Unit Conversion’s Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Working on plans for a summer program. Thought y’all might like this one.

In 1968, Andy Warhol said: In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.

In honor of this, Cullen Murphy coined a “warhol”, a unit of fame. For every fifteen minutes you’re famous, you get one warhol.

1. Suppose you’re famous for an hour. How many warhols do you have?
2. Suppose you’re famous for a week. How many warhols do you have?
3. Suppose you’re Britney Spears. How many warhols do you have?
4. As a group, make a list of five famous people and estimate the warhols for each. Is there any way of speeding up your calculations, or do you have to use the 1 warhol / 15 min. ratio to start every time?

In 1958, the fraternity Lambda Chi Alpha at MIT decided to take one of their members – one Oliver R. Smoot – and use him to measure the length of nearby Harvard Bridge. He laid down at the start, let the members mark his position in chalk, and moved on to the next spot. All told the bridge measured 364.4 smoots, “plus or minus an ear”.

1. Given Oliver Smoot was five feet and seven inches tall, how long is Harvard Bridge?
2. Using the same technique and masking tape, invent your own unit of measurement and figure out how wide this classroom is. Convert your measurement into smoots.

The ability to use the latter lesson may of course depend on the age of your students, your own chutzpah, and whether or not the floor is carpeted.

One Response

  1. You are my hero. Keep the ideas coming!

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