Jester Ruins Scientific Progress

Written by Jester

Some University of Saskatchewan students, possibly with too much time on their hands, decided that they would get together and calculate the force of beauty.

To this end, they needed some kind of standard measurement, like kilometers, or joules. Such measurements are often named after a significant scientific historical personalities (as "joules" were), so they wanted someone beautiful they could name their unit after. Some of the more literary types suggested Helen of Troy. Helen, after all, was said to be so beautiful that she had a face that "launched a 1,000 ships."

So, they did a little research, and began to draw computer models of Greek warships of the period. They then calculated how much force would be necessary to launch one of them, then a thousand -- and named the result of their calculations "1 Helen." This would be the standard measurement of beauty.

This was all well and good until I came along. I mentioned that the quote about Helen of Troy came from the Christopher Marlowe play "Doctor Faustus." The actual line is "Is this the face that launched a 1,000 ships, AND burnt the topless towers of Ilium?" (all caps mine)

"The topless towers of Ilium" weren't actually topless, they were just said to be so tall that the human eye could not discern the top of the towers from the ground. Burning them would be no small accomplishment. Therefore, the unit "Helen" must be a great deal more powerful than the energy necessary to launch 1,000 ships.

Strangely enough, I was not thanked for pointing this out. I'm told they're working on revising their calculations.