How Tall Are These 11 Commonly Known Objects?

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istock

We all know a football field is 100 yards and an Olympic swimming pool is 50 meters, but exactly how big are the buildings we pass by every day or the sites we learn about in school? Here’s how everything measures up—in terms that are easy to understand (but may boggle your mind just the same). 

1. Pencil; 7.5 inches

A standard No. 2 pencil measures 7.5 inches in length, from the end of the eraser to the unsharpened tip. This just so happens to also be the average size of the human, adult male hand (from the wrist to the tip of the longest finger).

2. Mailbox; 3.75 feet

A standard mailbox, as dictated by the United States Postal Service, is 45 inches—or 3.75 feet—tall. That’s six pencils (or hands) stacked one on top of another.

3. Elephant; 8.2 to 13 feet 

From the shoulder to the toe, the average African elephant (which is larger than its Asian counterpart) stands approximately 8.2 to 13 feet tall—or 2.2 to 3.5 mailboxes. Measured from the tip of the trunk to the end of the tail, however, the African elephant is approximately 23 to 29 feet long. That’s 276 to 348 inches, or 37 to 46 pencils. 

4. Washington’s Nose on Mount Rushmore; 21 feet 

Talk about a schnoz! At 21 feet long, the largest nose on Mount Rushmore belongs to the very first president of the United States, George Washington. (The noses of Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln are each about a foot shorter.) For those keeping track, that’s roughly the same as a small African elephant with its trunk (but maybe not its tail) fully extended. 

5. Yellow School Bus; 36 feet

Your average yellow school bus is 36 feet long. Or, in keeping with the educational theme, 57.6 pencils laid end-to-end.

6. The White House; 70 feet 

Three and one third of Washington’s noses could fit inside the presidential residence. So could seven medium-sized elephants stacked one on top of another.  

7. Niagara Falls; 167 feet 

The combined elevation of the three drops that comprise Niagara Falls is 167 feet—or almost eight of Washington’s gigantic proboscises. That’s 19 elephants or 44-and-a-half mailboxes. Meanwhile, the highest waterfall in the world, Angel Falls in Venezuela, is 2,647 feet tall, or just shy of 706 mailboxes. 

8. Eiffel Tower; 986 feet 

The City of Light’s pride and joy is almost six times as tall as Niagara Falls. 

9. Empire State Building; 1,250 feet 

Taller still is New York’s shining beacon, the Empire State Building. The apple of the Big Apple’s eye is as tall as almost 18 White Houses. You could also measure the Empire State Building with 2,000 No. 2 pencils. 

10. Grand Canyon; 8,000 feet 

Leave it to Mother Nature to dwarf even the most iconic of man-made landmarks. It would take a tower of six and a half Empire State Buildings or over eight Eiffel Towers to match the Grand Canyon’s elevation at the North Rim. What’s that in elephants, you ask? Approximately 889 stacked atop one another. 

11. Golden Gate Bridge; 8,980 feet 

It would be quite a traffic jam, but 249 school buses could fit—bumper-to-bumper—on San Francisco’s great suspension bridge. Lay the Eiffel Tower on its side, and 9.1 of them could fit on the Golden Gate Bridge. Lay pencils end-to-end and you could make a trail of 14,368.

There’s an easier way to measure landmarks, animals, and household items than elephants and pencils. With Intel® RealSense™ snapshot you can measure anything you could want just by taking a photo. Learn more here.

What Is the Wilhelm Scream?

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What do Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, Toy Story, Reservoir Dogs, Titanic, Anchorman, 22 Jump Street, and more than 200 other films and TV shows have in common? Not much besides the one and only Wilhelm Scream.

The Wilhelm Scream is the holy grail of movie geek sound effects—a throwaway sound bite with inauspicious beginnings that was turned into the best movie in-joke ever when it was revived in the 1970s.

Just what is it? Chances are you’ve heard it before but never really noticed it. The Wilhelm Scream is a stock sound effect that has been used in both the biggest blockbusters and the lowest low-budget movies and television shows for over 60 years, and is usually heard when someone onscreen is shot or falls from a great height.

First used in the 1951 Gary Cooper western Distant Drums, the distinctive yelp began in a scene in which a group of soldiers wade through a swamp, and one of them lets out a piercing scream as an alligator drags him underwater.

As is the case with many movie sound effects, the scream was recorded later in a sound booth with the simple direction to make it sound like “a man getting bit by an alligator, and he screams.” Six screams were performed in one take, and the fifth scream on the recording became the iconic Wilhelm (the others were used for additional screams in other parts of the movie).

Following its debut in 1951, the effect became a regular part of the Warner Bros. sound library and was continually used by the studio’s filmmakers in their movies. Eventually, in the early 1970s, a group of budding sound designers at USC’s film school—including future Academy Award-winning sound designer Ben Burtt—recognized that the unique scream kept popping up in numerous films they were watching. They nicknamed it the “Wilhelm Scream” after a character in the first movie they all recognized it from, a 1963 western called The Charge at Feather River, in which a character named Private Wilhelm lets out the pained scream after being shot in the leg by an arrow.

As a joke, the students began slipping the effect into the student films they were working on at the time. After he graduated, Burtt was tapped by fellow USC alum George Lucas to do the sound design on a little film he was making called Star Wars. As a nod to his friends, Burtt put the original sound effect from the Warner Bros. library into the movie, most noticeably when a Stormtrooper is shot by Luke Skywalker and falls into a chasm on the Death Star. Burtt would go on to use the Wilhelm Scream in various scenes in every Star Wars and Indiana Jones movie, causing fans and filmmakers to take notice.

Directors like Peter Jackson and Quentin Tarantino, as well as countless other sound designers, sought out the sound and put it in their movies as a humorous nod to Burtt. They wanted to be in on the joke too, and the Wilhelm Scream began showing up everywhere, making it an unofficial badge of honor. It's become bigger than just a sound effect, and the name “Wilhelm Scream” has been used for everything from a band name, to a beer, to a song title, and more.

But whose voice does the scream itself belong to? Burtt himself did copious amounts of research, as the identity of the screamer was unknown for decades. He eventually found a Warner Bros. call sheet from Distant Drums that listed actors who were scheduled to record additional dialogue after the film was completed. One of the names, and the most likely candidate as the Wilhelm screamer, was an actor and musician named Sheb Wooley, who appeared in classics like High Noon, Giant, and the TV show Rawhide. You may also know him as the musician who sang the popular 1958 novelty song “Purple People Eater.”

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Can You Really Suck the Poison Out of a Snakebite?

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Should you find yourself in a snake-infested area and unlucky enough to get bitten, what’s the best course of action? You might have been taught the old cowboy trick of applying a tourniquet and using a blade to cut the bite wound in order to suck out the poison. It certainly looks dramatic, but does it really work? According to the World Health Organization, approximately 5.4 million people are bitten by snakes each year worldwide, about 81,000 to 138,000 of which are fatal. That’s a lot of deaths that could have been prevented if the remedy were really that simple.

Unfortunately the "cut and suck" method was discredited a few decades ago, when research proved it to be counterproductive. Venom spreads through the victim’s system so quickly, there’s no hope of sucking out a sufficient volume to make any difference. Cutting and sucking the wound only serves to increase the risk of infection and can cause further tissue damage. A tourniquet is also dangerous, as it cuts off the blood flow and leaves the venom concentrated in one area of the body. In worst-case scenarios, it could cost someone a limb.

Nowadays, it's recommended not to touch the wound and seek immediate medical assistance, while trying to remain calm (easier said than done). The Mayo Clinic suggests that the victim remove any tight clothing in the event they start to swell, and to avoid any caffeine or alcohol, which can increase your heart rate, and don't take any drugs or pain relievers. It's also smart to remember what the snake looks like so you can describe it once you receive the proper medical attention.

Venomous species tend to have cat-like elliptical pupils, while non-venomous snakes have round pupils. Another clue is the shape of the bite wound. Venomous snakes generally leave two deep puncture wounds, whereas non-venomous varieties tend to leave a horseshoe-shaped ring of shallow puncture marks. To be on the safe side, do a little research before you go out into the wilderness to see if there are any snake species you should be particularly cautious of in the area.

It’s also worth noting that up to 25 percent of bites from venomous snakes are actually "dry" bites, meaning they contain no venom at all. This is because snakes can control how much venom they release with each bite, so if you look too big to eat, they may well decide not to waste their precious load on you and save it for their next meal instead.

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