back to article Prehistoric monster snake crushed prey under 1.5 Brooklyn Bridges

The BBC's improbable measurement unit is on top form this week, in this report on a monster snake which terrorised the prehistoric South American jungle. The Titanoboa - a distant relative of the feared anaconda - weighed in at over a tonne and measured 14m (46ft) from snout to tail. In common with its venomless modern cousin …


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  1. mark 63 Silver badge

    so could this thing lift the Brooklyn Bridge?

    they missed a trick - couldve had a bigger comparison:

    I'd imagine the whole city of New York has a lower PSI footprint than that given that the rest of it isn't on stilts

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      "so could this thing lift the Brooklyn Bridge?"

      Yes, and so can you. If I give you a long enough and strong enough lever and a place to stand you can lift the world, as Archimedes would say (but then in Greek)


      1. Openminded Cynic

        I think Archimedes would have probably mentioned needing a fulcrum which is what the whole lever principle revolves around (bad pun intended) rather than just prodding at it with a big stick...

        1. Elmer Phud

          big stick theory

          But there are those who still believe that Stonehenge and 'the pyramids' were mainy built by blokes tapping large lumps of rock with big sticks.

          1. mraak

            re: 'the pyramids'

            And there are those who think "pyramids" and "volcanos" are just airports for lord Xenu.

  2. Steven Jones

    "the equivalent of lying under the weight of one-and-a-half times the Brooklyn Bridge".

    This makes no sense at all. The units don't match. The weight of the Brooklyn Bridge is surely a unit measured in force whilst pressure is force per unit area. Of course it might be that the BBC is talking about the pressure at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge's suspension towers, but as it stands it is complete nonsense.

    1. Gazareth

      I think the implication is weight of the BB spread over surface area of you. Or a suitably chosen standard human.

      1. Steven Jones

        Not the weight of the Broooklyn Bridge divided by Body Surface Area...

        "I think the implication is weight of the BB spread over surface area of you."

        Well the Brooklyn Bridge is reported as weighting about 14,680 tons, or about 32.9 million pounds. As they report this as being equivalent to 1.5 Brooklyn Bridges, then that becomes about 49.3 million pounds. At 400 pounds per square inch, that comes out at 123,312 square inches. An average man has a BSA (body surface area) of about 1.9 sq metres, or 2,945 square inches. So that would be out by a factor of over forty to one.

        Of course constrictors don't work over the entire body surface anyway.

        In all, the BBC's numbers are bonkers and it's unclear how they were derived.

  3. cliveski
    Thumb Down


    That's sooo lazy having a fractional measurement when you get to pick your own units. They should have picked a bridge that gave them an integer number e.g. 2 Forth Rail Bridges would have been much nicer.

  4. Graham Bartlett

    One mighty gulp...

    More than a few people who'd happily eat Jennifer Lopez. And I'm sure they'd beat the snake to it. *cough*

  5. Schultz

    Stupid comparison

    Ground pressure is inversely proportional to the footprint of the object. To compare the constricting force exerted by a snake to the ground pressure of any object is plain stupid, especially if the footprint is not stated.

    Just out of Wikipedia: ground pressure of ...

    M1 Abrams tank: 15 psi

    Mountain bicycle: 40 psi

    Now imagine being crushed by a mountain bike.

    1. H2Nick

      Re: Stupid comparison

      Shouldn't that be 10 mountain bikes ?


      1. Phaedrus
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Stupid comparison

        "Shouldn't that be 10 mountain bikes?"

        Of course it would have to be 10 mountain bikes stacked on top of one another, so as not to increase the footprint in contact with you :)

        Paris, because I bet she's had 10 stacked up on her

    2. Steve Evans

      Re: Stupid comparison

      Now check out the stiletto heel figures.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stupid comparison

      In his incomparable book "The New Science of Strong Materials", J.E. Gordon points out that women (in high heels) "weigh more than tanks". Of course he was talking about pressure, but chose those specific words to maximize the outrage.

  6. jbstarbug

    Have they done the Math?

    Now please feel free to point out any elementary mistakes I made but my back of an envelope calculations don't come anywhere near to theirs.

    to work out the equivalent weight lying on top of you to give a pressure of 400lbs per sq inch:

    Area of person lying down: assume 72 inches (6ft) tall and 30 inches wide and approximating that a person lying down is a uniform rectangle gives total area of 2160 sq inches. Multiply by 400lbs gives 864000 lbs or 391904 Kg or about 392 tons. Weight of Brooklyn bridge is approx 14,680 tons so it actually equated to 0.0267 Brooklyn Bridges.

    Have I made some fundamental mistake or are they just making shit up?

    1. Steve Evans

      Re: Have they done the Math?

      Maybe they're accounting for the fact that anyone laying under the Brooklyn bridge will be much taller and wider (and somewhat thinner) within a fraction of a second?

    2. Mad yakker

      Re: Have they done the Math(s)?

      Your elementary mistake was in the title!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Have they done the Math?

      "Have I made some fundamental mistake or are they just making shit up?"

      No, I think the writer was just demonstrating his inexponentiacy.

  7. Alan Bourke

    I bet the Discovery channel

    are really getting the horn over this, There's a good 2 years of programming here.


    Secret Nazi Titanoboas

    UFO Titanoboas - The Evidence

    1. Ben 42

      Re: I bet the Discovery channel

      For a second, I thought you meant the Syfy channel. Maybe a collaboration is in order?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > 400lbs per sq inch - the equivalent of lying under the weight of one-and-a-half times the Brooklyn Bridge

    That's 2.67 MPa and 0.27 Tower bridges respectively SI fans.

    1. Steve Evans

      What's that in UK creme eggs?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > What's that in UK creme eggs?


        Note the 'UK creme egg' unit refers to the amount of sugar (25g) in the confection rather than the whole egg (39g). If you want it in actual UK creme eggs then the figure is 2,449,398,667.

        This is 9.7 (or 8.2 for the full egg) years worth of creme egg production at current rates.

        1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

          Yes, but it's the Brooklyn Bridge, so surely this should be in US Creme Eggs?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            > so surely this should be in US Creme Eggs

            I was translating to metric, but fair enough.

            That's 2,161,234,118 34g US creme eggs, which incidentally is 75.6 Olympic swimming pools or 1.9 Albert Halls.

            BTW; I cocked up on the UK creme eggs conversion, it should be 1,884,152,821 39g UK creme eggs representing 6.2 years production.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Now they've done it

    I fear they may have already inspired some producer to start work on yet another "improbable monster/alien invader/extreme weather attacks New York" movie. Sigh.

    1. Ben Holmes

      Re: Now they've done it

      Everyone attacks New York. That's what it's there for.*

      *With apologies to Spike Milligan.

    2. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: Now they've done it

      Eight out of ten monsters (that expressed a preference) said that they'd far rather attack Tokyo.

      1. IglooDude

        Re: Now they've done it

        Except Tokyo is already beset with earthquakes, tsunamis, B-29 bombers, the Hello Kitty fad, and nuclear power plant meltdowns, so Al Qaeda and Donald Trump notwithstanding, there's less competition in NYC.

        1. zen1

          Re: Now they've done it

          Hello Kitty (who has no mouth, mind you) destroyer of worlds. I do have to give the Japanese credit where credit is due: After being bombed, burned, nuked, washed away, as well as the point of origin of some of the wierdest shit the world has ever seen, they are tough and will probably out live us all.

  10. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    London Eyes?

    Ok, hook taken ...

    1 Brooklyn bridge=14,680 tonnes

    1 London Eye=2100 tonnes

    So the equivalent is 6.99 London Eyes ...

    or, according to the "88 Trillion Facts You Never Wanted to Know About the Bleedin' Wheely Thing" web site, that's the equivalent of 1272 london cabs per wheeely thing ... that's 8891 London cab's worth ... I assume it's an unloaded FX4 so I haven't allowed for "blimey gov, I'm such a fat cabbie I've lost the steering wheel" or "sorry me' old china, you and your tribe are such huge geezers you'll barely fit through the door and might put me overweight"

  11. IronSteve

    Means nothing to me...I only understand things in terms of Blue Whales

    1. TeeCee Gold badge




      There, does that make sense now?

  12. John Latham

    The BBC's improbable measurement unit

    Shouldn't that be "The BBC's improbable measurement unit unit"?

    1. Mr Young
      Thumb Up

      Re: The BBC's improbable measurement unit

      In the department of measurements?

  13. Stratman

    Do constrictors really crush their prey, or just stop it breathing in?

    Anyway, I'm still stuck on the bit about Jennifer Lopez and swallowing.

    1. Gordo Rex

      Constrictors kill by squeezing with sufficient force that the pressure in the thoracic cavity is larger than the heart muscle can overcome, basically inducing cardiac arrest. (I saw it on the Internet, so it must be true.)

      I might have missed something, but is Jennifer Lopez starring in Titanoboa vs. Megashark?

  14. zen1


    what the conversion for weight in funbags? Now I'm all confused.

  15. jon 72

    Re: funbags

    Because funbags are suceptable to the vageries of improbability physics (eg: you think you're going to get hold of one or more but don't allways manage it for some reason) a definative measurement using this unit will not be posibble till the El Reg research team can define the elusive BSH (British Standard Handful) constant.

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