Sunday, July 15, 2012

Two and a Half Shaqs

What do James Joule, Daniel Fahrenheit, Charles Richter, Heinrich Hertz, Isaac Newton, Georg Ohm, James Watt, Allessandro Volta and Shaquille O’Neal have in common? They all have units of measure named after them.

When the largest Burmese Python (Python molurus bivittatus) ever found in the Everglades was discovered, the Washington Post described the 17 1/2 foot exotic beast as “more than twice as long as former basketball player Shaquille O’Neal is tall.” Technically Shaq stands 7” 1’ – so really the snake would be 2.5 “Shaqs” long. Naturally I pictured an engorged constrictor with two and half of the fifteen time, NBA All-Star in its belly. Eating a 325 pound Shaq might be a stretch, although another Python was captured recently that had consumed a 76 pound White-tailed Deer.

The American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) stands an impressive .60 Shaqs (5 feet) tall but more incredibly has a 1.25 Shaq (9 foot) wingspan. That’s the second largest wingspan of any bird in North America. Only the 1.4 Shaq (10 foot) California Condor has a greater wingspan.
© Pete Corradino
Most of the White Pelicans are heading out of Florida. They’ve spent the last few months feeding along the coast in a manner entirely different than their Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) cousins who dive for their food. White Pelicans work in groups on the surface of the water and round up fish in the shallows. When the fish are trapped, they dunk their bills into the water and scoop up their prey.

As we progress through spring, developing thermal updrafts allow for the pelicans to migrate en masse to their breeding grounds in the mid-western United States and central portions of Canada. Their massive wingspan allows them to rise quickly in the thermal column and soar for long distances at high altitudes. Flocks of hundreds can be spotted travelling together at this time of the year

Who’s to say if this unit of measure will stick? Consider the measure of a man is not by his free throw percentage but how he stacks up next to enormous snakes and gigantic birds.  


  1. There is now a new record for a Burmese Python caught in Florida. Just the other day a record 20 ft. was taken from the Marco Island Airport. A photo was in the Naples Daily News. They have caught many there and airport personnel say they see them all the time. Oh, I'm retired and do not do math anymore (except for Geo puzzles), but that is 2.82 "Shaqs" long.
    Dey be takin' o'er da place me be hid in' de ship. YO HO, YO HO

  2. Do you have a link to that article in the NDN? I can't find it but will link to if you do.

    1. My bad, Pete. Wrong paper.
      Here it is.

      The article is in County Commissioner Donna Fiala's column "Around Town".
      If you can't find it, I have the newspaper with photo and will keep it for you.