...In this video it is stated that boiling a kettle is the same power as 28 average cyclists peddling as hard as they can...
Lord, help me please...
But really - if an accurate comparison, is that such an unreasonable analogy to make? Are any of them?
I suspect maybe we’re all just being a bit unfair. (Yup, me too – I’ve definitely indulged.)
The idea that we might visualise one the thing in order to, by comparison, visualise another is not intrinsically ridiculous or outlandish. I strongly suspect that all of use such analogy to some extent, and that anyone who claims they don’t do this in one context or another is either unaware of their own mental processes, or being disingenuous. Human beings are not precisely calibrated devices for the purposes of universal measurement - we need help, and I believe there’s evidence that such comparative techniques are in fact an important element in how our brains work (as well as a factor in the development of language).
Rough visual comparisons were clearly the basis for anthropometric units (which constitute many of the very earliest systems of measurement) and which would originally, by their nature, have been analogous rather than based on solid and precisely repeatable data: a cubit may have become an exact measurement, independent of its relationship to the human body - but its origins are clearly much less precise.
(In regard to the cubit: I very much like the tale that in order to standardise this rather nebulous measurement, first millennium rabbis decided to ‘regulate' the measurement by defining it as...well…six fist breadths; and a fist breadth as four finger breadths; and a finger breadth as the width of a thumb. So, it all boiled down to thumbs. Because…obviously.)
And an oxgang is surely just an analogy – I mean, what if your cow was faster than your neighbours? And if your family was fatter than your neighbours - would that have made your hide bigger? If you had a limp, was your league a bit shorter? (And a barleycorn? Seriously?) And if a newspaper report told us that, say, a chemical reaction took the same time to complete as it would for a human to blink three times, we’d all raise our eyebrows knowingly and chunter about the stupidity of the human race – despite the fact that Hindu mathematicians used the analogy as part of a system of time measurement so complex that it would make their average contemporary in the west bleed out of their earholes thinking about it.
I use measurement constantly as part of my job, and have dozens of devices to help – from the strictly analogue, to the hi-tec. And I’m happy working in both metric and imperial.
However, I will still base an idea of, say, the area of a kitchen floor, or a garden, or a steel-deck stage, on how many standard sheets of ply I could fit on it. And I measure all moderate weights in my own precise unit: the ‘bag of plaster’. (Oh, and all short to medium journeys are graded on comparison to the length of time it takes to drive from my place to Macclesfield.)
You could argue that because these things have a standard – (standard sheet of ply – 8’x4’ / 2440x1220mm); bag of plaster – 12.5 kilos; and Macc is 11 miles / 25 minutes give or take away) then I am referencing, in a roundabout way, an actual measurement.
But actually, no - I’m comparing one thing, in and of itself, to another, rather than calculating an actual figure based on that comparison - and although those two statements might be claimed to amount to the same thing, I think there’s a difference.
I think two neurological processes may be going off in tandem: I think the right side of my brain is employing my imagination to assist the left side of my brain in looking for precise logical patterns.
And maybe that’s all this amounts to. If so – maybe it’s really not as stupid as people are making out.