Last week we talked about the batman.
Carolyn Solon, as a superheroine, has the same obligation as Batman and Robin to make snappy, themed quips for every situation. Hers tend to fall into two categories: Latin phrases and units of measure.
Dr. Solon is a geek, pure and simple, so it should come as no surprise that one of her favorite hobbies is the study of unusual units of measure. In the book, she uses them as one-liners, puzzles, and most importantly, ways of changing one’s perspective to see things at a different scale.
The most important unit of measure in the book is the plethrostadion. One plethrostadion is equal to the amount of superpowered energy released from the smallest bone in the human body.
The word was created by Solon herself, from “plethron”, the amount of land the Greeks could plow in a day (about 900 sq meters, used similarly to the hectare or acre), and “stadion”, a long length, used for measuring great journeys (the unit being between 100 and 200 meters, in practice). These are related to the English words “plethora” and “stadium.” Both imply massive size.
Dr. Solon’s energy is no different. For mortal tasks, it is essentially unlimited. Her virus converts bone matter to energy using Einstein’s famous formula of mass-energy equivalence: E=mc^2.
E is the energy released, in Joules. m is mass, in kilograms. c is celeritas, the speed of light (usually in meters per second), an especially interesting unit in its own right. Of course, other units work as well, but that’s not the focus of today’s post.
A stirrup bone weighs about 4×10^(-6) kg. The speed of light is 3×10^8 m/s. That gives you about 3.6×10^11 Joules of energy. 360,000,000,000 Joules.
For reference, one ton of TNT is in the neighborhood of 4×10^9 Joules, so the smallest bone in Carolyn’s body would net her as much energy as 100 TONS of TNT, which she can direct in any way (not just explosions).
Here’s a video from a quick Google search of that number:
Carolyn brags that, although her control over energy is quite refined, she couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn (100 square femtometers).
She uses units for things other than destroying stuff, however. When setting up a computer system, she told tech support, “The length of my cable is one-fortieth of a cable-length (185m).”
Finally, her favorite swear in mixed company is “Dram it!”
As I mentioned in the last post, the dram was a component unit of measure used extensively in Europe, Northern Africa, and Asia, often meaning different things depending on where you were. It can be a unit of volume (like when it is used in liquor measurement) or a unit of mass (when used to define a batman). It is occasionally still used in modern times, even by those who are not measurement specialists, where it is 1/8 of a fluid ounce.
Now, support my dram book!