To help the common people comprehend the size of something enormous journalists like to compare these things to something they think will be more familiar and therefore more comprehensible. Unfortunately the items chosen for the comparison are often just as unfathomable as the original quantity being described.
From earth to the moon or from here to the moon and back, if that is not far enough it can be described as multiples i.e. from here to the moon and back 3 times. Is this something NASA is working on, building a contraption that can stack things one on top of another all the way to the moon, will it have an elevator running alongside for to people doing the stacking or just a really long ladder?
Around the earth, this is difficult for many reasons, for one the earth is not round, does the measuring tape nee to go over Mt Everest. Also is the measurement taken at the equator because as one moves towards the poles that circle becomes smaller.
London double-decker buses, oddly used in countries other than England, but is a measurement of choice to describe the size of enormous deep-sea “monster” fish that occasionally wash up on beaches of countries that normally have very little public transport let alone double-decker buses.
Football fields are popular ignoring the fact that different football codes have different length fields, in fact even within a single code football fields will vary. In the 2013 Rugby league World Cup some of the fields were smaller than others. In the Australia v USA quarter final the commentators regularly informed viewers that the distance between the 20m and 40m lines was only 15m.
Olympic size swimming pools, this is very popular when describing quantities of alcohol consumed at a public event, ie that’s enough champagne to fill 4 Olympic size swimming pools. Has anyone tried to fill an Olympic swimming pool with champagne, a backyard inflatable wading pool, sure. Not even an Australian swimming team has tried to fill an Olympic sized pool with champagne. Why not use a measurement we all understand. Like every guest in the Bird Cage on Melbourne Cup Day consumed the equivalent of a bar fridge full of champagne.
Sporting stadium/arena, normally the biggest or most iconic venue in a region is used. In Australia it is always the MCG, a venue so large in its own right it could be measured in Olympic swimming pools. For the record it would take 680 Olympic swimming pools to fill the MCG.
The Sydney Harbour, a favourite of Australian journalists, this world famous harbour is often used to describe volumes of water in regards to heavy rain or flooding. Does it matter if the measurement was taken of the harbour at low tide or high?
African elephants, never Asian elephants (that would just be ludicrous). An adult African elephant can weigh between 2 – 6.5 tonne. A variation that in itself only complicates this comparison. But how much is 2 – 6.5 tonne? The average family sedan weighs about a tonne (maybe a bit more) but at least we can all understand that, as at some stage most people have had a car that has broken down or run out of petrol and have had to try to push it off the road. So an elephant (African) is 2 to 6 times more than that! If the average adult male human weighs 80kg then an elephant is the equivalent of 25 to 80 adult male humans.
If you laid these 80 adult male human down in a single line, head to toe, their length would be the same length of the MCG.
Currently in Melbourne the local tram company, Yarra Trams, is trying to warn other road users that trams are heavy and therefore can not stop quickly. To do this they are comparing a tram to a rhinoceros on a skateboard. Are the Masuri bushmen being killed off in spate of accidents involving skateboarding rhinoceros? Can rhino’s skakeboard? If the were on a half pipe could they get enough air to jump over a double-decker bus?