Thursday, 22 December 2011

BBC: "Will British people ever think in metric?"

No.  Next!


Cthel said...

As a someone young enough to have been educated exclusively using the Metric system, I am quite happy to use Metric when appropriate; that is to say, when it makes the maths easier.

The rest of the time, I think in and use imperial like any right thinking person.

eon said...

I was schooled in the KMS system (or the "Napoleonic" system, as I think of it) in high school and college. And I use it on occasion, mainly when I can get results which make sense in context. Like figuring the velocity of objects in space, up to and including the speed of light. (c= 300,000 km/sec, more or less; easier to do the math with than 186,262 mi/sec, although I tend to remember both figures without having to work at it.)

Among the results which don't make sense in context are measuring the output of aircraft engines in kW as opposed to SHP, BHP, or static thrust for jets. Not to mention doing it for liquid rocket engines or solid motors. I don't want to know its equivalent electrical energy yield, I want to know how hard it can push the vehicle to get it off the ground. Thrust in pounds or tons vs. mass in pounds or tons; Q.E.D.

Ditto projectile energies. kJ is fine for heavy ordnance (it keeps the numbers manageable), but for small arms, measuring muzzle energy in Joules makes about as much sense as doing it in HP. Technically, a .357 Magnum revolver is a one horsepower IC engine, because 1HP = 550 foot-pounds/second, which is the average ME of .357 factory loads. But I don't measure ME in HP, either.

The metric system has its place, just like everything else in the measurement department, like furlongs on a horse track. All measurement systems can be useful in appropriate venues.

Well, except maybe arshins and versts. I never blamed Lenin for going to KMS, in that respect.



Sergej said...

The thing about old-timey systems is, they are based on things that one is likely to do with his hands. For instance, when I down a pint of something that comes in pint glasses (like water, or vodka), I know that a pint is as much as can be quaffed conveniently without coming up for air. A pint is divided into ounces, which are mouthfuls. 500 mL is about the same volume, but only coincidentally. Inches, feet and yards are sizes that fit into the hands or arms in different ways, and yards is a distance along the ground that is easily converted to paces and minutes' walking. SI, yes, is convenient for calculating with. Things that I can't touch, like energy or acceleration, or temperature for that matter, I guess what's intuitive is a matter of habit. If I'm not calculating, I prefer traditional measures. Which is probably another way of saying that the only thing they have on SI is my own stubbornness. But hey, it's my stubbornness, dadgummit!

An arshin is a pace, and a versta, says the Hitchhiker's Guide, is a unit of ox-plowing, exactly like the English furlong. Ladder sights on Mosin rifles of the pre-Soviet age were marked in arshini, but my example was built in 1944, and is marked in hundreds of meters (which, I mentally translate, is roughly hundreds of yards).

eon said...


I always convert meters to yards in my head by just adding 10 percent. Close enough for sighting in.

Thanks for explaining the traditional measurements. I knew an arshin was a "pace", but always wondered what a verst was supposed to be. ;-)



Mart said...

I'm a real bugger when it comes to dealing with metric and imperial. I was educated during the seventies so feel no shame giving a measurement in both standards. For an example, I'd happily say something is three inches and one centimeter if it best fills the gap...