Monday, April 25, 2011

Weights and Measures

Arms around the original inch. Photo courtesy Flickr

Old recipes called for quantities like “a lump of butter the size of an egg”. It’s fast and liberating to be able to eyeball quantities. Often an imprecise unit of measurement is perfectly adequate. Julia Child advised measuring a teaspoon of salt, pouring it into the palm of the hand, and then simply remembering what the pile looks like.

Thomas Edison, it is said, once asked a physicist to measure the internal volume of a light bulb. The science guy spent a couple of weeks fiddling with formulae, and when he showed up with his results, Edison poured the bulb full of water and dumped it into a measuring cup.

As I whack keys on a laptop, my day is measured in nanoseconds, but the moment I look out the window, a solar year takes over, letting me know how things are going by the state of the local leaves.

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