Friday, December 01, 2006


An encyclopedia that I am browsing through informs that when the metric system of measurement was introduced, the French defined the ‘meter’ as one-millionth of the distance between the North Pole and the Equator.

I can imagine how they accomplished this. One guy, dressed in fur, monkey cap and thermal inners, held one end of a long rope at the tip of the North Pole, all the while alert to the possibility of a polar bear ramming him on the backside. Meanwhile another guy, in shorts and T-shirt, held the other end of the rope at the Equator, keeping his eyes and ears open for mad elephants and charging rhinoceroses ( or is the plural rhinocerii?) Then they roll the rope carefully and meet at some point, depending on how fast each of them walked. Then they cut the rope into a million equal little pieces. One such piece was then proclaimed as the ‘meter’. A needlessly complicated process, if you ask me. They could have used a simple wooden scale, measured 100 cm and then marked it as one meter.

And, a kilo-gram is equal to the weight of a chunk of stone preserved in a building near Paris. And everything else in the world is weighed against this stone. Pretty weird, the whole thing strikes me as. Letting a piece of stone near Paris to tell me how many kilograms I weigh.

Did you know that there is a unit of beauty called the milli-Helen? Helen of Troy had a face that reputedly launched a thousand ships. So, a milli-Helen of beauty is the amount of beauty required to launch one ship. Now, this has interesting possibilities. Lead a group of pretty women, one at a time, to the harbour, observe how many ships each one is able to launch and then report how beautiful they are, in so many milli-Helens.

Why should there be such subjectivity in the selection of Miss Universe and Miss World. All the judges asking them silly questions and all the participants giving a stock reply that they want to be re-born as Mother Theresa. Complete nonsense. Here’s a simpler and a far more objective way. Line them up on the harbour front and publish the results in milli-Helens.

Correction (06/12/06) : Akshay points out that I have made a technical error. We should count the ships coming into the harbour and not going out. For, Helens' face had launched a thousand ships from the opposite direction.


Usha said...

oh..ha. ha. hee. hee. ho. ho...
what do you have for breakfast?

Anonymous said...

That rope stuff was hillarious! LOL!

French accent is what I find the most complex to understand. Maybe they put the same comlexity to measurement!

A Motley Tunic said...

milli-helen bit was hilarious!! rotfl!

Anonymous said...

So, a milli-Helen of beauty is the amount of beauty required to launch one ship

actually it should be the opp. measure how many ships come to her not go away from her


Anonymous said...

Don't believe them, the meter is based from the average length French bars of iron were made in.

Raj said...

Usha, I have 200gm of corny flakes. Doesn't that explain?

mysorean, thanks to the sub-titles, I follow French quite easily nowadays.But,idea of being weighed against a chunk of French stone locked up in a cupboard in a Parisian home is rather creepy.

sowmya, thanks. milli-helen really exists as a unit. Not my coinage.

akshay, you are right. I forgot my Greek history ( or mythology). Correction will be made pronto

Anon, how did they know how long the bars must be, when they forged them?