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  #1  
Old 05-29-2015, 10:11 AM
AWB AWB is offline
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Does the UK use metric system?

Here in the US, we're stubbornly sticking to "English" units for everyday measurements: pounds, miles, cups, gallons, F, etc. Even though we all have kilometers marked on our speedometers, miles are highlighted.

But when I've read various stories from the UK, I see weird mixtures: temperatures in C, MPH instead of KPH, stones for body weight, and so on.

So, are they officially metric, but still use other units for everyday? Or has metric only made a tiny dent there?
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  #2  
Old 05-29-2015, 10:23 AM
JustinC JustinC is offline
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Both. Temperatures are displayed in C and F, road distances in miles, most speedometers have miles and kilometres per hour, older people usually describe themselves using feet and stones, younger people use metric. It's the law you can only sell foods in metric, so you go to the shop and buy 454 grams of beef, or 568 ml of milk or beer (although a lot of shops also sell milk in litres and 2/4 pint jugs.

Clothes sizes seem to depend on what the designer was drinking the night before and vary from shop to shop.
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Old 05-29-2015, 10:31 AM
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Officially the UK is nearly all metric. Exceptions are miles (and yards) on roads (Hence MPH and MPG) and pints for milk and beer. Or currency went metric in the 70s.

In the supermarket you will commonly see both, although pricing has to be in metric. I am looking at today's till receipt which shows the one tomato I bought at 0.196kg @ 1.99 per kg. In the machine shop or timber yard, it's all metric. Temperatures are only given in degrees C in newspaper and TV forecasts.

Kids at school are taught the metric system only but they will mostly be bi-lingual in tat they will be familiar with feet and inches and gallons and pints, even though all their work will be in metric units.

So the answer is - officially metric, but with pockets of imperial clinging on for dear life.
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Old 05-29-2015, 12:28 PM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
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Nitpick: the currency went decimal, not metric. British currency is not tied to any metric weights or measures, though decimalization is closely associated (politically) with metricization.
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Old 05-29-2015, 01:07 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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The first time I visited the UK (I'm American), I had it all figured out. I'd rent my car, get the whole "driving on the left" thing squared away and then head out on the A4 from London to where I was going. I figured that 100 kph was about 65 mph, so I'd stay at about that speed until I really got the feel of things. However, I did notice that I was flying by almost everyone on the road, and wondered why they were all driving so slowly. Oh, wait, it's not kph, it's mph...
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Old 05-29-2015, 01:11 PM
Claverhouse Claverhouse is offline
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Everything is presented as metric, but it's easy to instantly adjust the settings to imperial.

Kinda like a weather site online.
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Old 05-29-2015, 01:48 PM
mascaroni mascaroni is offline
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Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright View Post
Nitpick: the currency went decimal, not metric. British currency is not tied to any metric weights or measures, though decimalization is closely associated (politically) with metricization.
I think that was pretty inevitable, given the growing use of computers and the lessening in value of the Pound. When the Pound was worth something (often half a weeks wages up until the early fifties) it was divisible by 2,3,4,6,8,10,12 and other numbers above. Obviously, the Guinea had to be invented for those who had a predilection for dividing things into seven.

I think that, generally, in our "mustn't grumble, but don't tell me what to do attitude" we pick and choose...

Construction is always metric (thank God, or the French), yet buildings are sold or leased in square feet.

Temperature is Fahrenheit in the summer "Phew, what a scorcher! 90 degrees at Heathrow"

And Celsius in winter "The Big Freeze... Temperatures set to hit minus 10!"

Go on you Texans and Canadians, have a good laugh at our expense...
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Old 05-29-2015, 01:58 PM
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The problem is when we use decimal units of money AND decimal units of quantity, it's too easy for the end consumer to find the best value. In the USA, we use decimal units of money and fractional units of quantity as to allow producers to rip off the general public ... [ka'ching] ... capitalism at it's finest.
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Old 05-29-2015, 02:02 PM
Dahu Dahu is offline
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Originally Posted by JustinC View Post
older people usually describe themselves using feet and stones, younger people use metric.
IME it would be incredibly rare to find anyone here who would describe their height in cm/m or weight in kg. Not sure what they teach in schools these days, but my 21yo co-worker uses imperial.
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Old 05-29-2015, 02:06 PM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
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Originally Posted by mascaroni View Post
Temperature is Fahrenheit in the summer "Phew, what a scorcher! 90 degrees at Heathrow"
Is this a new thing? I don't remember ever hearing a temperature given in Fahrenheit in the UK outside science classes.
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Old 05-29-2015, 02:10 PM
Malden Capell Malden Capell is offline
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I:

- read temperature in Celcius
- weigh food in grams and kilos
- but sometimes use imperial because of online American recipes
- weigh myself in stone
- measure my height in feet
- measure short horizontal distances in metres and centimetres
- measure long horizontal distances in miles
- measure my waist in inches

So make of that what you will
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Old 05-29-2015, 02:13 PM
Baron Greenback Baron Greenback is offline
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Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright View Post
Is this a new thing? I don't remember ever hearing a temperature given in Fahrenheit in the UK outside science classes.
It's a newspaper headline sort of thing, really.
  #13  
Old 05-29-2015, 02:24 PM
mascaroni mascaroni is offline
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Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright View Post
Is this a new thing? I don't remember ever hearing a temperature given in Fahrenheit in the UK outside science classes.
Even the BBC, the unelected license funded lefty liberal propaganda organisation* noted the first recorded 100F temperature in the UK.





*Danny Baker excluded. Red Sauce, Brown Sauce, or No Sauce At All...
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Old 05-29-2015, 02:27 PM
Baron Greenback Baron Greenback is offline
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Originally Posted by mascaroni View Post
Even the BBC, the unelected license funded lefty liberal propaganda organisation* noted the first recorded 100F temperature in the UK.
Only in brackets after the Celsius number though http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3138865.stm OK, that's online, but that must have conformed to the house style at the time.
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Old 05-29-2015, 02:36 PM
mascaroni mascaroni is offline
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Only in brackets after the Celsius number though http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3138865.stm OK, that's online, but that must have conformed to the house style at the time.
It was still the breaking of the 100 degrees Fahrenheit that made the story.


More importantly, what about your sausage sandwich? Red sauce, Brown sauce, or No Sauce At All?
  #16  
Old 05-29-2015, 03:53 PM
Baron Greenback Baron Greenback is offline
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Originally Posted by mascaroni View Post
It was still the breaking of the 100 degrees Fahrenheit that made the story.
I'm sure the highest ever recorded temperature in the UK had something to do with it too.

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More importantly, what about your sausage sandwich? Red sauce, Brown sauce, or No Sauce At All?
No idea what this means, sorry.
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Old 05-29-2015, 04:20 PM
mascaroni mascaroni is offline
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No idea what this means, sorry.
FiveLive.. Saturday mornings, starts around 9:30: Famous people are asked about their choice of condiment on a sausage sandwich.

It really shouldn't be utterly compelling listening but...
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Old 05-29-2015, 04:30 PM
Baron Greenback Baron Greenback is offline
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FiveLive.. Saturday mornings, starts around 9:30: Famous people are asked about their choice of condiment on a sausage sandwich.

It really shouldn't be utterly compelling listening but...
Ah, I do know I find a little bit of Danny Baker goes a very long way. There should be more Danny Kelly on the radio, imo. He was always the brains of the two Dannys.
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Old 05-29-2015, 04:39 PM
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Maybe it depends on where you live and who your friends are. My doctor records my height as 1.75 and my weight as 90kg. New babies are weighed in kilos and there is a handy chart for those who want to convert them for the older generation. I haven't seen temperatures quoted in fahrenheit for years.

I admit to using inches though as they seem to me to be a more useful measure for smaller things, but centimetres or inches, it isn't that important. Anything at all scientific is exclusively metric.

I think that newspapers have a lot to answer for. If they dropped the old imperial system altogether then the public would soon follow. As long as they insist on converting things for us, I guess many people will not bother.
  #20  
Old 05-29-2015, 07:10 PM
JustinC JustinC is offline
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IME it would be incredibly rare to find anyone here who would describe their height in cm/m or weight in kg. Not sure what they teach in schools these days, but my 21yo co-worker uses imperial.
I find many websites will ask for your height/weight in decimal, and the younger people will know those off pat. Maybe they're just better at using both systems, but when I can real off imperial measurements and hesitate to convert to decimal/metric, they can give their height and weight in metric and often don't know what a stone is. For example my ideal weight is 13 stone, which is ...er ..82.5538 Kilograms, which just sounds wrong.

82? 83 pounds is 5.9 stones and really unhealthy. 13 stones is nicely between 12 and 14; 12 hours in the daytime, joints in your fingers, months in the year, star signs. I can be a bit over 12 and it's okay, 13 is ideal (and the imperial system allows for a bit of discrepancy), 14 is a bit much, 15 is just being really not good, 16 is a lard arse. In decimal those are 79 Kg to 101! Now I'm enormous and in three figures or healthy and only in two - 99 Kg is just over 15 and 1/2 stone. For me that would be blubberly, but at least I'm not in three figures, eh?

YMMV or YKMV of course.
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Old 05-29-2015, 07:17 PM
JustinC JustinC is offline
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FiveLive.. Saturday mornings, starts around 9:30: Famous people are asked about their choice of condiment on a sausage sandwich.

It really shouldn't be utterly compelling listening but...
That is what the metric system has brought us to. It should be whole grain mustard.
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Old 05-29-2015, 07:45 PM
The Angry Badger The Angry Badger is offline
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I admit to using inches though as they seem to me to be a more useful measure for smaller things, but centimetres or inches, it isn't that important. Anything at all scientific is exclusively metric.
I tend to use imperial when I'm guesstimating or just doing rough measurements. As soon as I need to measure something properly, I switch to metric. I just find imperial easier for rough guesses - I can easily look at something and say 'yeah, that's about five foot', but still can't really visualise metres that well. It's a result of my upbringing, I guess.

Really, the UK is a mess with this - in what other country would you be able to buy food in 454g measures? Another one is if you're buying sheets of, say, plywood. They come in 2440 x 1220mm sheets. C'mon, really? They're 8' x 4', just admit it.

I reckon it's going to be another 20 years or so before we're properly switched over, and that's even without converting our road system to km - that's going to be massively expensive and a huge mess, so I have no idea when that will ever happen.
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Old 05-29-2015, 08:39 PM
Eliahna Eliahna is offline
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I find many websites will ask for your height/weight in decimal, and the younger people will know those off pat. Maybe they're just better at using both systems, but when I can real off imperial measurements and hesitate to convert to decimal/metric, they can give their height and weight in metric and often don't know what a stone is. For example my ideal weight is 13 stone, which is ...er ..82.5538 Kilograms, which just sounds wrong.

82? 83 pounds is 5.9 stones and really unhealthy. 13 stones is nicely between 12 and 14; 12 hours in the daytime, joints in your fingers, months in the year, star signs. I can be a bit over 12 and it's okay, 13 is ideal (and the imperial system allows for a bit of discrepancy), 14 is a bit much, 15 is just being really not good, 16 is a lard arse. In decimal those are 79 Kg to 101! Now I'm enormous and in three figures or healthy and only in two - 99 Kg is just over 15 and 1/2 stone. For me that would be blubberly, but at least I'm not in three figures, eh?

YMMV or YKMV of course.
Pounds are best for losing weight, stones for gaining them. "I lost 70lb, but I put 5 stone back on".
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Old 05-29-2015, 09:25 PM
FlikTheBlue FlikTheBlue is offline
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Why do people in the UK measure wight using stones and in the US weight is measured using pounds? And why do metric system users measure weight in kilograms rather than newtons, when kg are a unit of mass rather than weight?
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Old 05-30-2015, 12:14 AM
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Americans use metric system for energy content of food : calories (please do not nitpick I know it is kilo-calories). Americans also use Metric for bullet calibers - 9 millimeters
  #26  
Old 05-30-2015, 03:19 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is online now
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Why do people in the UK measure wight using stones
Inertia of comfortable tradition. Expressing an amount in a scale that, for common values, remains in single or low double digits is nice and easy, so once established, is a hard habit to break.

"nine stone twelve" has a sort of easy verbal flow to it that "sixty-two kilograms" doesn't.
Same for human heights - "five foot nine" has a ring to it that "one hundred and seventy-five centimetres" (or "one metre seventy-five" or "one point seven five metres") seems to lack.

Of course, that's entirely subjective, but that's what humans are.

Quote:
And why do metric system users measure weight in kilograms rather than newtons, when kg are a unit of mass rather than weight?
Because it works, and most of us never travel to other planets where the distinction makes a difference.

The answer to any of these questions is nearly always that the system has to be used by humans, who will always find their own balance between what is best, and what is most convenient.

Last edited by Mangetout; 05-30-2015 at 03:19 AM.
  #27  
Old 05-30-2015, 04:11 AM
Schnitte Schnitte is offline
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And why do metric system users measure weight in kilograms rather than newtons, when kg are a unit of mass rather than weight?
Maybe what they're measuring is, in fact, mass; they simply erroneously call it "weight".
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  #28  
Old 05-30-2015, 04:22 AM
Lord Feldon Lord Feldon is offline
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And why do metric system users measure weight in kilograms rather than newtons, when kg are a unit of mass rather than weight?
The kilogram predates the newton by nearly 150 years, and roughly 99.9% of us do not ever need to treat weight and mass differently.

Last edited by Lord Feldon; 05-30-2015 at 04:25 AM.
  #29  
Old 05-30-2015, 05:46 AM
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"nine stone twelve" has a sort of easy verbal flow to it that "sixty-two kilograms" doesn't.
Heh, we've done this in temperature, now weight. Next up: someone claiming a 15mm spanner would be more readily described as "a slightly less than 5/8 inch" spanner.
http://www.carolynrelei.com/inchchart.htm
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Old 05-30-2015, 07:08 AM
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The first time I visited the UK (I'm American), I had it all figured out. I'd rent my car, get the whole "driving on the left" thing squared away and then head out on the A4 from London to where I was going. I figured that 100 kph was about 65 mph, so I'd stay at about that speed until I really got the feel of things. However, I did notice that I was flying by almost everyone on the road, and wondered why they were all driving so slowly. Oh, wait, it's not kph, it's mph...
When my wife and I honeymooned in Montreal, we went to the top of Mont Royal. We then called a cab to go back to our hotel. It was a rather harrowing ride down, akin to a thrill ride at an amusement park. I peered over the driver's shoulder and read the speed. I then said to my wife, "I know kilometers are smaller, but isn't 100 kph still pretty fast on a winding parkway?"
  #31  
Old 05-30-2015, 07:12 AM
Shakester Shakester is offline
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Next up: someone claiming a 15mm spanner would be more readily described as "a slightly less than 5/8 inch" spanner.
I've seen Americans make exactly that sort of claim, seriously.

Here in Australia, we use the metric system, but some US/Imperial units are widely understood. We know what feet and inches are, for instance, but temperatures usually need translation.

(Obviously it's different for everyone and I'm making a generalisation, but this is the SDMB so someone will be along to pointlessly dispute what I just wrote any second now.)
  #32  
Old 05-30-2015, 07:14 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is online now
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Heh, we've done this in temperature, now weight. Next up: someone claiming a 15mm spanner would be more readily described as "a slightly less than 5/8 inch" spanner.
http://www.carolynrelei.com/inchchart.htm
I am not claiming any kind objective superiority of one form of words over another. I was explicit about that.
Habit and tradition are subjective things, but in the specific case of feet/inches for human heights, and stone/pounds for human weights, I think it is not hard to see why people were comfortable with non metric measures.

Last edited by Mangetout; 05-30-2015 at 07:17 AM.
  #33  
Old 05-30-2015, 07:53 AM
GuanoLad GuanoLad is offline
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Here in Australia, we use the metric system, but some US/Imperial units are widely understood. We know what feet and inches are, for instance, but temperatures usually need translation.
100% agree.
  #34  
Old 05-30-2015, 10:21 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is online now
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Celsius/centigrade isn't really any more or less 'metric' than Fahrenheit. It's a red herring in this discussion.

Last edited by Mangetout; 05-30-2015 at 10:21 AM.
  #35  
Old 05-30-2015, 10:35 AM
Schnitte Schnitte is offline
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Originally Posted by Mangetout View Post
Celsius/centigrade isn't really any more or less 'metric' than Fahrenheit. It's a red herring in this discussion.
Celsius/centigrade is not fully metric, that's true, but at least it is more "metric" than Fahrenheit in the sense that a temperature difference of 1 C is the same as one of 1 Kelvin; and Kelvin is, in fact, the metric (i.e., SI) unit of temperature. When absolite temperatures, rather than temperature differences, are needed, then conversion from Celsius to Kelvin is necessary, but trivial.
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Old 05-30-2015, 10:43 AM
PatrickLondon PatrickLondon is online now
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It's a sort of mix and match depending on what's required for legal purposes and what people psychologically internalise as a comprehensible approximation to the size/quantity they want. For exact measurements and legal pricing, you might need 1200mm of a piece of timber, but you know the sort of shape and size you want as four-by-two. So that's what you order.

(Just as in countries that have been metric for much longer, you will still hear mention of old quantities, like "une livre","une pouce", "ein Pfund", although what they'll get is the metric quantity they approximate to).
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Old 05-30-2015, 11:16 AM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Originally Posted by Malden Capell View Post
I:

- read temperature in Celcius
- weigh food in grams and kilos
- but sometimes use imperial because of online American recipes
- weigh myself in stone
- measure my height in feet
- measure short horizontal distances in metres and centimetres
- measure long horizontal distances in miles
- measure my waist in inches

So make of that what you will
Emphasis added. Of course. 38 sounds a LOT better than 97!!
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Old 05-30-2015, 11:43 AM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is offline
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Variations of these posters, by U.S. citizens, presumably, float around the net: http://imgur.com/CEfdGs0 and the more succinct http://imgur.com/UuytFlO.

Liberia, Myanmar, and America, goddamnit.
  #39  
Old 05-30-2015, 11:47 AM
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It's a sort of mix and match depending on what's required for legal purposes and what people psychologically internalise as a comprehensible approximation to the size/quantity they want. For exact measurements and legal pricing, you might need 1200mm of a piece of timber, but you know the sort of shape and size you want as four-by-two. So that's what you order.
Wine and liquor in the U.S. generally comes in metric sizes, but many (if not most) people still ask for a fifth (750 ml) or a half gallon (1.75 l).
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Old 05-30-2015, 11:51 AM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is offline
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.. the metric (i.e., SI) unit of temperature. ..
I may be reading this wrong, but are you saying all SI units are metric or are fully commensurate with metric at a fundamental level?
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Old 05-30-2015, 11:59 AM
Shakester Shakester is offline
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Liberia, Myanmar, and America, goddamnit.
...apart from the fact that Liberia and Burma are going to adopt the metric system long before they get anywhere near the moon, NASA now uses the metric system.

Last edited by Shakester; 05-30-2015 at 12:00 PM. Reason: typo fix
  #42  
Old 05-30-2015, 12:13 PM
kellner kellner is offline
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I may be reading this wrong, but are you saying all SI units are metric or are fully commensurate with metric at a fundamental level?
Isn't that pretty much what the modern-day metric system is?
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Old 05-30-2015, 12:37 PM
Schnitte Schnitte is offline
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I may be reading this wrong, but are you saying all SI units are metric or are fully commensurate with metric at a fundamental level?
I was using the adjective "metric" in the sense of "a unit that is either one of the base units of SI, or derived from SI units so that all conversion factors among all units involved are powers of 10". In that sense, C is not a metric unit itself, since the metric unit of temperature is Kelvin, and converting the former into the latter requires addition of a constant. But C is, at least, "more metric" than Fahrenheit because Kelvin was dervied from C, and the conversion is trivially easy, and C and K are identical when we're talking about temperature differences rather than absolute temperatures. None of this is true for Fahrenheit.

Last edited by Schnitte; 05-30-2015 at 12:38 PM.
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Old 05-30-2015, 01:30 PM
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The whole point of metric is that the conversion factors are powers of 10, e.g. a kilogram is 1,000 grams. I've never heard anyone talk about 1,000 degrees Celcius as a "kilodegree", and I've never heard anyone suggest that half a degree Farenheit is 500 "milidegrees". I'll admit that there may be some scientist somewhere who talks about temperatures near absolute zero in terms of "milidegrees" Kelvin.
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Old 05-30-2015, 01:39 PM
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The whole point of metric is that the conversion factors are powers of 10, e.g. a kilogram is 1,000 grams. I've never heard anyone talk about 1,000 degrees Celcius as a "kilodegree", and I've never heard anyone suggest that half a degree Farenheit is 500 "milidegrees". I'll admit that there may be some scientist somewhere who talks about temperatures near absolute zero in terms of "milidegrees" Kelvin.
It would be a "milli-kelvin (mK) not millidegree. Kelvin should never have "degrees" in front of it!
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Old 05-30-2015, 01:39 PM
Mangetout Mangetout is online now
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Originally Posted by sbunny8 View Post
The whole point of metric is that the conversion factors are powers of 10, e.g. a kilogram is 1,000 grams. I've never heard anyone talk about 1,000 degrees Celcius as a "kilodegree", and I've never heard anyone suggest that half a degree Farenheit is 500 "milidegrees". I'll admit that there may be some scientist somewhere who talks about temperatures near absolute zero in terms of "milidegrees" Kelvin.
Exactly. The only thing the celsius/centigrade scale really has in common with the metric system is that it's not very popular in the USA.

It's not really any more 'metric' than, say, the 24 hour clock.

BTW, I don't expect there are scientists that use millidegrees K, because the gradations on the Kelvin scale are not called degrees.

Last edited by Mangetout; 05-30-2015 at 01:41 PM.
  #47  
Old 05-30-2015, 05:13 PM
Kenm Kenm is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Angry Badger View Post
Really, the UK is a mess with this - in what other country would you be able to buy food in 454g measures?
In Canada, some motor oil is sold in 947-millilitre bottles because the struggling oil companies need to save money by using U.S. quart containers. They inevitably cost the same or more as one-litre bottles. It also happens with some bottled liquid foods sold in grocery stores.

I have a 4.4-litre container of motor oil, almost but not quite one gallon Imperial. I have to keep an eye on the guy changing the oil so he doesn't dump the entire bottle into the engine. Some anti-freeze is sold in 3.87-litre bottles one gallon U.S.

454-gram goods here mean they're sold and packaged as 16 ounces in the U.S.

Dammit, Canada never used U.S. sizes. Before metrication, everything was sold in Imperial. My car has a button that switches fuel used from litres per 100 kilometres to "English" miles per gallon, English brightly proclaimed on the dashboard.

But it doesn't show miles per "English" gallon. It shows miles per U.S. gallon, so I had to print a cheat sheet because U.S. liquid measures are totally uk-fayed.

When I'm God, they'll all be sorry.
  #48  
Old 05-30-2015, 06:48 PM
hogarth hogarth is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mascaroni View Post
Temperature is Fahrenheit in the summer "Phew, what a scorcher! 90 degrees at Heathrow"

And Celsius in winter "The Big Freeze... Temperatures set to hit minus 10!"

Go on you Texans and Canadians, have a good laugh at our expense...
I'm Canadian and I think a nice indoor temperature is 70 and a nice outdoor temperature is 25...
  #49  
Old 05-30-2015, 07:22 PM
Kiyoshi Kiyoshi is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JustinC View Post
I find many websites will ask for your height/weight in decimal, and the younger people will know those off pat.
I disagree. I have never in my life heard anyone give their height and weight in metric. There does seem to be a rule that the NHS has to measure and weigh people in metric, so maybe some medical staff might use it in everyday life, but 90% of people would have no idea, for example, whether a 1m 50 tall, 100kg person was short and fat or tall and thin.
  #50  
Old 05-30-2015, 09:26 PM
jabiru jabiru is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mangetout View Post
I think it is not hard to see why people were comfortable with non metric measures.
I was very comfortable with non-metric measures. Now, after 40+ years of metrification, I'm more comfortable with metric measures. Humans are wonderfully adaptive.
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