November 25, 2022
I just found out how to measure distance with my thumb.
I already knew a method of calculating how long until sunset by using my hand, but distance-measuring with the thumb is new to me.
In case you don’t know, let me fill you in. I’m a sucker for life hacks. You know, those simple, clever tips for accomplishing familiar tasks more easily and efficiently. My thought: Why wouldn’t we want to find out and implement such things?
Of course, some of them are rather silly and, in my opinion, would rarely be used or are over-rated, but some are borderline genius. Like thumb-measuring for distance. Maybe almost everyone else in the world knew this, but I certainly didn’t. Here’s how it goes, according to Hold your thumb in front of you (arm fully outstretched), and close one eye. Line up your thumb with an object whose size you have some sense of (for example, a car).
Without moving your thumb, close your open eye, and open the other one. Your thumb will appear to be in a different place.
Estimate how far your thumb “moved” relative to the object you’re looking at. For example, a car is about 15 feet long, so if your thumb moved half a car length, that’s about 7.5 feet.
Multiply by 10. In this example, you’d calculate that the car is about 75 feet away.
I tried it with some of my husband’s paintings, which I have the pleasure of viewing from my computer station, and the math actually did turn out right. So score another life-hack victory.
In a related revelation, I recently found that coins can be used for measuring smaller distances. A penny is exactly three-fourths an inch, so if you measure something that’s the width of three pennies, ciphering shows that it is 2.25 inches.
After I learned that bit of wisdom, I figured out something else on my own: A quarter is about an inch in diameter, so you can measure lengths of a few inches with those particular coins. But since it’s not an exact measurement (0.955 inch), more than a few coins’ worth would throw you off. Still, I think that lining up some quarters would be OK for … hmmm, what’s a pint-sized equivalent for “good enough for horseshoes”?
Once I started web surfing regarding life hacks, naturally I found quite a few others I consider share-worthy: – If you need to light a fire, and your tinder is damp, pull out some fat-laden chips, and they’ll get a blaze going in fine fashion.
– If you need a quick cellphone stand, set your sunglasses top-down on a flat surface, slightly open the arms to form an X-shape and rest your phone on top.
– If you place a wet paper towel around your bottled beverage and put it in the freezer, after 15 minutes your drink will be completely cold.
– To make a “lantern” that distributes light better than your cellphone’s direct beam, place the phone underneath a water bottle.
Literally hundreds of other life hacks exist; you can probably add some to the list yourself. Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with the how-to-tell-how-long-it-is-till-sunset hack, in case you missed it the first time I presented it: Extend your arm fully in front of you, palm facing in so your outstretched hand is bent at a right angle to your arm. The bottom of your pinky should align with the horizon. Then count how many finger widths there are to reach the sun, and allow 15 minutes for each finger.
Ta-da! Now you know how long you’ve got until dusk.
Sallie Rose Hollis is a Union Parish native, retired Louisiana Tech associate professor of journalism and Ruston resident. She can be reached via email at
The Farmerville Gazette
PO Box 722
Farmerville, LA
© 2022 Farmerville Gazette