Why metrology jokes?

Jokes about Metrology are scarce, so I decided to collect them. If you know or invent any, please send it to me.

Some poetry, funny history lessons and more is located at Agilent Technologies Metrology forum. Almost the same set of texts can be found on few other websites.

During time, I see most jokes concerns USA and their inability to switch to metric system. Sorry, USA.

US citiziens and SI

How to inform U.S. citizens of the benefits of using the metric system with the tried and true method of telling them: what's in it for them?

  1. Instant weight loss - 220 lbs to 99.8 kg
  2. Smaller waist - 42 inch waist to 1 meter
  3. Larger biceps - 14 inch to 35.6 cm

(copied from abstract of article published at conference: Getting Metric in the U.S.A. (Things are big in Texas) Speaker/Author: Richard Fertell, Proteus Industries Inc., NCSL 2009, San Antonio, Texas, USA)


A man visits an oracle. He enters the tent, sits at the chair, and asks old gypsy woman about the time of his death. The woman looks into the crystal ball, and after few minutes of tense magic atmosphere she says:
"You will die in 23 years ... and the uncertainty is 5 years."
The man is puzzled and just stares with raised eyebrows. So the woman continues:
"Oh, I forgot every time. The level of confidence is 95.45 %, of course."

Beer and BIPM

The subtitle in English: Do you know, Mr. barman, the meter of beers is still deposited in BUREAU INTERNATIONAL DES POIDS ET MESURES IN Sévres near Paris?.

The author is famous Czech joke writer/painter Vladimír Renčín.


The subtitle in English: To the BIPM donated by Czech people.. The face is of Czech politician. Kokot is Czech term of abuse (in this sense it means imbecile).

Source: kartinki.cz.

Understanding the Metric System

1012 microphones = 1 megaphone
1 million bicycles = 2 megacycles
52 cards = 1 decacards
1/2 lavatory = 1 demijohn
2000 mockingbirds = 2 kilomockingbirds
3-1/3 tridents = 1 decadent
10 monologs = 5 dialogues
2 monograms = 1 diagram
1 millionth of a fish = 1 microfiche
10 rations = 1 decoration
10 millipedes = 1 centipede


Do you know, what is the etalon (Еталон)? Yes, it is standard in Czech language (and some other Slavic languages). Also, it is the minibus A079 of producer BAZ (Tata). So, if you ask for an bus standard (etalon), here it is (click on the image for larger version):

The Duck


To describe what my job is to common person is hard. Mostly when I say metrologist, I am asked about weather forecast. However, to be metrologist at meteorology institute is much more puzzling!

Credit: Stephan Solve.

The Metric Resistance

Scientists, engineers, and drug dealers agree: the metric system is better.

Source: The big fat whale.

Python sweets

Original czech version.

Credit: MaFian liFe by Daniel Scheirich.. Translation is mine, so plese don't blame author of the comics.

International standard of Metre of beers

The international standard of the Metre of beers is placed before the pub in Dobříč village near Prague. One metre of beers is defined as such a number of half liter glasses of beers, which placed in the row are one metre long. Any length deficit can be filled in by small glass of spirit. Usually it is 11 or 10 of half liter glasses of beers. See the report of the installation. See also the article in the czech wikipedia.

J and K after redefinition of SI

Today, conventional Josephson constant and conventional von Klitzing constant (KJ-90, RK-90) are fixed. They have got fixed number of digits, and their values are exactly equal to:
KJ-90=483 597.9 x 109 Hz V-1
RK-90=25 812.807 Ω
However, in the case of redefinition of SI, values of Planck's constant h and charge of electron e will be fixed. You can express Josephson and von Klitzing constants as:
Therefore with fixed e and h constants, K and J could be expressed with as many digits, as you like, and all of these digits will be meaningful! E.g.:
KJ=4.8359658681026130158797233952001642001430714481909... x 1014Hz V-1
RK=25812.98168142762768702549980273195633231220734657508139... Ω

Source: Presentation by K. von Klitzing at EURAMET meeting in Berlin, 2011.

Imperial vs SI

Very clear comparison of two systems of units (and datum notation). Click the image for high-quality vector version.

Why USA should finally change?

The total reason why USA should finally change to SI system:

Honor – To keep their word – the USA signed the Treaty of the Meter on 20 May 1875.

Over 130 years have passed since the U.S.A. agreed with 16 other nations to adopt the metric system of System International (SI) Units using the kilogram, degree C (derived from degree K) and meter.

Copied from abstract of article published at conference: Getting Metric in the U.S.A. (Things are big in Texas) Speaker/Author: Richard Fertell, Proteus Industries Inc., NCSL 2009, San Antonio, Texas, USA)

How France honored the Convention of the Metre

France honored their commitment to the Convention of the Metre truly. French government graciously offered a whole building as the site of the BIPM! Look at this generous gift:

And so every participating nation contributed to restoration of the building near Paris. Smart move, France.

Pictures taken from BIPM, joke by Barry D. Englis, CPEM, 2012, Washington D.C., USA)


A man walks into a greengrocer's and says:
"I'd like five pounds of potatoes please."
The greengrocer says:
"We only sell kilos."
So the man says:
"Alright then, I'll have five pounds of kilos."

Credit: Tommy Cooper(ism) Joke of the Week

Conversion exchange

Two jokes with the same idea:

From Industry Week, 30. November 1981.

From Hydrocarbon Processing, April 1981.

Mars Climate Orbiter

The following metric cartoon was published on 1999 October 04 in the Buffalo (NY, USA) News following the accident of NASA's Mars Climate Orbiter. The cartoon was reprinted in the 1999 Nov/Dec issue of Metric Today with permission of the newspaper. The expensive satellite crashed into the planet Mars because the spacecraft expected thrust values in newtons while the control center send a command in pound force.

Distance of 5 yards

What is the distance of 5 yards?

Click the image for high-quality vector version. This joke is play of words in czech language. Jarda is given name common in czech republic, and the pronunciation is similar to length unit yard. Sentence "vzdálenost 5 yardů" means "distance of 5 yards". Similar joke in english could be this one:

Trolling at its finest. GO, USA!

It seems USA is just trolling with their Imperial system:

Females make poor calibrators?

One that needs to be told in person because it's part visual:

Why do females make poor calibrators?

Because all of their lives they have had men telling them this is 30 centimeters.
(While holding thumb and index finger cca 10 centimeters apart.)

Managers and metrologist

A group of managers were asked to measure the height of a flagpole. They fetched a ladder and tape measure and headed to the flagpole to perform their task. They weren't having much luck because they kept dropping the tape measure and falling off the ladder.

Observing what they were attempting to do, a metrologist approached them and offered to help. He pulled the flagpole out of the ground, laid it down flat, measured it from one end to the other, gave the measurements to one of the managers and walked away.

After the metrologist had gone, one of the managers turned to the others and said, "Well, isn't that just like a metrologist? We're looking for the height of the flagpole and he tells us the length."

Crime report

Why The International prototype of the kilogram losses mass? Maybe there is a thief in BIPM!

Credit: Michael Stock, International school of physics, Varenna, Italy 2012.

Scientific methods

What does a physicist do when he get a truck to study?

Experimental physicist tries to pull every lever, turn every wheel and press every button just to know what happens.

Theoretical physicist starts by reading manual found in one of cases.

Metrologist will look for a standard truck and tries to do comparison.

Wild Wild West

(Click the image for high resolution version.)

Credit: Nick D. Kim, http://strange-matter.net/


(Click the image for vector version.)

Na nose kunda. No translation. Either you understand it or you should learn czech language.

Credit: common czech joke and UAX

Humorous units of measurement

Unit of magic? Thaum. Unit of fame? Warhol. 1 kiloWarhol is about ten days of fame. An others - take a look at wikipedia page with list of humorous units of measurement.

Old joke in a new way

Credit: 2010, Josh, Cartoons by Josh, http://www.cartoonsbyjosh.com/uncertainty.html.

Even in Las Vegas

Typical metrological seal application: Even in Las Vegas, people prefer not to leave volumetric gasoline measurements to chance.

Credit: Talk about Metrology at Wikipedia by unregistered IP, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk%3AMetrology.

First meme in metrological flavour!

Credit: myself.


The only good reason to use imperial system

SI superheroes

Take a look at wonderful League of SI Superheroes!


Typical uncertainty distribution is normal. However, others exits:

Credit: Matthew Freeman, Department of Ophthalmology, Flinders University, Bedford Park, South Australia, 5042; matthew.freeman@flinders.edu.au

Small tunnels in Greece

It seems there are very small road tunnels in Greece. It is probably the only state in the world having prohibitory traffic signs with specifications of maximum allowed width or height in micrometers!

Credit: Road signs in Greece, Wikipedia

And a real picture of the "Aithra" tunnel entrance in Kakia Skala, Greece:

Author and full size picture: philos from Athens

Relative uncertainties

(Click the image for high resolution version.)
Click for czech version.

Credit: Idea by my colleague Stanislav Mašláň, generated in http://monkeydyne.com/rmcs/buildmeat.html, character by Red Meat

лошадиная сила (Horse power)

Диалог на экзамене. Преподаватель:
- Что такое лошадиная сила?
- Это сила, какую развивает лошадь ростом в один метр и весом в один килограмм.
- Да где же вы такую лошадь видели!?
- А ее так просто не увидишь. Она хранится в Париже, в Палате мер и весов.

And for those not fluent in Russian:

At a Uni exam (these were mostly oral in the old Soviet Union)
Professor: "What is a horse power?"
Student: "This is power produced by a horse that is 1 m tall and weighs 1 kg."
"Where on Earth have you seen such a horse?"
"It is not that easy to see. It is kept in Paris, at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures."

Credit: Ilya Budovsky

Foxtrot and American football

Credit: Bill Amend, Foxtrot comic, 23. 11. 2008.

Needs more tests

Credit: Harley Schwadron.

Psychological problems of metrologists

(Click the image for original resolution.)

Credit: Stan Eales.

Zanzibar effect

In a fact this is not a joke, but a sad reality:

"The mythical Zanzibar unit is illustrated by a story which Cohen et al (1957) attribute to Harrison of MIT (see figure [below]). Apparently there was a retired sea captain who lived on a remote part of the island of Zanzibar and, as captains are wont to do, he had introduced a ceremonial raising and lowering of the flag each day, and also fired a cannon at noon. A visiting friend enquired how the captain knew the exact time, to which he replied that he reset his chronometer according to the time displayed by the clocks in the window of the jeweller in the local town. After he had left the captain, the friend was in the town and thought that he would pursue the matter further and enquired how the jeweller 'set his clocks. `Oh, that is simple' he replied, 'there is a retired sea captain on the other side of the island who always fires a cannon at noon and I use it to set my clocks.' "

Credit: Copied from The Fundamental Physical Constants and the Frontier of Measurement, B. W. Petley, National Physical Laboratory, Adam Hilger Ltd, 1985, pg. 8-9. See on Amazon or on Google books.

Metric signs seen on roads in the U.S.A

Street name signs at the intersection of Metric Boulevard and Centimeter Circle in Austin, Texas, USA (coordinates: latitude 30.38170205°, longitude -97.7146033°, sea level 226 m).
See on Google Map

Credit: Photo courtesy Jim Alexander, November 2007.

Footlong hot dog

(Click the image for high resolution version.)

Credit: Bizarro by Dan Pirarro.



Credit: xkcd by Randall Munroe.

Comparison of temeperature scales

Fairly accurate comparison of temperature scales from the survival point of view:

(Click the image for high-quality vector version.)

Credit: Presented by Dr. Eng. Dan Mihai Ştefănescu at the IMEKO XXI World Congress, Prague, Czech Republic, 30. 8. - 4. 9. 2015.

The Measurement Blues

In a fact this is not a joke, but very accurate everyday experience of a metrologist.
Martin Rowe wrote a song The Measurement Blues. Here you can read something about it.

Direct link to the song (mp3)


I got the blues, I got the measurement blues.
I got the blues, I got the measurement blues.
I got the measurement blues,
My test results are all wrong.

I spent all morning looking for my scope,
My DMM too, and that's no joke.
Now I'm ready to measure voltage and time.
I hooked up my probes that’s when my DUT died.

I got a new device, went to connect my wires
Only to find that I had lost my pliers.
I found them now, I'm ready to go.
I was ready to go, but my scope was too slow.

I went to the boss, said "I need a new scope."
But all he said was "There's no hope.
There's no money, nothing I can do.
There's no money for equipment, you’ll just have to make do."

I found another scope, had to beg, borrow steal.
I connected my wires and got a measurement real.
I was reelin', reelin' in the data.
I was reelin in the data, so I went out for a bite.

During my test, Windows had crashed.
My data was lost and I knew that I'd get bashed.
I got the blues, I got the measurement blues.
I got the measurement blues, just for going out to lunch.

I restarted Windows and measured again.
My data looked so good I had a celebration.
That's when I learned my gear needed calibration;
My uncertainty was high and my data was no good.

I got the blues, I got the measurement blues.
I got the blues, I got the measurement blues.
I got the measurement blues,
My test results are all wrong.

Credit: Music and lyrics by Martin Rowe, Copyright 2006 by Martin Rowe, "The Measurement Blues" was recorded on April 27, 2006, at Melville Park Studio, Boston, MA.