Thursday, 17 May 2012

Metric mediocrity

Relic of a saner, freer age.
Peter Hitchens looks at metric insanity; a classic example of the totalitarian mindset that itches to fix that which isn't broken and replace the practical and intuitive with the arbitrary and aggravating.

I've used metric and I've used Imperial measurements my whole life and I've always found the metrics to be difficult to calculate and impossible to visualise while it's very easy run Imperials in my head.  Ssince the Imperial units are based on real things (unlike the fantastic metrics), I can count off inches on my knuckles, yards with my nose and thumb and fathoms with my arm.  Also, as Hitchens argues,  it's a lot harder for a merchant to short measure me.

Much more logical.


Cthel said...

Indeed, the imperial system is much more user-friendly. The only time the metric system is genuinely easier is for scientific calculations (there's a reason that the metric system is also called S.I. units) where consistent base-10 is useful.

Mabuse said...

Or you know, it could just be that the supposed intuitiveness of Imperial; from your perspective, is just an artifact of the fact that you grew up with it. Just like I; who grew up with metric measurements, find it a far more elegant and coherent system while Imperial simply baffles me.

Sergej said...

Mabuse is right, I think. My older generation (parents) grew up in the USSR, and think in terms of metric. Me, US and A, and I think in (American) English. Half-liter of beer or a pint? 100 grams (actually mL) or vodka or a gill? A quart Nalgene is close enough to a liter when on the trail, and if someone insists on calling it a liter bottle, then you know he's either Canadian or self-consciously Europhilic.

Intuitively, same thing. English, the units are chosen to match physical experience, metric, you are required to match your experiences to units. When encountering new physical experiences, you learn them in new units, which then become intuitive. When I started shooting, a pistol shot (physical experience) became the standard for 25 yards, a load of powder or weight of a bullet became the standard for the appropriate number of grains, etc. And in high school physics, it was the other way around: calculations are a lot simpler with SI.

eon said...

I use Imperial and metric interchangeably, mainly due to foreign publications in which everything is in KMS. That said, my usual methods of rough-and-ready conversion are;

Meters to yards (as in defining weapon range); 1m = 3.28 ft, so take figure in meters and add 10%.

MM to inches; 1" = 25.2mm, so divide mm by 25- close enough.

Joules to foot-pounds; divide by 1.36. Alternatively, take 75% of the figure in J.

BTW, Hitchens' article is inaccessible behind the Mail's subscription screen, now.



Ironmistress said...

Being a Finn and having grown in metric culture, I say the things are just the other way. Metric measurements are far more easier to visualize than Imperial.

One meter is one pace. Ten hands make one pace, which means hand's width makes 10 cm. It is far more easier to calculate with decimals than fractions, and likewise multiplying and dividing by 10 is much easier than 3. 8 or 12. Most of all, the ratio is always 10 and does not vary on units.

I have real life rulers on my arms. My hand's width is 10 cm. My cubit makes half a metre. I can count centimeters on my fingertips, decimeters by my hands and meters by my paces. I walk one kilomere in ten minutes and 100 m in one minute. And, of course, one knot is half a metre per second. 8 kn equals 4 m/s.

Likewise, units of mass and volume are standardized. All measurements of area are based on squares and not on arbitrary measures like acre (one chain multiplied by one furlong) and those of volume are based on cubes (and not arbitrary prisms like gallon). One litre is exactly 1000 cubic centimeters and not 231 cubic inches like a gallon. One kilo is exactly the weight of one liter of water and not an arbitrary blob like a pound. Milk is sold as one liter cartons, so one liter of milk weighs one kilo.

And when speaking of "ounces", are those US liquid ounces, US dry ounces, UK liquid ounced, UK dry ounces, ounces avoirdupoids or ounces troy?

It is all a question of getting used. But of course I am an engineer and think autistically, not with emotions.