixes like megahercs or gigahercs, but most of the measurements he gives are between zero and five hercs.
- The various Transformers franchises use various units of length and time. While they used generic "cycles" a lot, the earliest Cybertronian units of measurement had such names as "breem," "vorn," and "orn."
- In With Strings Attached, the Baravadans have “longsteps”; how long these units are is never explained. Also, John's Kansael doesn't understand any Earth measurements and can't tell him how distant Ehndris is from Ta'akan; he figures out that the distance is roughly comparable to that between London and Glasgow. On the other hand, the Hunter's world uses miles.
- Infamously, Star Wars: A New Hope uses parsecs as a measure of time. (They're actually a real world measure of distance.)
- Original Word of God had it that this was intended to be a deliberate mistake, to show that Han Solo wasn't as clever as he made out. Obi-Wan visibly winces at the line. A later Flip Flop of God came up with a scenario where a ship with more powerful engines could either take a riskier shortcut, or make rendezvous with a moving target before it had moved so far; thus it really was correct, in a complicated way (but not From a Certain Point of View). Since Obi-Wan still does visibly wince at the line, Fanon is pretty dismissive of the new explanation.
- Parodied in Star Wreck, where the "twist of a maggothole" is expressed as megaparsecseconds (Finnish original) or googol-fluxoms (Englsh translation). Neither of those make any sense.
- Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom stories have their own take on the metric system. On the series' Wikipedia article, distance units were as follows, from shortest to longest: sofad (11.68 inches), ad (10 sofads, 9.75 feet), haad (100 sofads, 10 ads, 32.44 yards), and karad (1,000 sofads, 100 ads, 10 haads, 36.92 miles). The difference is that the karad is based on the length of an arc-degree on the Barsoomian equator, whereas the real-life meter/metre was originally based on a ten-millionth of the length of the Earth's circumference from the Equator to the poles as measured through the Paris meridian.
- The Discworld unit of magic is the thaum, defined as the amount of magic needed to create a white pigeon or three standard-sized billiard balls. There is also the prime, an attempt at a more rational unit created by the wizard Augustus Prime, which is defined as the amount of magic needed to move one pound of lead one foot. In a bit of a parody of how British scientists and academics act with Centigrade/Fahrenheit, it's mentioned in the Discworld Companion that any young wizard attempting to use primes will immediately face the question from his superiors "What's that in Old Money?" Perhaps because of this, thaums are nearly always cited as the unit in the books.
- The Science of Discworld uses "splitting the thaum" as a fantastic version of splitting the atom, implying the thaum is actually a real distinct particle or entity rather than just an arbitrary measurement.
- Continuing the temperature parody theme, younger wizards use a "thaumometer" (sounds like "thermometer") to measure the strength of a magical field, while older wizards dismiss these modern gadgets and just lick their finger and hold it up—which causes it to sprout a coloured aura which lets them judge the background magic strength.
- On Gor, distances are measured in "passangs", which are 7/10ths of a mile.
- In Harry Potter, the wizarding world uses a different system of money than the rest of the world, which consists of Galleons, Sickles and Knuts. There are 17 Sickles in a Galleon, and 29 Knuts in a Sickle. As of December 5th, 2010, one Galleon is worth about 5 British Pounds, or 7.82 U.S. Dollars.
- In Moon Over Soho, Peter Grant is depressed that, despite being codified by Isaac Newtonnote himself, the rules of magic have no proper unit of measurement. He decides to invent one and call it the "yap", a "yap" being the amount of magic need to make a small dog bark.
- Not just any small dog, mind you, but one specific small dog which had previously been exposed to magic and was known to react to it.
- The Star Wars Expanded Universe uses the metric system—called Imperial measurements, confusingly enough—in the Republic, New Republic, and the Empire. Others may use other systems - the Adumari use "keps", which are about .8 kilometers. In Outbound Flight, the Chiss use "visvia", which are about 1.6 kilometers. There are others.
- In Warrior Cats, the most common unit of measurement is a "tail-length", which is equivalent to about a foot. "Foxlength"—about a yard—is used occasionally as well, and on very rare occasions they'll use "kittenstep" (about an inch).
- In Taylor Anderson's Destroyermen series, the Lemurians will frequently measure distances in "tails", which equate almost exactly to yards. Apparently, an average adult Lemurian's tail is about a yard long. Tails are also the same on land and at sea.
- In Vitaliy Gubarev's children's story Journey to the Morning Star, the Etherians measure time in tils, tiltils, soltans, and ladoses. A til is a hair longer than a second. A tiltil is a hundred tils. A soltan is a hundred tiltils. A lados (Etherian day) is eighteen soltans. It's not clear what they call a year, although they also measure orbital cycles, and one full orbit of their homeworld Etheri Tau around the star Lado is equal to 422 ladoses.
- Star Carrier: The Turusch use units such as g'nyuu'm for time and lurm'm for distance. 12,000 lurm'm = 5 light-g'nyuu'm. Meanwhile g'ri is a unit used for mass, with several vessels in the America battlegroup described as massing more than 28,000 g'ri.
- Battlestar Galactica (1970s): according to its The Other Wiki article, the only distance unit that wasn't an Earth name was "metron" (1 meter).
- However, the fact something had the same name as an Earth unit didn't mean it had the same meaning as the Earth unit: "microns", for example, were time units in BG (as opposed to distance units on Earth).
- Star Trek:
- A "kellicam" (QelIqam) is a unit of length used by Klingons which is similar in magnitude to a kilometre. (It also sounds like the name of a web cam clandestinely set up in Kelly's room.) The Star Trek: Vanguard novels build on this, introducing the Qam and MenIqam.
- Bajoran units of measurement include hecapate, kellipate, kerripate, linnipate, tessijen and tessipate.
- Computer capacity is measured in "kiloquads", which are very carefully never defined to avoid looking outdated when Tech Marches On.
- Star Trek has also had the forethought to come up with units for things that present-day science is physically incapable of measuring. "Cochranes" is apparently the metric unit for subspace flux (named for Zefram Cochrane, obviously).
- Star Trek: Voyager is fond of using the unit "isoton" for mass and explosive yield.
- In Red Dwarf, distances are measured in "gigooks", though how far this is is never indicated.
- The Daleks of Doctor Who measure time in "rels". Which, when we actually hear them using it, turns out to be exactly equal to one second.
- During one special episode, the UNIT scientist discussing the episode's situation with the Doctor reveals that he named a unit of measurement for something after himself.
- James May's Man Lab parodied the BBC's tendencies for using objects to express units of measure (see the Real Life section), at one point measuring the ascent of two weather balloons in "Mount Everests" and "Oz Clarkes".
- Farscape is an excellent example, as apparently everyone in Peacekeeper space, as well as the Uncharted Territories, uses "klance" (temperature); "dench", "henta", "samat", "milon", "metron", "motra" and "zacron" (distance); "hetch" (speed); "micron", "microt", "arn", "solar day", "weeken" and "cycle" (time). The fact that everyone seems to use these, even outside Peacekeeper space, might just be due to the Translator Microbes converting foreign measurements into units everyone can understand. (But then why aren't they just translated into units Chrichton/the viewers can understand?)
- Issue #33 of MAD had the "Potrzebie System of Weights and Measures", sent in by a 19-year-old Donald Knuth, who later became a computer scientist. The base unit was the thickness of Mad issue #26, or 2.263348517438173216473 millimeters.
- Early editions of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rated 'encumbrance' in 'coins'. Encumbrance, itself, was a vaguely-defined combination of actual weight and the awkwardness of carrying something. More recent systems use pounds, but the unit is still measuring ungainliness rather than weight proper. After all, density and molar weight are both secondary considerations to the principal question, "Is it worth looting this object?"
- In Spelljammer, all ships and equipment are measured in space tons. We know it's not the same as a "groundling" ton. Unit Confusion in some sourcebooks raises to the level when it's not clear even whether a space ton is a unit of mass or volume. This may indicate the authors don't get units, but it may also be an intentional reflection of real-life naval usage. Depending on nation, year, and the other words in the phrase, a naval measurement with the word "ton" in it may reference a weight, mass, volume, or even a dimensionless quantity!
- In Traveller the "ton" is a unit of volume, equal to the volume of 1000kg (a metric ton) of liquid hydrogen.
- Shadowrun measures the size of computer memory in "megapulses". That might be for the better, as when science fiction gives measurements for computer performance using proper units, it tends to get superceded by real-world technology way too soon.
- BIONICLE: "bios", "kios", and "mios" are units for distance used in the Matoran Universe. The distance units are as follows:
- 1 bio = 4.5 feet = 1.37 meters
- 1 kio = 1,000 bio = 4,500 feet/0.85 miles = 1.37 kilometers
- 1 mio = 1,000 kio = 850 miles = 1,370 kilometers, used to measure distances between islands
- The force of the final Climax move in Bayonetta is measured in "Infinitons" (most other moves are measured in "Megatons" and "Gigatons"). Serial Escalation indeed, and possible Fridge Brilliance since the idea of different values of infinity is a real concept in mathematics. Or, y'know it just sounds cool.
- And of course you are using it to punch an omnipotent God in the face hard enough to make it fly from the outer rings to the center of the sun. Theoretical mathematics for theoretical deities.
- Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story: Kilamoles
- The Source Engine by Valve Software uses "Hammer Units". Likewise The majority of game engines use some sort of map unit to measure distances. A Physics Engine might also use its own unit.
- Whereas many MMOs will measure the distance of attacks (and thus, implicitly, all distances) in a unit that audiences would recognize, like meters, Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV have "ilms", "fulms", "yalms", and "malms" as their units of measure. These may be "inches", "feet", "yards", and "miles", respectively, or else just have the same relations with each other as those real measurements do (without being the actual equivalent in length).
- The Space Empires games, much like Spelljammer as mentioned above, measure everything in kilotons, which thus can be a measure of volume, mass, or even structural integrity—you might have a freighter hull with a mass of 400kT, which can carry 1000kT in volume of cargo, and has 650kT of structural integrity!
- The Zork series had a number of these. The only explicitly defined one was the bloit, which was defined as the distance the king's favorite pet can travel in one hour (Which caused much trouble when a king with a pet turtle died, leaving a successor with a pet leopard). Others, whose definition must be inferred rather than being explicitly defined, are the gloop (A measure of volume, apparently the amount of liquid that comes out when the container goes gloop) and the ugh (A measure of weight, apparently the amount of mass to make a man of a given size say "ugh" when lifting it).
- Many tech mods for Minecraft make up their own units of measurement for energy.
- IndustrialCraft's electricity is measured in EUs.
- Buildcraft's energy is measured in MJs which, in this particular case, stand for Minecraft Joules.
- Thaumcraft's magical energy is measured in Vis points. Or Aura and Flux points, as of Thaumcraft 3.
- Equivalent Exchange measured items' worth in EMC points.
- Forge compatible liquids are measured in mB - milliBuckets, thousandth of a bucket.
- All these mods tend to measure time in "ticks", with rates of production or consumption being defined in tooltips as "# per tick". A tick is one pass through the master loop of the game engine that updates everything, the ticking clock of the simulated world itself, and the shortest unit of time that makes any sense.
- The speedometer in Super Tux Kart uses "tf/s". What are those? Tux feet per second?
- In Anarchy Reigns, upon starting a cage match, both characters' statistics are shown, which are Type (for example, Cyborg), Age, Height and Weight. If the player has Guest Fighter Bayonetta as one of the fighters, her height and weight statistics are displayed as "uwh" and "uww". They both have "(Magical Unit of Measurement)" next to them. These aren't in Bayonetta's game of origin, so these were likely invented as a means of filling in the height and weight for Bayonetta.
- Star Control 2 references this: most of the time the alien races conveniently give you measurements and units in Earth units, but they apparently are doing this consciously. The Zoq-Fot-Pik mess up at one point:
Pik: We hail from the green dwarf star at coordinates "ziggerfau-gerrrnuf, Ah-ah, Pahoy-hoy".
Zoq: No, you idiot, in their coordinate system!
Pik: Oh! Er... coordinates...
- Likewise the Slylandro who have had extremely limited interstellar contact are unaware of how to convert to Earth time units and use units based on the rotation of their homeworld: "Dranhasa" and "Drahn". You never actually get to scan their planet in-game so you can't calculate the durations either, but they correspond roughly to "few years" and "several millenia" respectively.
- The xkcd physics blog "What If?" used "megayoda" as a unit of energy, in reference to a previous entry which calculated Yoda's energy output when he lifted Luke's X-Wing out of the swamp in The Empire Strikes Back.
- Complipedia used to use nobbs, jurbs, quabbles, fices, kas, fas, ras, and clawses to measure length, mass, force, temperature, time, time, time, and frequency, respectively.
- One anonymous user on 4chan introduced hitlers as an SI unit (roughly equal to six million human deaths) to measure whether or not someone is truly "worse than Hitler".
- Cyberchase had "cyber" as their prefix. But it has been pointed out this isn't consistent.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, pegasi measure the power of their wings in "wing power", which is apparently related not to their top speed but to the amount of wind they can generate at a fixed speed. A combined 800 wing power is both sufficient and necessary to generate a tornado powerful enough to suck water out of a lake and hurl it hundreds of yards into the air, all to get it to the Cloudsdale weather factory so they can make storm-clouds for the rainy season.
- ReBoot: Megabyte offhandedly mentions that Bob will erase if he gets within five bits of a magnet.
- The Transformers of the eponymous metaseries have a staggering variety of not-at-all-internally-consistent Cybertronian units of length and time.
- The Smoot, a measurement available in Google Earth.
- The stone-furlong-fortnight system (on the analogy of centimeter-gram-second and foot-pound-second) is an in-joke of science fiction fandom. If you are going to cling to "traditional" units, why not go ALL the way?
- At the Millenium Philcon business meeting, a BNF who shall be nameless moved to amend an "X miles distance" clause to "2^10 furlongs". This was duly debated:
For: "It's fannish."
Against: "It's stupid."
- Related, a classic drunk college prank is to fill out official forms in ridiculous units, like measuring your height in rods or fractions of a furlong, your age in milliseconds or fortnights, etc.
- Helen of Troy, the World's Most Beautiful Woman from The Trojan War, is said to be the face that launched a thousand ships (to rescue her when she was kidnapped). Thus, beauty is measured in millihelens—the amount of beauty needed to launch a single shipnote This is, of course, blatantly false, since you can't use SI-prefixes with Troy units.
- Radiation is sometimes measured in the Banana Equivalent Dose, since the typical banana, containing trace amounts of radioactive potassium-40, exposes its consumer to 1/10 of a µSv (microsievert) of radiation. A normal broken-arm X-ray, for instance, is 10 bananas worth of radiation, or 1 µSv. Its scientific utility is limited; its real purpose is to put things in perspective for the radiation-averse public.