Abstract Scale

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    A system of measurement for something that doesn't seem like it could be measured in discrete units in the first place. Almost always used for humor. Broke the Rating Scale may invoke this when it gets silly. This is presumably how you tell if something is 20% More Awesome.

    Compare Hiroshima as a Unit of Measure, which is when someone measures a quantifiable thing in a strange way.

    Examples of Abstract Scale include:

    Anime and Manga

    • Dragonball Z: "Vegeta, what does the scouter say about his Power Level?" "It's over nine thousaaaaaand!!!"
      • It would be one thing if the scouter was simply quantifying stored energy, but it seems to be able to quantify fighting effectiveness as evidenced by Goku's and Picolo's power levels registering higher after they take off their weighted clothing.

    Fan Works


    • At the end of the first Men in Black movie, J quantifies the battle with the Bug as ranking 9.5 on the "Weird-Shit-O-Meter".


    • Borderline example, since it measures magic, which doesn't actually exist in the real world anyway, from Discworld:

    A thaum is the basic unit of magical strength. It has been universally established as the amount of magic needed to create one small white pigeon or three normal-sized billiard balls.

      • Naturally, it is measured by thaumometers. Some early books measure magic in "Primes". The Companion eventually explained that the Prime was the metric measurement, and the thaum is the "imperial" one. Wizards tending to be hidebound traditionalists, the Prime never caught on.
    • Good Omens gives us the alp, as a way of measuring belief (in reference to the notion that "faith moves mountains"). Most people are able to generate millialps. Adam's belief is measured in Everests.
    • An amateur sci-fi writer group on LiveJournal attempted to come up with "Brian's Scale" to measure the fame of sci-fi authors, based on number of non-self-publications, with units ranging from the Trout to the Scalzi to finally the Gaiman.
    • In The Schrodinger's Cat Trilogy, the sequel to The Illuminatus Trilogy, Dr. Dashwood is a sex researcher, whose scales are named after pornographic stars:

    "Sincerity we measure in Spelvins on a scale of zero to ten," Dashwood went on, totally absorbed in his subject. "Hedonism in Lovelaces-we've been lucky there; subjects are able to distinguish sixteen graduations. Finally, there's the dimension of Tenderness-we find zero to seven covers that, so that the perfect Steinem Job, if I may use the vernacular, would consist of ten Spelvins of Sincerity, sixteen Lovelaces of Hedonism, and seven Havens of Tenderness."

    • In Stanisław Lem's short story "Experimenta Felicitologica", the protagonist uses a unit he calls "hedones" to measure the happiness of a being at a given time. His professor uses a unit called "bromeons" for the same purpose.
    • America (The Book) book gauged the value of a news story in Buttafuocos.

    Live-Action TV

    • Mystery Science Theater 3000 had the "shame-o-meter" for measuring the amount of shame emanating from washed-out actors in a 70s Charlie's Angels rip-off movie. It measured in (Peter) Lawfords. Jim Backus registered well into the giga-Lawford range.

    Tabletop Games

    • Rather common in roleplaying games featuring magic or anything like it. In Dungeons & Dragons your basic magical ability can come from Intelligence, which is at least something people seriously attempt to measure in real life, but also Wisdom, which has something to do with good moral sense, or maybe attunement to nature if you're a druid, or the ability to see the broad picture but anyway divination spells are based on it.
    • Genius: The Transgression has several different unit systems (most likely a reference to all the different temperature scales) to measure "mania".

    Web Comics

    Web Original

    Western Animation

    • Futurama once had a device that measured coolness in mega-fonzies. There was also the funkometer for smells and a device that measured the accuracy of mad beats laid down by the Beastie Boys.
      • For the record, they were laying it down with an 80% Success rate.

    "I believe that qualifies as "ill," at least from a technical standpoint."

    • The What-If Machine can answer any what-if question accurate to within one tenth of a plausibility unit.
    • In "Xmas Story", the department store sells a jolly-seeking missile launcher as an anti-Santa defense.
    • It's stated in Bender's Big Score that a normal person emits about 10 millidooms per second. It becomes a plot point that duplicates created by the Time Sphere emit much larger quantities in order to prevent/correct paradoxes.

    Real Life

    • The Hovind Scale measures the craziness of creationists. It was, of course, meant largely as a joke.
    • Fame is sometimes measured in Warhols. One Warhol equals 15 minutes of fame. Someone who is famous for 15,000 minutes would have one kiloWarhol.
    • The Helen, first suggested by Isaac Asimov, is a metric measurement of beauty, with 1 Helen of beauty being the amount of beauty required to launch a thousand ships. By extension, we can have a Kilohelen, which would be the amount of beauty required to launch a million ships, and a Millihelen - the amount of beauty required to launch a single ship.
    • NASA measures resistance to Space Adaptation Sickness in Garns, where a person who rates one Garn being totally useless in microgravity.
    • UNIX system load average is measured in Vastons, even though there's no meaningful or objective way to measure or compare load averages between systems.
    • When a Linux computer boots, it measures the performance of the processor it is running on in "BogoMIPS", defined as "the number of million times per second a processor can do absolutely nothing". This unit is explicitly meaningless for any kind of comparison between computers (although that doesn't stop people from boasting with their values); its only purpose is to calibrate the kernel's internal busy-loop.
    • The quality-adjusted life year (QALY) measures the total happiness over a span of time. It's nigh impossible to measure, but very important if you want to make sure your charity does a lot of good.