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Feed Your Data Appetite

Data is everywhere....and it is fun to explore. And, a prime source of data is the mathematical task of measurement, which involves units and the need to quantify some attribute.

In this regard, Stephen Strauss' book The Sizesaurus: From Hectares to Decibels to Calories, A Witty Compendium of Measurements is a fun book to explore and share. The first half of the book is a a fascinating exploration of the "world" of measurement, and its connection to cultural assumptions. The second half is the "meat" of the book, complete with a Wordsaurus, or extensive glossary of measurement terms, and the Sizesaurus, or measuring macropedia.

First, from the Wordsaurus, do you know the meaning of these measurements:

  • Barn (atomic)
  • Darwin
  • Donkey power
  • Scruple
Second, from the Sizesaurus and content from the first full text, can you answer these questions:
  • Which celestial body is equal in volume to 54,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 Big Macs?
  • How loud must a noise be to have lethal effects?
  • How hot would Hell be? How cold would Hell have to be before it froze over?
  • What are a bresica, a houpee, and a Smoot?
If you are not able to use these ideas in a mathematics classroom, they will provide ammunition to fuel conversations that lag during dinner or a date.