Well, we’ve got this new web toy called SensibleUnits.com. You put in units and it tells you what it wants to about the units. So if you put in 3 microns, it tells you that this is 33 HIV virons side by side.

So I figured I’d put in “yard” … like “I ordered five yards of dirt, I’ll have bubba dump it on that bare spot by the swamp”

Now, here’s the thing. I’m not making this up. Bubba really will be dumping five yards by the swamp. The problem is, I thiought last time Bubba came by with dirt, it was a half yard, but he says it was five yard. Duane says one yard fills either a dump truck or half a dump truck. So, I’m trying to figure out how much is a yard of dirt so I can figure out how much work I have to do this weekend.

So I go to sensible units.com and type in “yard” and I get:

7.8 CD’s side by side. And 4.5 five month old human fetuses end to end.

Somehow I’m not sure how this is going to help our prairie restoration project….

Well, if you want to mess with it, it is here.

[Hat tip: Ed]

See also: 1.8 stretched out human small intestines


  1. #1 Robert G.
    May 28, 2008

    Duane must have a small dump truck; in this part of the country a yard is one cubic yard, i.e., 27 cubic feet. I can fit one yard in my station wagon and a dump truck is much bigger…

  2. #2 Robert G.
    May 28, 2008

    Uh-oh. It knows about angstroms and astronomical units and cubits but not rods. I’m unimpressed.

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    May 28, 2008

    Robert; My point exactly. Five yards is just under half a regular dump truck. On yard is about what goes in a front loader bucket. A full size pickup truck bed a foot deep in dirt is about a yard.

    These are the things I want this machine to be telling me. A nd forgetaboutit if you need to know from rods.

  4. #4 Stephanie Z
    May 28, 2008

    Sounds like a couple/few beers worth of work, more if you have help.

  5. #5 Alan Kellogg
    May 28, 2008

    It’s not even clever.

  6. #6 Will TS
    May 29, 2008

    The common ten-wheel dump truck is known in the construction business (and the Army) as a deuce-and-a-half, meaning that it has a payload capacity of 2.5 tons. How much dirt is that?

    Let�s assume that you have reasonably high-quality topsoil with lots of organic matter that, on average, is only a little more dense than water. (If it were less dense than water it would float away in the rain.) If you put five cubic yards in the truck (135 cubic feet, 3823 liters, or 258,526 tablespoons), at a density of 1.1 g/ml, that would be 4205 kg, or 4.14 long (English) tons. (The long ton and the metric tonne are only a little different in actual weight, well within the limits of the precision in these sloppy calculations. Substitute freely.) It wouldn�t squash the truck flat, but it would make it pretty hard to go up a hill.

    The average dump truck driver would probably not hesitate to carry five yards of dirt, but he could only safely carry smaller volumes of denser materials like sand or gravel or solid iridium. (A five cubic yard block of solid iridium would weigh 86,569 kg or 190,850 pounds. That would squash the truck flat.)

    If Duane has a really nice truck, he might be able to bring 5 cubic yards of dirt. But how big will the pile of dirt be when it gets dumped on the ground? That depends mostly on how it�s arranged.

    If you leave it in one big pile (and using units that readers of ScienceBlogs are familiar with), it will fill approximately 1.4 Toyota Priuses (or Prii). Spread it around a little and it will be the size of 2650 rolls of toilet paper. Spread it around a little more and it will fill an Olympic sized swimming pool (50m x 25m) to a depth of 1.02 mm. Or you could package it into 1.5 x 10E7 PCR tubes (or 15 megatubes).

    That should clear everything up. Happy gardening.