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Tutorials/Measuring distance

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Measuring distances in Minecraft can be quite tedious, but with a few simple guidelines you will never make a mistake again!

See this page for more conversion details: Tutorials/Units of measure

Metric Units[edit | edit source]

Distances in Minecraft are quite easy to measure. Officially [1], Minecraft uses the metric system, and each block is considered to be 1 cubic metre. When you measure long distances, it's easier to count if you mark the terrain with a space of 4 blocks between each marked block. The first marker represents a zero. Every second marker (ignoring the zero-mark) is then a 10 meter mark. Make a distinguished mark at the 11th marker to represent a hundred (100), because the first marker block represents zero (0). Use a sign to mark larger numbers to save time and resources.

(ZERO) 1 2 3 4 (MARK) 1 2 3 4 (10 METRES) 1 2 3 4 (MARK) 1 2 3 4 (20 METRES) ...

Imperial/U.S Customary Units[edit | edit source]

Assume that one block's length is 1 yard. 1 mile is exactly 1760 yards. To measure 176 yards (1/10 of a mile), place your zero mark, then leave 7 block space between your next marker. Every second marker (ignoring the zero-mark), is 16 yards. Make a distinguished mark at the 11th 16 yards mark (zero-mark not included),

(ZERO) 3 + 1 + 3 (MARK) 3 + 1 + 3 (16 YARDS) 3 + 1 + 3 (MARK) 3 + 1 + 3 (32 YARDS) ... (176 YARDS) 3 + 1 + 3 (MARK) 3 + 1 + 3 (16 YARDS) ...

-------------------------------------------------- 1 ----------------------------------------------- 2 ----- ... ----- 11 ---------------------------------------------- 1 ----- ...

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1/10 mile ---------------------------------------------------- ...

If you want to ignore the yard unit:

One mile converts to 1609.344m. Consider a Mile to be 1610 blocks long, for the sake of Minecraft practicality. Use the metric method (4 block spacing between). Make 161 x 10th meter marks. Use a sign to mark larger numbers to save time and resources.

In Real Life, 1 Mile = 1.6 km & 0.625 Mile = 1 km.

GPS[edit | edit source]

If you press F3, the debug screen will give you your present location in X-Y-Z co-ordinates. Measuring distances between two locations or waypoints is as easy as subtraction, if you walk in a cardinal direction. Otherwise you will need to make use of the Pythagorean theorem to compute the distance. This is not strictly in-game, but it makes a drastic difference in gameplay, avoiding a lot of frustrated wandering. Note that the X and Z coordinates are horizontal and can be positive or negative (the spawn point will be fairly close to 0, 0), but the Y coordinate represents your altitude, and Y=0 is the bedrock floor of the gameworld.

Conserving Markers[edit | edit source]

If the measurement is being taken above ground, and lighting the entire path is not necessary, place the markers as above. When 100 m is reached, the 10 m markers can be removed and reused for the next 100 m run. This allows for the path to be constructed without having to count 100 blocks at a time, while still allowing the markers on the completed path to be easily followed without using too much material.

Volume and Surface Area[edit | edit source]

The formula for the volume of a cube is s3, where s stands for the measurement of one of the cube's side. Since each side of a normal Minecraft block is 1 metre, this would equal 13, which would result in 1m3. (This works the same for yards, or any other unit of length. So do the rest of these comments.)

The formula for the surface area of a cube is 6s2, where s stands for the measurement of one of the cube's side. Since each side of a normal individual Minecraft block is 1 meter, this would equal 6×12, which would equal 6×1, which would result in 6m2.

As you make something, e.g. a house, bigger in all directions, its surface area increases faster than its length, but not as fast as its volume. The surface area tells you how many blocks you'll need for the outer walls, but your interior furnishings will probably increase according to the volume. Of course, shape matters: An 8×8×1 layer of dirt corresponds to a stack of 64 dirt blocks, but so does a 4×4×4 cube, or a 2×2×16 trench or shaft.

Using the Euclidean Distance Formula[edit | edit source]

Sometimes the need arises in which you need to measure distances that don't align with the X or Z axes, which is easy to do with a little algebra. The formula for Euclidean distance (in two dimensions), where d is the distance:

d = sqrt( (x1 - x2)2 + (z1 - z2)2 )


d = Distance in metres
x1, z1 = Location number 1, in metres
x2, z2 = Location number 2, in metres
sqrt(n) = Square root of n (√n)

If this formula looks a bit complicated, don't worry; it should all be much clearer with an example:

Example[edit | edit source]

Suppose the F3 debug screen shows the following at Location 1:

XYZ: -35.313 / 68.00000 / 97.489

These numbers are coordinates in metres. At Location 2, it shows:

XYZ: 76.793 / 43.00000 / -5.113

Usually, the decimal points can be truncated (ignored), as usually you don't want to cloud your results with where you happen to be standing within each block. In two-dimensional (map) coordinates, we also ignore the elevation (Y value). Hence, those two screens give us the following coordinates:

x1, z1 = -35, 97
x2, z2 =  76, -5

Now we simply plug those numbers in to the distance formula, above:

d = sqrt( (x1 - x2)2 + (z1 - z2)2 )
d = sqrt( (-35 - 76)2 + (97 - -5)2 )
d = sqrt( -1112 + 1022 )
d = sqrt( 12321 + 10404 )
d = sqrt( 22725 )
d = 150.75 m

Considering horizontal (map) distance only, the two locations are 150.75 m apart.

Euclidean Distance in 3 Dimensions (Including Elevation)[edit | edit source]

The above calculation is correct if you want the "map" distance between two points (i.e., only the North/South (z) and East/West (x) distance). But if you wish to include the elevation (y) in the distance calculation as well, that's very easy to do: Simply add the y coordinates to the above distance formula, as shown in bold text, below:

d = sqrt( (x1 - x2)2 + (y1 - y2)2 + (z1 - z2)2 )

Referencing the above debug screens again, our 3-dimensional coordinates are as follows:

x1, y1, z1 = -35, 68, 97
x2, y2, z2 =  76, 43, -5

Again, solving for d, with differences in bold text:

d = sqrt( (x1 - x2)2 + (y1 - y2)2 + (z1 - z2)2 )
d = sqrt( (-35 - 76)2 + (68 - 43)2 + (97 - -5)2 )
d = sqrt( -1112 + 252 + 1022 )
d = sqrt( 12321 + 625 + 10404 )
d = sqrt( 23350 )
d = 152.81 m

Hence, with the elevation considered, the two locations are 152.8 m apart. Note that, in this example, including the 25 m elevation only resulted in a difference of about 2 m (2 blocks).