Posted by: movieotaku | April 19, 2007

Unit Madness

Andreas Hartl wrote to suggest unit confusion as a blunder.

In the movie Screamers (totally B-movie quality) the hero travels to the origin of some highly sophisticated weapons system: it’s a mine where those weapons were used to defend it. The character traveling along with the hero explains that this mine was the source of the valuable mineral Bernylium. Bernylium was mined “cubic-ton by cubic-ton”. I do not recall mass having three dimensions… (This is from the german translation, I cannot guarantee that the original script contained this inaccuracy)

Or how about confusing light-years and parsecs with units of time. In the Babylon 5 episode “Messages from Earth”, Lenier said the pressure outside the hull of the White Star was reaching 200 gravities. Gravities? Since when did that become a standard for pressure?

(In retrospect, I think the writer of the episode was confused with specific gravity which still was the wrong unit for pressure.)



  1. I would think they probably meant that in the same way that I could say I wrapped up the cable meter by meter… that is describing the process as one meter and then the next. I don’t think they were trying to define a hypervolume! But I agree… units are important. Gravity, a force, cannot equal a pressure, and units help you show that.

  2. Star Trek abuses this all the time. If I had a dime for every time power was described with Joules and energy with Watts…

  3. About the “Kubiktonne”:
    I believe that it was actually a valid unit once. Somehow the (translated) phraselet “[made of] cubic tons of steel” keeps resonating in my literature memory now…
    I’ll try to track it down in the library during the next few days. If I’m not back with news by next week just give me a nudge via email, as I might have gotten side-tracked between all those interesting books… 😉

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