Saturday, October 20, 2007

Crazy Cubing

This month I'm working with the curatorial team, the folks responsible for imaging, logging and taking the core samples that scientists have requested. The sampling plan spells out what kinds of samples and how large an amount of material (volume) each scientist gets, and the scientist marks with a flag on the core where they want their sample(s) to come from.

As we chopped, cut and gouged samples out of the core, I started to wonder about the sample volumes. They are all in ccs (cubic centimeters). Most of the sample sizes are either 5cc, 10cc, or 20cc. However, it didn't seem as if we were giving the groups that much material...hmmm. I could picture the volume of one cubic centimeter fairly easily. But when I tried to think about 5 cubic centimeters, this was what I was picturing and it seemed like an awfully large volume compared to what we sample. If you start looking at the cube, you will also notice that there are many more than 5 cubic centimeters in there!

Then I realized I didn't have cubic centimeters, I was envisioning centimeters cubed! A seemingly minor language switch in these units actually equates to a huge difference in volume. 5 centimeters cubed actually equals 125 cubic centimeters (cc). Wow!

What units or operations with units bamboozle you? What technique can you use to help you keep them straight?

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