Have you noticed in the last couple of years that the media has explained things with preposterous measurements? Instead of trying the metric system, or even sticking with imperial measurements, they’ll tell you how big a stingray is compared to Travis Kelce. Or that an asteroid is the size of 69 alligators.
Humans love a good comparison, not that those examples were good, and sometimes you need to make an equivalency to put things in perspective. One of the most famous is describing a large body of water by how many swimming pools it equals. And those equivalences are all fine and good, but they do little to change your perspective on anything. But maybe these will.
10. One Ounce of Pure Vanilla Extract is Equal to One Ounce of Vodka
People at home with limited resources get bored, creative and desperate without stimulation. This is even more true for teens. Arguably this is where the sort of trend of smoking banana peels came from – people looking for a cheap buzz in a pinch. But it’s not the only way you can improvise a cheap thrill in your pantry. There’s also vanilla.
You can buy artificial vanilla extract for a cheap price to get the flavor in your baked goods or shell out more cash for the real deal. But be warned that pure vanilla extract is not to be taken lightly. An ounce of pure vanilla is the equivalent to an equal amount of vodka. So yes, you can get drunk on pure vanilla.
Contrary to popular belief, vanilla alone is not technically alcoholic. The process of making extract makes it that way. You need to soak vanilla beans in alcohol to get the extract, it’s like steeping a tea bag to make tea. So the beans soak in alcohol for days and it can end up between 35 and 70 proof when it’s ready. Art the high end, that puts it on even footing with vodka.
9. One Kg of Uranium is the Energy Equivalent of 4,500 Metric Tons of Coal
We’ve done pretty well for ourselves as a species when it comes to harnessing energy. We’ve gone through coal, petroleum, solar, wind, nuclear and a handful of others. But with so many options it’s hard to understand not only which ones are best but how much better they are than others. So we have to rely on comparisons as the most efficient way.
Nuclear power is one of the safest and most efficient power sources we have even though people are still leery of it. But how efficient is it? Compare it to coal and see for yourself.
Most nuclear plants use uranium or thorium as a power source. A single kilogram of uranium can produce as much power as 4,500 metric tons of coal.
In terms of practical power, a kilogram of coal will make 8 kWh of heat when it’s burned. That equals 3.6 megajoules or 3,412 BTUs. Keep in mind there are different kinds of coal and some burn more efficiently than others. That aside, that is enough to heat 10L or about 2.6 gallons of water from room temperature to boiling. That’s one kg of coal.
In terms of uranium, one kg will produce about 24 million kWh. So that’s a lot more boiling water. And considering that the world burns over 8 billion tonnes (or 8.8 billion US tons) per year, we could do a lot more with a lot less nuclear power.
8. One Food Calorie Is Equal in Energy Output to 1 Gram of TNT
One of the most fun conversions in the world of energy comes from calories. We know on a basic level food gives us energy but we rarely think of it like energy that is out in the world, like electricity or heat or anything like that. But fundamentally it’s all the same. So you can do the math to see how much power is in a cookie if you want.
A joule is the unit we use to measure the force of one newton moving an object one meter. A calorie is about 4.2 joules. You can use joules to measure the force of an explosion, and you can use joules to measure the energy in your dinner.
One ton of TNT, or dynamite, has the explosive power of 4.184 gigajoules. Drop it to a kg and we’re dealing with 4.6 megajoules. Drop it to one gram and you have one calorie. So each calorie has the power of a gram of dynamite. That means a can of Coca-Cola is equivalent to 140g of dynamite, at least in terms of energy.
The Oklahoma City bombing was a 4,000 lb TNT equivalent. That’s about 1.8 million grams. That works out to around 12,800 cans of Coke. If you prefer food equivalents, at 590 calories a piece, the explosion was equal to 3,050 Big Macs.
7. Being Awake for 21 Hours Is Equivalent to Being Legally Drunk
How are your sleep habits? If you’re one of those people who likes to pull all-nighters and try to function the next day on caffeine and hope, you may not be doing yourself any favors. The longer you go without sleep, the more impaired you become. Sleep deprivation affects your body much the same as alcohol consumption does. It lowers your response times and increases your chances of making mistakes at work.
Research has shown that being awake for 21 hours straight will have the same effect on you as having a blood alcohol level of 0.08, which is the legal limit in many places. If you stay awake for 24 hours, that’s on par with a 0.10 blood alcohol, which is enough to get you charged with impaired driving.
It’s also worth noting that if you drink while sleep deprived it will have a compounding effect on your performance so even if you only have a true blood alcohol level of maybe 0.04, if you were awake all day it hits you like a 0.14.
6. A Tablespoon of Neutron Star is the Weight Equivalent of Mt. Everest
Have you heard that old joke about what weighs more, a ton of feather or a ton of bricks? For whatever reason, if people don’t stop to think about things, they make wildly inaccurate estimates about sizes and weights. A ton of bricks has to weigh more because it’s bricks, they’ll think. Likewise, that something small can also be dense and therefore very heavy is hard to wrap your head around.
A neutron star is one of the densest things in the entire universe and density is not to be underestimated. A neutron star may only be 12 miles across and denser than our sun, which is 72,000 times bigger.
If you found a neutron star in space and wanted to take a little home as a souvenir, it’s be a heck of a struggle. Because it’s so dense it’s deceptively heavy. A tablespoon of neutron star would weigh about one billion tons here on earth. That’s heavier than the highest mountain on Earth.
The whole neutron star can be up to two solar masses, or the equivalent to double our sun. Consider that our sun is over 100 times Earth’s diameter, and we’re talking about something 12 miles in diameter and you can see that density is a big deal here.
5. Recycling Aluminum Is Equal to Saving 40 Barrels of Oil
Most cities have recycling programs these days and have done so for years. If you’ve ever wondered if it makes any kind of difference, wonder no more. Recycling aluminum really does and in ways you probably didn’t expect.
Using recycled aluminum uses 95% less energy than having to manufacture new aluminum. One ton of recycled aluminum is equal to 40 barrels of oil being saved in terms of production. Also 14,000 kWh. In the US it works out to an annual total of 90 million barrels of oil saved.
The upside to recycling aluminum is one of those things that oddly appeals to people who don’t want to rely on fossil fuels and those who do, since it prevents the loss of it allowing it to either not cause pollution or be used more efficiently elsewhere so everyone wins. At least in theory.
4. Common Homeopathic Dosages Are Equal to Less Than One Molecule In All the World’s Water
Despite no evidence it works and common sense making it seem clear it could never work, homeopathy has a lot of proponents to this day. It’s remarkable when you see how practitioners explain how it’s supposed to work.
Homeopathy doses are often listed with the letter C. So we’ll be explaining 30C here. The C refers to a dilution factor at a 1:100 ratio. This is according to practitioners themselves. So a 1C dilution is one part ingredient to 100 parts water. But a 2C solution takes the original dilution and then dilutes that one part to one hundred parts. So to make a 30C solution you take one part of a dilution and dilute it 100 times and you do this 30 times.
Mathematically, that means a 2C solution is one in 10,000 parts. 3C is one in a million parts. At 15C is statistically unlikely that even a single molecule of the original ingredient exists in the dilution. Basically you have water. And you’re still diluting it 15 more times. Some dilutions take on numbers that have 400 zeroes. They end up being equivalent to less than a single drop spread across all the world’s oceans.
3. Gonorrhea Has Strength Equal to a Human Pulling Millions of Pounds
Ever wonder what the strongest thing in the world is? Some people might think something like a dung beetle, which can pull over 1,100 times its own body weight. Make no mistake, that is amazing, but it pales compared to the might of gonorrhea.
One of the least favorite bacteria in the world, gonorrhea is also an absolute unit of a powerhouse. Shaming the dung beetle, a single gonorrhea bacterium can pull as much as 100,000 times its own weight. That’s like a human dragging around 22 million pounds or so. That’s about 550 city buses.
2. Driving a Mile Burns Petroleum Equivalent to 14 Plastic Bags
We make a lot of products out of petroleum that don’t have a lot in common when they reach their final form. Gasoline and plastic bags, for instance.
Most stores have banned or are in the process of banning single use plastic bags now because of their environmental impact. Considering that Americans were using 5 trillion bags per year, it’s not such a bad idea.
In terms of gasoline, 14 single plastic bags use the equivalent of the gas required to drive one mile. Factor in the whole manufacturing and travel process and all the rest and one bag has a carbon footprint equal to 8 km or about 5 miles.
1. A Supernova is Equal To an Unbelievably Powerful Explosion
We’ve covered some energy equivalents already, but those have been mostly earthbound and in easy-to-understand terms. Let’s look at something so astronomically big that even when you see the equivalent it’s still hard to comprehend because it just makes little sense. Let’s look at supernovas.
A supernova is the biggest of the big in terms of explosions. It’s the last hurrah for a star as it expels its core in a massive explosion of incredible power. Every star will be different and there have been anywhere from 100 million to a billion supernovas in our galaxy’s history.
We express our understanding of explosive force using TNT as we touched on early. When you try to express a supernova in TNT terms, it becomes absolutely absurd. The number to describe it doesn’t actually exist so we have to construct something silly. For instance, it’s be described as being equal to 25 hundred trillion trillion megatonnes of TNT. That’s 25 hundred trillion trillion nuclear weapons, if you’re interested. And that’s just an average supernova.
In 2020, scientists observed what they think was the biggest explosion ever, of a star called SN2016aps. When it went off, the estimate was that it was with a force of 200 trillion trillion gigatons.