Loony Measurement System

A member of the UK Metric Association has given us permission to reproduce an amusing article from his personal blog.  Acknowledgements and thanks to David Brown.

Loony Measurement System

I was recently reading the manifesto of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party, and I started to wonder: if a spoof political party had a policy on units of measure, what would it be? Perhaps it would look something like this:

“We propose to introduce into Britain a measurement system which is different from that used in any other country in the world.  It would be similar to the system used in the United States of America, but not quite the same.  It would be defined in terms of the metric system, but would not define its units in any convenient whole numbers of metric units, making it dependent upon, but entirely incompatible with the standard international system of weights and measures.

There would be four different units to measure length.  The smallest, a “chin”, would be exactly 25.4 mm.  Then there would be toof which would be 12 chins, or 304.8 mm; then a dray which would be 36 chins or 914.4 mm and finally a lime which would be 63,360 chins, or 1609.344 m.

For weight there would be six different units. Starting with the nouce, which would weigh 28.349523125 g.  Then a pnoud would weigh 16 nouces or 0.45359237 kg;  a snote would weigh 224 nouces or 6.35029318 kg;  a ctw would be 4,480 nouces or 50.80234544 kg; and a not would weigh 53,760 nouces or 1,016.0469088 kg.

Volume would have three different units which would not be based on the length unit, but one of which would be loosely based on the density of water.  The units would be the fluid nouce, equal to 28.4130625 ml, or approximately the volume of 1 nouce of water.  Then a tinp would be 20 fluid nouces or 568.26125 ml, and a laglon would be 160 fluid nouces or 4.54609 litres.”

If that measurement system was proposed now, no one in their right mind would accept it. It makes no sense whatsoever. And yet this raving loony’s system is exactly the same (save the unit names) as the imperial system, which some people in the UK find it so difficult to let go of. I hope that any readers who support the use of that system can see how ridiculous it is to argue for its superiority over the international metric system. In fact the only possible argument for keeping such a system is that you simply can’t be bothered to change.

Copyright (c) David Brown 2009

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28 Responses to Loony Measurement System

  1. Erithacus says:

    The sad thing is that the retention of the loony system - either as the primary system (for road signs and draught beer), or as a supplementary system (for nearly everything else) - actually IS the policy of the main political parties!

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  2. Stan says:

    Those who argue for the retention of imperial measures actually claim that it is better than metric because the sizes of some of its key units are more convenient for everyday life.

    Somehow the pound is about right but the kilogram is too heavy for buying say fruit and veg. The foot and hand relate in an obvious way to body parts or can be more easiliy visualized than the metre.
    The trouble is that those spurious advantages, (which occur in a very limited context and are arguably false anyway), are far outweighed by the much more important advantages of metric (which cannot be realised so long as we have dual measures).

    It's as if the proponents of imperial measures have no real concept of a decent measuring system and are ignorant about the more important aspects, or are so perversly biased (due to alterior motives) that they shut their eyes to the obvious merits of the international system.

    It's not only crazy that we keep the looney measures its ridiculous that the likes of UKMA have to exist at all.

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  3. Richard Gordon says:

    Amusing but rather dependent for effect on relating our lovely, user friendly, natural units to the artificial metric system.

    12 inches to a foot looks OK - 1 foot = 304.8 mm looks daft.

    Imperial and other natural units developed to measure quantities appropriately - hands, furlongs, fathoms, barrels of oil, carats…..
    … and usually divisible by more factors than 2 and 5.

    Last night I was on a London Bus that had a height label:
    14ft 3in 4275mm
    The height of a bus in mm? That’s daft !

    In Italian food markets, they use a unit called an “etto” = 0.1kg for obvious reasons.

    Astronomical distances are measured in non-metric but convenient and meaningful units which can also be made to look “daft” when converted to the artificial metric system:

    1 lightyear = 9.4605284 × 10**15 meters
    1 Parsec = 3.08568025 × 10**16 meters
    1 AU = 149.60×10**9 meters

    Odd that we don’t hear you metric fanatics asking for time to be metricated - after all, years, months, weeks, days and seconds are natural and therefore should be abandoned; 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour and, wow, 24 hours in a day - how aweful! Not to mention variable number of days in a month. I guess even you lot can't do anything about the days in a year......

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  4. Erithacus says:

    Richard Gordon's confused contribution gives an opportunity to deal with a number of misconceptions:

    1. "lovely, user friendly, natural units ...... artificial metric system."

    and

    "Imperial and other natural units developed to measure quantities appropriately - hands, furlongs, fathoms, barrels of oil, carats…..
    … and usually divisible by more factors than 2 and 5."

    All measurement systems are necessarily arbitrary (or "artificial"). Whatever their origin, they have to be precisely defined - otherwise they cannot be used to measure or weigh anything accurately. It is a myth that imperial units are "natural". See http://www.ukma.org.uk/Why/myths.aspx.

    What is "natural" about a "barrel" (42 US gallons, or ca. 35 imperial gallons, or ca. 159 litres). See the Wikipedia article to see what a mess it is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barrel_of_oil

    2. "12 inches to a foot looks OK - 1 foot = 304.8 mm looks daft."

    In both the UK and the USA the foot is legally defined as 304.8 mm.

    3. "Last night I was on a London Bus that had a height label:
    14ft 3in 4275mm
    The height of a bus in mm? That’s daft !"

    Agreed. The problem is the failure to express the dimension in the appropriate units (metres) and to an appropriate level of accuracy (probably 0.1 m in this case). It should have been written as 4.3 m. Blame poor mathematical education in the UK.

    4. "In Italian food markets, they use a unit called an “etto” = 0.1kg for obvious reasons."

    So this is an Italian colloquial term for a hectogram? (i.e. 100 grams - as used on UK price labels for cold meats, pate etc). So what?

    5. "Astronomical distances are measured in non-metric but convenient and meaningful units which can also be made to look “daft” when converted to the artificial metric system:

    1 lightyear = 9.4605284 × 10**15 meters
    1 Parsec = 3.08568025 × 10**16 meters
    1 AU = 149.60×10**9 meters"

    Although they are not part of the SI (metric) system, they are of course defined in terms of SI units. Whether the SI or the astronomical units are used, the numbers are mind-bogglingly large, so I personally don't see the advantage of using different units for astronomy. However, this is a well established convention in a discrete field of science. In any case they certainly don't use miles!

    6. "Odd that we don’t hear you metric fanatics asking for time to be metricated - after all, years, months, weeks, days and seconds are natural and therefore should be abandoned; 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour and, wow, 24 hours in a day - how aweful! Not to mention variable number of days in a month. I guess even you lot can’t do anything about the days in a year……"

    (a) The SI (metric) unit of time is the second (s). The multiples, minute (m), hour (h) day (d) and year (y), are not strictly SI but are accepted for use with it. It is precisely because the day, the lunar month and the year are natural phenomena that it has not been possible to decimalise units of time. Note, however, that minutes, hours and calendar months are not natural phenomena but are arbitrary subdivisions or multiples of a day.

    (b) But who is the "fanatic" here? The person who advocates full adoption of the mainstream, world system (used by countries representing 94% of the world's population)? or those who cling to a random collection of units that have survived by chance from Roman and medieval times and that are now used by about 1% of the world's population? Think about it.

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  5. Jeremiah says:

    Richard Gorden, like all opposers of SI is very wrong. First of all, all measurements systems are man made and artificial, including imperial. User friendly depends on what you allow yourself to get use too.

    Yes, 1 foot equals 304.8 mm does look daft. But 1000 mm = 1 m looks more neat and orderly, more so then 12 inches equals a foot. At least with SI all of the multiples and sub-multiples have consistent multipliers. Imperial does not.

    Mr. Gorden should explain to us which is the true foot, pound, inch, ounce, mile, etc. Historically there were thousands of versions, and every so often those versions that were deemed "official" changed size from time to time. When someone says gallon, does Mr. Gorden know for sure which gallon is meant? A pint, where not set by law, can be any size from 400 to 600 mL. Does Mr. Gorden get excited when he goes to other countries and hears the equivalent of pound in the open market? But what can his thought be when that pound is equal to 500 g and is weighed before him on a metric scale? Why is there different pounds and not one universal one?

    With SI, all units and consistent and coherent everywhere.

    Obviously Mr. Gordon didn't do well in maths class as he would know all numbers can be divided by other numbers and there is a result. Now, where is it written that SI is limited to the use of numbers that can only be divisible by 2 and 5 to reach a whole number? SI makes no such rules and the numbers that are chosen by users of SI can be whatever they want them to be. Engineers may chose a number series that result in multiple factors of useful numbers. For example in the construction industry it is common to use the 100 mm module and 1200, 2400 and 3600 are integral factors of the 100 mm module and each of those three numbers can be divided into multiple sub-sizes of rounded numbers. Thus Mr. Gordon's argrument is pure tosh.

    A number like 14 ft 3 in proves the previous point. 14 is a number that has only 2 factors, 7 and 2. Why not 12 so ot can be divided into more factors? Which is the true height of the bus? The imperial value of the metric value? What system appears on the mechanical drawings and what system was it made to? If it is less than about 50 years it is going to be metric and the metric size is true and the imperial is just an afterthought.

    If Mr. Gorden has a problem seeing the height in millimetres, then he can mentally convert it to metres in a second of time without pencil, paper or a calculator. He can round it mentally to 4.3 m. How long would it take Mr. Gorden to convert 14 feet 3 inches to yards? Most likely he will cheat and convert the millimetres to metres and call them yards.

    etto is Italian slang/short form of hecto. Thus an etto means a hectogram just like kilo is often used in slang for kilogram. Funny how Mr. Gorden can't claim the Italians are using a word than means ounce and prefer imperial over metric.

    Mr. Gorden is deceiving us with astronomical units. Why didn't he also tell us that in imperial, they also have a worse daft relationship? Why are they a integer relationship to the mile? In SI, the definitions are contained to a finite number of decimal places, but in imperial, the numbers never end, thus a precise realization of them can never exist in imperial. Only the seven SI base units are precisely defined to natural events. this would make SI the only true natural system.

    There already is a metric time unit and that is the second (s). If we knew the precise moment time began, we could call that moment 0 s and measure all forward time in seconds from that point. Our present calendar is far from perfect. The year varies, the months vary and so we have to add leap days, every so often and leap seconds every year to correct for the imperfection.

    When and where we need precise measurements of time, we ignore the calendar and use the second.

    If Mr. Gorden wants to use his antiquated units, I won't stop him, but neither should Mr. Gorden interfere with others who wish to move forward. If Mr. Gorden's choice causes him to fall out of step and cause him hardship, I hope he will be able to accept his hardship as a consequence of not moving forward.

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  6. Dave Brown says:

    Richard Gordon, thank you for such an excellent example of the loony imperial system. I couldn't have come up with a better one myself. Your bus, which you say is 14 ft 3 in in tall, could also be said to be 171 inches or 4 yards 2 ft 3 in tall. If we use the American habit of using decimals with imperial units it could also be said to be 14.25 ft or 4.75 yards. Now even if I already know whether to divide/multiply by 3, 12, 14, 16, 20 or 22, (meaning I was educated in America or have spent too long in the UK) I'm still not going to notice immediately that all those heights are identical.

    Whereas 4275 mm is quite clearly 4.275 m (or even 427.5 cm if you prefer). I can see that without really doing any maths - as can anyone educated in any country in this world.

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  7. Dave Brown says:

    Sorry for the double post, but I've just noticed something rather odd about that bus of Mr Gordon's. If it is 4275 mm tall, that is actually 14 ft and 0.3 inches. Either he got the numbers wrong, or someone has made a mistake converting between the two incompatible systems. It is ridiculous to use two systems in one country!

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  8. Martin Vlietstra says:

    In response to comment from both Richard Gordon and Erithacus we should remind ourselves that SI is the shorthand name for “The International System of Units”, taken from the French “le Système international d'unités". Since “pure SI” excludes a large number of units of measure that are widely used throughout the world, such units have been included in the list of units that can be used alongside SI. Although the man in the street might say “so what”, a list of internationally-accepted units is of importance to the likes of academics and lawyers. This is why parsecs, light years, litres, hours, minutes and so on have been “adopted” by the international community.

    Finally, in response to Richard’s observation that the Italians use the etto, I saw it in use during my first visit to Italy in 1975, but I did not see it when I worked there in 2001/2.

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  9. Han Maenen says:

    We ' metric fanatics' do not call for the ' metrication' of the standard rail gauge either, for instance to 1500 mm. This standard was originally 4 ft 8-1/2 in, but it appears to be compatible with metric, with its neat size of 1435 mm. One case where a standard is imperial and metric!
    We would be metric fanatics if we wanted to decimalize time, which is impossible. However, timekeeping can be brought to the 21st century by abandoning the AM/PM-clock and the bizarre date notation of month- day-year and replacing it with ISO 8601: year-month-day and the 24 hour clock.

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  10. Tristan says:

    but in imperial, the numbers never end, thus a precise realization of them can never exist in imperial.

    That's actually not true. If it is a rational number in metric, then seeing as the relationship between metric and imperial is rational, it is also a rational number in imperial. You might need to write 1/3, but 1/3 is a "precise realisation". Another option would be to write them in another base; for instance, 1/3 in base 3 could be 0.1. Hence, one third of a yard could be written as "0.1 yd base 3" and there you have a precise realisation of the number.

    (Neither of those solutions are valid for truely non-terminating numbers like pi or e.)

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  11. Jeremiah says:

    In response to Tristan units like the light year and parsec have a fixed precise definition in metres. Just like the speed of light. Now when you convert them to any of the imperial distance units, such as inch, feet, yards or miles, using conversion factors of 0.0254, 0.3048, 0.9144 and 1.609 344, you will not end up with an exact definition, but numbers that never, never, end. Once you start rounding off, even for practical reasons, you immediately lose accuracy. Thus a precise realization of them can never exist.

    The word rational (that being ratio-nal as opposed to ration-al) refers to numbers that can be expressed as the ratio of two numbers. 1/3 is the ratio of one to three. IN MY OPINION this is not a number but two numbers expressed in a relationship (ratio) but not as a single number. 0.3333333 is a number because it is expressed in (reduced to) its simplest form. This form most likely developed in history before the decimal system was invented and pre-decimal math could not express numbers other then integers.

    How would one express pi using Roman or Babylonian numerals? Changing bases to get some numbers to appear round and precise is not practical and does not work for all numbers. I'm sure one can search a lifetime (and more) to find the perfect combination of base and incomplete division form to express the speed of light in non-SI units and never achieve it.

    Can anyone tell me what the speed of light is in imperial units to the last digit?

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  12. Keith Atkin says:

    The astromical measures, AU, light-year and parsec are actually totally unnecessary. They really ought to be scrapped, as SI lets us scale up the universe using its very neat system of prefixes. In an astronomical context we should be using the gigametre (Gm) and terametre (Tm) for solar-system distances. e.g. Sun to Earth is about 150 Gm. For stellar distances the petametre (Pm) is the natural unit while the exametre (Em), zettametre (Zm) and yottametre (Ym) will take us to galactic and cosmological scales.
    Mind you, getting many stick-in-the-mud astronomers to abandon their beloved ancient units is another matter; many still cling to the inch when specifying telescope apertures! What IS the matter with people?!

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  13. Robin Paice says:

    I agree that the astronomical measures are unnecessary. They simply introduce another potential conversion error and offend against the basic principle of a single system of measurement units for all purposes. However, rather than use the little known peta-, exa-, zetta- and yotta- prefixes, it is simpler to use scientific notation - that is express numbers as exponents to base 10. Thus, the average distance from Earth to the Sun is 1.5 x 10^11 (ten to the power of eleven) metres. Similarly, the distance from the Milky Way galaxy to the Andromeda galaxy is 3.1 x 10^24 m.

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  14. Jeremiah says:

    It may be possible that astronomers may use the exponential notation that Robin mentions in their records, but it is the media which does not understand exponential notation and would claim the public does not either that keeps the old astronomical units alive.

    I also don't agree that all astronomers cling to inches. Maybe American ones do, but I highly doubt anyone else. American astronomers will use them because that is what they use in their home life. Just because someone has a degree doesn't mean they are smart.

    While reading the article on the astronomical unit on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astronomical_unit), I came across this interesting paragraph:

    The metre is defined to be a unit of proper length, but the SI definition does not specify the metric tensor to be used in determining it. Indeed, the International Committee for Weights and Measures (CIPM) notes that "its definition applies only within a spatial extent sufficiently small that the effects of the non-uniformity of the gravitational field can be ignored."[13] As such, the metre is undefined for the purposes of measuring distances within the solar system. The 1976 definition of the astronomical unit is incomplete, in particular because it does not specify the frame of reference in which time is to be measured, but has proved practical for the calculation of ephemerides: a fuller definition that is consistent with general relativity has been proposed.[14]

    Can anyone elaborate as to what is meant by the this paragraph, especially this line:

    "......the metre is undefined for the purposes of measuring distances within the solar system."?

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  15. Stan says:

    A possible answer to Jeremiah's question is that the metric system was designed essentially from a terrestrial perspective. The metre is a very small unit for interplanetary distances and nowadays we are more aware of the effects of general relativity that become significant on an astronomical scale.
    I also think that astronomers may be excused for using certain non-SI units because of the nature of their work. Although the metre can be used with the larger prefixes right up to the edge of the known Universe it is not so for the gram. I don't know the figure for it's total mass but even the mass of the Sun is of the order of 1E30 tonnes!
    If I were to revise the practices of astronomy I'd propably get rid of the parsec. It's based on triangular parallax measurements that can only be used for relatively nearby objects. To me it doesn't make any sense to use it generally.
    I do have some sympathy for the light-year though. It's a convenient indicator of how far back in time one is seeing the light from distant objects. In theory we shouldn't find anything further than 14 billion light years because of the age of the Universe.
    Astronomers use all sorts of different guages during the course of their work e.g. Solar masses (mass of Sun = 1) but at least they are self explanatory, logical and relevent. These measures are useful in theories and observations of star formation because the Sun is very much an average star and it is useful to graph the characterisitics of other stars against their mass compared to that of the Sun.
    However I would agree that the gigametre, terametre etc should be used for interplanetary distances rather than the kilometre. Quoting distances to the outer planets in kilometres (or miles) is rather like using the millimetre for the distance between London and Sydney.

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  16. Jeremiah says:

    Stan,

    How would the definition of the metre need to be modified in a way that the metric tensor is specified and the metre can function in space as well as on earth?

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  17. Stan says:

    Jeremiah,

    I've no idea because I don't know enough about the mathematics of general relativity.

    However as a layperson on the subject I can see that the scope of the definition of the metre (as the distance travelled by a particle of light in a given fraction of a second) is limited to circumstances in which the effect of space-time distortions due to a gravity field on such a measurement are neglible.

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  18. Jeremiah says:

    Is the continued use or perception of use of imperial measurements in the UK a reason that the UK economy is failing to revive in comparison to countries that are metric? Do potential buyers of goods and services deliberately shy away from British made products that they may assume are not made using the metric system and thus their quality and price may not be acceptable?

    Are British companies leaving the UK and setting up shop in metric lands as a means to circumvent the negative attitudes towards metric found among potential UK workers? What is the connection between a weak economy and and a nation's resistance or perceived resistance to metrication.

    Even in the US the economy is still very weak especially in the manufacturing industries. Earlier in the year Wall Street was bragging that the US would recover before Europe but in reality it was metric Europe that has recovered first. The US is claiming they will be out of the recession by the end of the third quarter, yet that is only wishful thinking. Unemployment in the US continues to rise and those having jobs or those finding new jobs are finding them with less pay and benefits. Mostly outside of manufacturing where the pay and benefits are usually the highest and where metric would most likely be encountered.

    In the next few years will we see that those countries that use metric and have a positive attitude towards the use of the metric system be the ones that will prosper and the the US and UK will be lagging very far behind?

    (Maybe this could be the subject for a new topic?)

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  19. David Newberry says:

    Metric Australia is enjoying resurgent growth and was the only developed country (OECD) to escape the ravages of the global economic crisis!

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  20. Jeremiah says:

    A few months ago, NASA announced that its new moon rockets will be designed and built in USC and not metric. Because of this it looks like NASA has to go it alone without international cooperation and help.

    Now News is surfacing that the cost of the project is exceeding NASA's budget and may have to be canceled.

    WASHINGTON -- A presidential panel told the White House Tuesday (2009-09-08) that NASA's manned-spaceflight program is on an "unsustainable trajectory," can't afford its current goal of going to the moon and must work more closely with other countries and private companies to preserve a "viable" human-exploration program.

    Rest of article:

    http://www.cleveland.com/nation/index.ssf/2009/09
    /nasa_needs_a_new_plan_and_more.html

    So what will NASA do? Will it cancel the program or be forced to cancel the program rather then change it ways or will it look to share the costs with international partners and compromise on the metric issue?

    The present international space station is a mix-match of USC and metric. USC parts coming from American sources and metric parts from international partners. Talk about a mess in the UK, now NASA and the US wants to bring that mess into space.

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  21. Han Maenen says:

    That's good news, Jeremy. I hope that NASA will cancel this program, Constellation, and will choose for international cooperation in the development of space vehicles, using the correct system of units: SI. The presidential panel wants NASA to go international and to work with private companies as well.

    In the New Scientist of June 20 last I read a short article on page 5:
    'Loose inches, NASA'. Private space agencies and industries attacked NASA for the decision to drop metric, because it would derail efforts to develop a globalized private space industry.

    NASA said that using metric for Constellation would cost 370 million dollars, at first sight that is a lot of money, but peanuts if you see the billions and billions used elsewhere, weapons for instance, or saving those who have caused the economical crisis - the bankers. I wonder if the mismatch on the International Space Station will not cause a disaster at some point in the future. The crash of the Mars Climate Orbiter caused by conflicting systems of units is cited at the end of the article.

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  22. Jeremiah says:

    One of the biggest problems in working up costs is not to look at the whole picture. NASA never looked to see what it will cost them by using different measurements then everyone else in the same business. NASA may have to reinvent the wheel because it won't be able to depend on existing technology simply because it is metric.

    I would have to imagine that the metric designed Ariane rockets are more advanced then anything NASA could come up with. But since NASA has decided to go it alone they will not be able to form any partnerships with Ariane and thus will spend milliards of euros in order to catch up.

    The most economical way for mankind to return to the moon is via international cooperation, in which both costs and technology are shared and that will only work if everyone agrees to work in the same language and the same measurements, the latter being metric.

    Since NASA obviously won't agree, then the federal government will have to cancel the Constellation program. Hopefully sooner then later.

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  23. George Carty says:

    David Newberry, I suspect the reason why Australia has done better than most OECD countries is because mining (of coal, uranium and various metals) is a considerable part of its economy. This isn't dependent on consumer confidence (as finance is), and isn't outsourceable to cheap-labour countries in Asia (unlike manufacturing).

    Nothing to do with metric measurements I'm afraid.

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  24. Mike Joy says:

    I was brought up with the old imperial system, and a guinea/pounds/crown/florin/shillings/pence/halfpenny/farthing monetary system which was rammed down my throat at school while at the same time my teacher slapped me with a 12-inch ruler everytime I got it wrong (which was quite often). It also had “10 mm = 1 cm, 10 cm = 1dm, 10 dm = 1 metre” etc printed on it, for our information.
    I thought there must be some logic in this, as Britain was supposed to be the greatest country in the world at the time, and head of a huge Commonwealth to boot.
    So I soon learned that Britain was actually made up of eccentric people who thrived on confusion, illogic, silliness and a railway system and society that was modelled on Emmet’s Railway.
    Why change the system if all the people are happy with an illogical system of measures? It was no surprise to learn that many people were upset when the Banks decided to change the money to a (shudder) ‘decimal’ system and everyone thought that items in shops were going to unaffordable after conversion. So to keep people happy, the Banks retained a “half p” coin and the Post Office even produced a “half p” stamp.
    Confusion surely lasted long after conversion because people continued to try to convert decimal values to pre-decimal values and soon they realized that they were wasting their time when 50p always was going to be 50p.
    Then the petrol stations switched from showing gallons to litres and then the expletive really hit the proverbial fan.
    This surely must mean that the Belgian army is going to march down Whitehall soon, and take over the Houses of Parliament.
    Not once was there any thought that Britain was modernizing itself, or that it was preparing itself to be part of the world in the 21st century, when Britain’s heritage was so much at stake. The Editor of ‘This England’ magazine even started a movement to ban the use of the metric system altogether, and anything to do with Europe.
    If Britain’s heritage was so much at stake, why were people so keen to trade in their horses and carts for the latest Japanese, Swedish or German car?
    So with this kind of mentality present in today’s Britain, may I propose that imperial units reign forever and the good old perch be adopted for land areas to make it so much easier for everyone, and that bridge heights always remain in feet and inches so that many more French truck drivers can be decapitated under low bridges who haven’t got the necessary speed or gumption to do the necessary calculations in time?
    I now live in Australia and its boring old system of logical values, and I sure miss all that eccentricity and silliness for the sake of ‘heritage’, back in the old country – the VERY old country.
    Toodle pip,
    Mike

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  25. Mike Joy says:

    Richard Gordon said on 2009-07-09 "Last night I was on a London Bus that had a height label:
    14ft 3in 4275mm
    The height of a bus in mm? That’s daft !"
    I suppose anything logical is daft if you were brought up in England, a land that thrives on eccentricity and silliness, but the fact is EVERYTHING is measured in millimetres in this country (a very sane and forward thinking country).
    For example, the plans of my house state the lot size as being 20 440 x 34 240 - the mm is not mentioned because it's understood, i.e. it can't be anything else.
    Furthermore, if I want to buy a piece of hardboard at the local hardware store, I will ask for "Twelve hundred by nine hundred please". The staff at the shop are intelligent enough not to get me a piece of wood twelve hundred yards long, or twelve hundred inches long because they have the right ATTITUDE to life, instead of clinging on to their mothers' apron strings as in Britain.
    It really is time you folk learn to grow up and drop your prehistoric measuring system and do it NOW. We did it 40 years ago so it's about time you got on with it and stop embarrassing yourselves to today's world.
    Mike Joy
    Bunbury, WA, Australia

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  26. Andy Yates says:

    I have the great pleasure to work on the British Railway; distances up and down the line are still mostly measured in miles, chains and yards whilst those at 90 degrees to the track are measured in metric units. Nothing wrong with this, the railway was built in imperial and all the mile markers, bridge plates and maintenance records are in miles so why change? It's also easier to pace out in yards than in m, and pacing out is accurate enough for most earthworks & drainage works etc.

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  27. A says:

    "so why change?"

    To have a unified and universal measurement system understood independently of any language barriers or ambiguity and would allow harmonisation. 1 m is 1 m on the railway, road, foot path, under the sea, in space.

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  28. Andy Yates says:

    Metric is neither universal, culturally independent nor free from ambiguity. Many (but not all) in europe use the comma instead of the decimal point and the "cm" as the standard unit for engineering work; whereas in the UK the comma is used as a thousands separator and the mm is used in engineering, building and scientific work (correctly as per SI). [Editor's note: The 8th edition of the BIPM brochure (the "bible" of SI) takes no view on decimal points although it does discourage the comma as a thousands marker (paragraph 5.3.4). Nor (obviously) does it discourage use of the centimetre, which is a perfectly valid SI unit. This is a common misconception.] If you think this is trivial you try using the new structural eurocodes, half of which follow continental european practice and half of which follow SI (and British) practice. India (population far bigger than europe) also uses metric with the comma as a separator and the "." as the decimal, but uses a system of Lakhs and Crores so larger numbers tend to look a bit like this: "1,00,00,000".

    Who's right? Well nobody obviously as it is all, as discussed above, arbitary.

    Again where is the problem with this? Know who you are talking to and know what you are talking about and it's not a problem. No system of units is idiot proof so why obsess about everyone using the the same system?

    Call me old fashioned if you will, but personally I walk in miles, shoot in yards and drink in pints (but have no wish yet to be buried six foot under!).

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