Posted in History & Literature


There are millions of units for various things. Some are simple and standard like the metre and gram, while others are quirky and humorous like the Helen unit and the Banana Equivalent Dose. As long as you can justify it with logic and objective quantification, you can virtually create any unit. Using this logic, some historical knowledge and a cruel sense of humour, one can come up with an extremely disturbing unit called the Hitler unit.

As most people know, Adolf Hitler is one of the most notorious criminals against humanity in the history of mankind. He was responsible for the death of at least 17 million people, including the 6 million Jews and 5 million other ethnicities killed during the Holocaust, and victims of World War II. For simplicity’s sake, let us only consider the victims of the Holocaust as direct victims of Hitler’s ambitions.

Using this statistic, we can now create a new unit called the hitler – equivalent to 11 million human deaths. Ergo, killing a single human amounts to a crime of 91 nanohitlers. The “hitler level” of some of history’s worst notorious dictators are as follows:

  • Kim Il Sung: 1.6 million deaths = 145 millihitler
  • Pol Pot: 1.7 million deaths = 154 millihitler
  • Hideki Tojo: 5 million deaths = 455 millihitler
  • Adolf Hitler: 11 million deaths = 1 hitler
  • Jozef Stalin: 23 million deaths = 2.09 hitler
  • Mao Zedong: 78 million deaths = 7.09 hitler

The hitler unit gives us a clear picture of “how much worse” someone’s crimes are compared to those committed by Adolf Hitler. For example, Jozef Stalin could be considered twice more evil than Hitler.

The true utility of the hitler unit is that like other units, it allows for useful conversions to other units. For example, the EPA currently values a human life at $6.9 million (USD). A simple unit conversion thus tells us that 1 hitler is equivalent to the loss of $75,900,000,000,000 (-$75.9 teradollars). In 2008 when the US Congress failed to pass a stimulus bill following the subprime mortgage crisis, the market lost $1.2 trillion over one day – the equivalence to 15.8 millihitlers. Conversely, if a mugger took $200 from you, they have technically committed a crime of 2.64 picohitlers.

Although the crimes of Adolf Hitler were beyond tragic, this imaginary unit teaches us that almost anything can be quantified in the field of science and mathematics.

Posted in History & Literature


Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Who will guard the guards?

One of the most basic instincts of a human being is to doubt. We do not easily extend our trust to strangers. This is a natural response that is very beneficial for your survival from an evolutionary perspective (consider the overfriendly dodos that were wiped out by humans). As civilisation has progressed and the size of societies grew, people devised legal systems to lower their vigilance against each other. This was because instead of wasting time being suspicious of others, we devised specialist roles who would do that for us, allowing us to live in peace with each other. These specialists who stay alert and guard us enforce the law and stabilise our society. However, what would happen if the people that protect us from evil become evil? Is it not a scary thought to think that there is no one that watches the watchmen?

Emperor Qin Shi Huang who united China to form the Qin dynasty divided up his people, setting up a mutual guard system to enforce his rule. Informing became a civil obligation. To not report illegal activities was illegal in itself. The system of informing was as follows: five families form a group with each group being watched by an official warden who reports on them. This official warden is carefully observed by an unofficial surveillant. Five groups come together to form a tribe. If it is found that at any level something was not reported, the blame was turned on every member of the group. Thus, a circle of surveillance is formed.

This method was extremely effective and Emperor Qin’s rule of terror was unstoppable. Crime rates plummeted while productivity rose. The problem was that the people’s quality of life was pathetic. Emperor Qin’s system of watching was later adopted by Nazi Germany. The people under the rule of the Nazis had to live in fear of being reported by their neighbours. This method is also seen being used by Big Brother in George Orwell’s novel 1984. Is this truly the best system to keep peace? Laws are put in place for the happiness and safety of the people, yet over-surveillance is an ironic concept that exists for those who hold power rather than the people.

How much should we trust another person? And who will watch the watchmen?