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Old 07-12-2018, 08:39 AM
Lucas Jackson Lucas Jackson is offline
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Questions re the metric system

I often hear how Americans are resistant to switching to the metric system. It just seems too much trouble to relearn. It made me start wondering why we didnt use it since the people that came from England and started our country must have already been using it.

Imagine my surprise to read recently that it was only implemented in 1965! Thus spake Wikipedia:

Quote:
British Imperial System, traditional system of weights and measures used officially in Great Britain from 1824 until the adoption of the metric system beginning in 1965. The United States Customary System of weights and measures is derived from it. British Imperial units are now legally defined in metric terms.

So questions...
Why arent we using the BIS? Did our forefathers decide to invent a new system to leave the British part out? A clean break?

And was there resistance to the metric switch by the Britons in 65. And if so, how were they able to convert (with relative ease) while we yanks are not?
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Old 07-12-2018, 08:58 AM
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I don't understand. You are using a slightly bastardised version of the old British Imperial system. Pounds and ounces instead of Kilograms and grams, feet and inches instead of metres and centimetres and so on. True you do tend to sort of go metric when you get under an inch, so you see 1 foot 10.25 inches for example.

Yes there was a lot of resistance back in 65. Greengrocers had to be threatened with fines for selling potatoes by the pound instead of 454 grams. Milk and beer were exempted from the change so we still buy them by the pint, but petrol is 100% metric. Road distances and speed limits are still measured in miles too, although walking distances, as on footpaths, are shown in kilometres.

Engineering is all metric and we no longer have the plethora of threads that used to be the case.

Last edited by bob++; 07-12-2018 at 08:58 AM.
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Old 07-12-2018, 09:03 AM
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There is always resistance to change. Canada converted to metric in 1970/71 mainly by establishing a legal framework and a Metric Commission to further it along. It wasn't simple but the key approach was to educate children and allow that seed to grow.

The US still has pennies, paper money and a large enough population that screams bloody murder if told to wear seat belts - what makes you think any politician would want to deal with that?
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Old 07-12-2018, 09:09 AM
am77494 am77494 is offline
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Originally Posted by bob++ View Post
Engineering is all metric and we no longer have the plethora of threads that used to be the case.
Not Chemical Engineering.

We still have Standard Tons and Metric Tons
US Barrel and Imperial Barrel (mostly used for Oil)

NTP (Normal Temperature and Pressure) and STP (Standard Temperature and Pressure)

lb-moles and kilo-miles

SCF Standard Cubic Feet and NM3 normal meter cube

Viscosity has a dazzling number of units

All in all, in the chemical world, theres a plethora of units. My suspicion is mostly because people dont understand the concept of moles.
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Old 07-12-2018, 09:13 AM
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You need to read up on measurement system history in general. National standardization of systems of measurement was a lot less rigid back when Europeans in the US hashed out what units to use and how to define them, and although the start of the metric system was (mostly) right after the French revolution, it didn't really become an international thing until the meter convention in 1875. And before that everyone and their aunt had their own definition of an inch:
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/F..._converter.jpg
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Old 07-12-2018, 09:15 AM
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Part of the reason why the metric system was necessary was that none of the other systems in use before it were ever actually standardized. Even without the imperial-American distinction, there are survey miles, statute miles, and nautical miles; short and long tons; Troy and Avoidupois ounces and pounds; fluid and mass ounces; and all manner of other variations. It's hardly surprising that the US and Britain used different units, because everyone used different units.
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Old 07-12-2018, 09:24 AM
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The US still has pennies, paper money and a large enough population that screams bloody murder if told to wear seat belts - what makes you think any politician would want to deal with that?
That's really the issue in the US. Where's the political gain for going metric? No one is actually dissatisfied with Imperial measurements and we're such a huge market, we can make the rest of the world market to us in whatever units we like, so there's no real external pressure. 2 liters of pop did manage to creep in, but mostly it's just too much of a bother to change. To be honest, most people under 50 know small metric lengths decently enough to change. I don't see us leaving miles behind anytime soon. Kilometres just feel weird to us in ways that meters don't. Weights would be a more difficult slog, but doable. Temperature is a lost cause. I think that Americans would die before moving to Celsius. It's probably the metric unit that I have the most difficulty with. If you tell me something weighs ten kilos or is 25 cm long or is 30 litres, I have a good idea what you're talking about. If you tell me that it's 25 Celsius, I couldn't tell you if that's hot, cold or something altogether different. I always have to do the conversion and it's a painful conversion to do. I've looked at the conversion charts and I still just don't get it. When I'm in a foreign country, the weather might as well be given to me in Etruscan for all I understand it. No idea why Celsius is such a bear, really it's only about 60 numbers that I need to memorize their Fahrenheit equivalent, but it just won't stick.

There are also issues with specific types of measurements. I don't even know what board-feet would be in metric. And horsepower is way more understandable than watts to me. Hectares are a mystery to me completely. There are others I'm sure.

Last edited by senoy; 07-12-2018 at 09:28 AM.
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Old 07-12-2018, 09:25 AM
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Originally Posted by am7[U
7494;21080450]We still have Standard Tons and Metric Tons
US Barrel and Imperial Barrel[/U] (mostly used for Oil)

NTP (Normal Temperature and Pressure) and STP (Standard Temperature and Pressure)

lb-moles and kilo-miles

SCF Standard Cubic Feet and NM3 normal meter cube

Viscosity has a dazzling number of units

All in all, in the chemical world, there’s a plethora of units. My suspicion is mostly because people don’t understand the concept of moles.
The ones I underlined are used only in the US or to be able to trade with the US. The viscosity units I've used were all metric, and that includes multiple sectors, multiple countries including the US: measurement conditions do change a lot, the units not really (they only change in that you pick the unit that's going to give you the most "comfortable" numbers, as you can do in any metric-based measurement).

And I'm not sure what do you mean by NTP and STP. In my world those are conditions, not units, and were abandoned decades ago in favor of stating the exact temperature.
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Old 07-12-2018, 09:35 AM
Shinna Minna Ma Shinna Minna Ma is offline
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If you tell me that it's 25 Celsius, I couldn't tell you if that's hot, cold or something altogether different. I always have to do the conversion and it's a painful conversion to do. I've looked at the conversion charts and I still just don't get it. When I'm in a foreign country, the weather might as well be given to me in Etruscan for all I understand it. No idea why Celsius is such a bear, really it's only about 60 numbers that I need to memorize their Fahrenheit equivalent, but it just won't stick.
Try remembering this; it's the only way I can keep track of Celsius in my head:
"30 degrees Celsius is hot
20 degrees Celsius is pleasing
10 degrees Celsius is not
0 degrees Celsius is freezing"
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Old 07-12-2018, 09:37 AM
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And was there resistance to the metric switch by the Britons in ‘65. And if so, how were they able to convert (with relative ease) while we yanks are not?
Was?? There still is! I was in a old-school greengrocers the other day - the sort of place which employs all its children to work in the shop and doesn't take cards, a dying breed - and noticed they had prices written per pound (yes, they are breaking the law, but they are few and far between these days and I'm not sure Trading Standards could be bothered with them).

Everyone now under 50 was taught in metric, so it's becoming less of an issue, but I still couldn't tell you what I weigh in kilos, or how many km it is between my office and my house. I know my milk comes in cartons with the bizarre measurement of 585ml, and what miles-per-gallon my car achieves, but I couldn't tell you how much a gallon costs at the petrol station, as I buy my fuel in litres.

Last edited by SanVito; 07-12-2018 at 09:39 AM.
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Old 07-12-2018, 09:37 AM
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Quote:
Quoth senoy:

That's really the issue in the US. Where's the political gain for going metric? No one is actually dissatisfied with Imperial measurements ...
No one except the people who actually use measurements. Most people don't, and so to them it won't matter one whit which system of units they're not using. But the people who do use measurements almost universally prefer metric.
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Old 07-12-2018, 09:46 AM
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When I was a kid in elementary school here in the U.S. (early 70s), the metric system was really being pushed on us in school. We were told the metric system was the future. After a few years (by the late 70s?) talk of metric just sort of went away.
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Old 07-12-2018, 09:48 AM
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Temperature is a lost cause. I think that Americans would die before moving to Celsius. It's probably the metric unit that I have the most difficulty with. If you tell me something weighs ten kilos or is 25 cm long or is 30 litres, I have a good idea what you're talking about. If you tell me that it's 25 Celsius, I couldn't tell you if that's hot, cold or something altogether different. I always have to do the conversion and it's a painful conversion to do.
Funnily enough, it's not as hard as you'd think. I can remember that, for years and years, weather reports were issued in both ("Today's high will be 25 Centigrade, that's a barmy 77 Farenheit, so don't forget to pack a picnic!"). Then one, day, they just quietly dropped Farenheit, and we all just adjusted. Nowadays most of us old generation Xers still know that 70F is warm, 80 is hot and 90 is hot hot, but I really couldn't remember what 40F is supposed to be like. Probably because at cold temps, Centigrade makes more sense. (OC = ice).
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Old 07-12-2018, 09:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Shinna Minna Ma View Post
Try remembering this; it's the only way I can keep track of Celsius in my head:
"30 degrees Celsius is hot
20 degrees Celsius is pleasing
10 degrees Celsius is not
0 degrees Celsius is freezing"
I get the big jumps. It's the little differences. Like I'm a fisherman and the difference between water temps of 39 and 40 is pretty huge due to water density, what the heck is that in Celsius? I guess 3.9 and 4.4? And 20 is around 68 if memory serves, but I know exactly what every degree of temperature between 66 and 75 feels like, I don't have a clue what everything between 19 and 24 is. If someone says that they keep their house at 23 degrees, is that too hot? Too cold? It's just a number to me until I look it up. And cooking and automotive temperatures are a complete loss to me. Cooking something at 190 doesn't even register to me as to what temp that is. And I'm at a complete loss as to what coolant temperature should be in Celsius and what is the 10-15 degrees above that that you want your oil temp to be? The scales shift around, so I'm not sure is that like 5-7 degrees Celsius? I don't typically like the idea of fiddling around with a calculator while I'm driving down the road. And don't get me started on kilopascals. I couldn't start to tell you how many kilopascals my tires need to be at or God forbid my oil pressure which will bounce due to acceleration. PSI is just intuitive to me.
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Old 07-12-2018, 09:58 AM
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As captured in another thread, the US fluid measure is based off the Winchester system and not the Imperial system.

This is the unit of measure Great Britain from 1824 when they moved to the Imperial standards really seem based around the pain of 1/8 being two shillings and sixpence. With 20 shillings per pound and 12 pence per shilling they moved to 20 Imperial fluid ounces in an imperial pint to simplify the tax system which had been 16 oz based before, and what the US uses (wine gallons).

The 1706 date I mentioned a gallon was defined as 8 merchant pounds of wine, and this ended up being 128oz at the time because they used a 6 inch tall and 7 inch diameter cylinder and used a historical approximation of Pi which was 22/7.

So a pound had 16 oz, and a pint had 16oz.

The avoirdupois pound for mass has been defined officially off the Kilogram for over 120 years, in the US this was from the Mendenhall Order of 1893 and this was changed a few years later when the UK joined in, and refined in the 1960's But the US Customary units are based off the 1706 (Winchester system?), and not the 20 oz, 20 shillings model of the Imperial fluid system, which also kept the 16 oz pound.

Being base 16 which is in some ways nicer than base 10, and not having that 20oz fun while not official the US units are more like Celcius which is a derived unit with an exact conversion to the official units of Kelvin. I would be happier with one set of measures, but the reality is that there is less need to convert unlike most of the rest of the british empire who had to deal with the pain of the Imperial 20oz pint standard.

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Old 07-12-2018, 10:01 AM
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I was born after the changeover to metric in the UK but I measure people in Feet/Inches for height and Stones/Pounds for weight, everything else in metric.
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Old 07-12-2018, 10:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
But the people who do use measurements almost universally prefer metric.
Wrong. People prefer to use units of measurement that they're already familiar with, and the only real advantage of SI units is that the conversion factors (10X, 1000X, etc.) are simpler if you don't have access to a computer.
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Old 07-12-2018, 10:25 AM
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I get the big jumps. It's the little differences. Like I'm a fisherman and the difference between water temps of 39 and 40 is pretty huge due to water density, what the heck is that in Celsius? I guess 3.9 and 4.4? And 20 is around 68 if memory serves, but I know exactly what every degree of temperature between 66 and 75 feels like, I don't have a clue what everything between 19 and 24 is. If someone says that they keep their house at 23 degrees, is that too hot? Too cold? It's just a number to me until I look it up. And cooking and automotive temperatures are a complete loss to me. Cooking something at 190 doesn't even register to me as to what temp that is. And I'm at a complete loss as to what coolant temperature should be in Celsius and what is the 10-15 degrees above that that you want your oil temp to be? The scales shift around, so I'm not sure is that like 5-7 degrees Celsius? I don't typically like the idea of fiddling around with a calculator while I'm driving down the road. And don't get me started on kilopascals. I couldn't start to tell you how many kilopascals my tires need to be at or God forbid my oil pressure which will bounce due to acceleration. PSI is just intuitive to me.
But all temperatures are just scales and notwithstanding a fisherman's need for a finer scale, (new to me btw) hardly anyone needs a scale to be that accurate. Your house thermostat is going to operate in a fairly wide range, plus or minus whatever you set it at, and even then it won't be all that accurate anyway.

I run my tyres at 2 bars when cold or 2.2 when hot, not rocket science and how accurate is a service station gauge anyway? (I use my own, but even that is not a scientific grade instrument) Frankly, my oil pressure is a mystery as I have no gauge - I expect the computer to let me know if there is a problem.

Last edited by bob++; 07-12-2018 at 10:26 AM.
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Old 07-12-2018, 10:39 AM
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Wrong. People prefer to use units of measurement that they're already familiar with, and the only real advantage of SI units is that the conversion factors (10X, 1000X, etc.) are simpler if you don't have access to a computer.
SI becomes problematic with computers (not SI's falt) as an example,

I have 1 kilogram, I need to divide it between 10 people, so the computer tells me I should give each person 0.1000000000000000055511151231257827021181583404541015625 KG.

6 people returned their portion but the computer tells me that 6 * 0.1 does not equal 0.6.

With floating point, a decimal has an equivalent terminating bicimal if and only if the decimal, written as a proper fraction in lowest terms, has a denominator that is a power of two. If only the person who had invented our counting system had ignored the thumbs computers would be easier, and lots of math would be easier.

I work in the tech field so the base 16 math is easier, and has less loss of precision with computing defaults. Financial applications and other high precision needs actually have to use software math routines to avoid rounding errors on trivial operations due to this and that software runs much much slower (although IBM did add hardware decimal support to Power CPUs)

That said, representation errors like above are a problem, but a mix of standards is a bigger problem and the SI system is the only real option for that end goal.

Last edited by rat avatar; 07-12-2018 at 10:41 AM.
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Old 07-12-2018, 10:40 AM
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When I was a kid in elementary school here in the U.S. (early 70s), the metric system was really being pushed on us in school. We were told the metric system was the future. After a few years (by the late 70s?) talk of metric just sort of went away.
I was in the 3rd grade. The US failed schoolchildren, by introducing the metric system as a series of endless conversion problems (before pocket calculators). We had pages and pages or very boring arithmetic to do every night-- how many centimeters is three inches? How many liters is four gallons? Gawd help us.

It would have been much better to teach children with questions like, "What would you use to measure the weight of a cat? grams or kilograms?" "How many meters long is your bedroom? guess, then measure it, and see how close you are."

In other words, there was never any need for conversion problems. Just dive in and get children thinking in the new system. Kids like novelty, and I know we would have enjoyed the sort of questions I just quoted.
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Old 07-12-2018, 10:40 AM
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senoy's post there is actually an excellent example of a person not using measurements. What does it mean to bake something at 190? It means that you turn the knob on your stove to the position marked 190, and wait for it to beep and the preheating light to turn off. Just like we do with Fahrenheit. There's some temperature where something important happens to water, relevant for fishing? He memorizes the value of that number, and then compares it to his thermometer. Or maybe he just draws a line on his thermometer, and labels it with whatever the fishing significance is. He himself says that he isn't doing any calculations with any of these, and doesn't want to. For him, these are all just labels, not measurements.
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Old 07-12-2018, 10:47 AM
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Quoth rat avatar:

SI becomes problematic with computers (not SI's falt) as an example,

I have 1 kilogram, I need to divide it between 10 people, so the computer tells me I should give each person 0.1000000000000000055511151231257827021181583404541015625 KG.

6 people returned their portion but the computer tells me that 6 * 0.1 does not equal 0.6.
That's not a problem computers have with SI; that's a problem that computers have with people who don't understand proper use of precision. Exact-equality comparisons with floating-point numbers are always problematic, no matter what units you're using. For example, the problem with your 1 kilogram and 10 people example arises because there are 10 people, not because it's a kilogram: You'd have exactly the same issue dividing 1 pound between 10 people. Never mind the fact that no measurement you ever make of anything is ever going to be that precise, anyway.
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Old 07-12-2018, 10:48 AM
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But all temperatures are just scales and notwithstanding a fisherman's need for a finer scale, (new to me btw) hardly anyone needs a scale to be that accurate. Your house thermostat is going to operate in a fairly wide range, plus or minus whatever you set it at, and even then it won't be all that accurate anyway.

I run my tyres at 2 bars when cold or 2.2 when hot, not rocket science and how accurate is a service station gauge anyway? (I use my own, but even that is not a scientific instrument) Frankly, my oil pressure is a mystery as I have no gauge - I expect the computer to let me know if there is a problem.
The issue really isn't better or worse. Celsius would work fine for all of those. The issue is familiarity. I am familiar with 72 degrees and so are most Americans. I am certain I could eventually figure out the other temperatures. The thing is that I DON'T have them figured out and it would be a painful process to actually do without an obvious need to do so. I certainly could learn what 39 and 40 are in Celsius and go from there, but I don't know them intuitively. (Those are important temps because water at about 39.2 is at its densest. So if water temps at the surface are 39.5, then the water is colder at the bottom of the water column which encourages fish upwards. If the water is 39, then it is warmer at the bottom of the column which encourages them down. It allows you to better position your baits to maximize your chances of being in the correct zone and that temp is a spawning signal to certain species, but I digress.)

As for which is 'better' both systems have advantages. A 12 inch foot allows whole number calculations for 1/4, 1/2 and 1/3 of its length which is nice for woodworking and construction. Chair seats are typically 18 inches off the floor and table tops are 1 foot above that, so it's easy for us furniture makers when spacing structural and decorative elements. The gallon, quart, pint, cup system allows easy doubling of quantities which allows for intuitive calculations as well. Obviously, the base 10 of the metric system makes nice conversions between units and easy math. The fact that they were more standardized back in the day definitely made things easier. I like the whole milliliter/cubic centimeter/milligram of water conversion. It's elegant in its simplicity. I actually prefer the Fahrenheit temperature scale because 0-100 is essentially the temperature of the world we live in. If I say that temps are sub-zero, we know that that's freaking cold in a way that single-digits doesn't convey. Similarly, when temps are in triple digits, it conveys an extremely hot day in ways that in the 90s doesn't. Zero and 100 are temperature touchstones in a way that I don't think -18 and 38 are in the Celsius system.
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Old 07-12-2018, 11:00 AM
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If you tell me that it's 25 Celsius, I couldn't tell you if that's hot, cold or something altogether different. I always have to do the conversion and it's a painful conversion to do. I've looked at the conversion charts and I still just don't get it. When I'm in a foreign country, the weather might as well be given to me in Etruscan for all I understand it. No idea why Celsius is such a bear, really it's only about 60 numbers that I need to memorize their Fahrenheit equivalent, but it just won't stick.
You're trying WAY too hard.

Zero is freezing
100 is boiling
40 below is a really cold winter day in Alaska (-40C = -40F)
40 above is a really hot summer day in Dallas (40C = 104F)
20 is so-called room temperature (20C = 68F)

And if the temperature changes by 10 degrees Fahrenheit, that's roughly 5 degrees difference in Celsius.

Good enough.
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Old 07-12-2018, 11:04 AM
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Wrong. People prefer to use units of measurement that they're already familiar with, and the only real advantage of SI units is that the conversion factors (10X, 1000X, etc.) are simpler if you don't have access to a computer.
"Only".

Also, there's another one: units are directly linked to dimensionality. While many units have customary names, if you know how to figure out something's dimensionality, you know what units to use.
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Old 07-12-2018, 11:08 AM
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Wrong. People prefer to use units of measurement that they're already familiar with, and the only real advantage of SI units is that the conversion factors (10X, 1000X, etc.) are simpler if you don't have access to a computer.
I remember during the attempted conversion hearing some proto-wingnut exclaiming it was all a Communist Conspiracy. I just snorted and told him that the US Army must be in on it because their tanks (M60s at the time) had been sporting 105mm cannon for some time.

When guesstimating the weight of water (something Burners do a lot) I find it much easier to use liters over gallons to the point will convert gallons to liters (I have a few benchmarks memorized like 10, 20, and 50 gallons equaling 38, 76, and 190 liters already) to do so.

Another pequliarity is that while I would have the same inaccuracy eyeballing a kilometer or kilometer and a half as a mile, being a horse racing fan, I have a furlong down cold. That's 1/8 of a mile, 220 yards, 200 meters. I just have trouble stringing five of them together for a klick or eight for a mile
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Old 07-12-2018, 11:35 AM
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In golf, if it's about a third of a furlong you need a mashie-niblick for the shot.

Even after Canada has been metric for decades, I still have some residual Imperial measurements stuck in my mind. I have no idea my weight in kilos, it's all pounds. Going the other way, I have a very good sense of weather range temperature in Celluloid (-40 to +45), but have to think to translate it to real degrees. Wood here is still in inches - no reason to change and basically too much confusion if we do, especially if the USA won't. I buy gas in Litres (I even remember buying in in litres in Michigan in the 1980's) but still consider car performance in MPG. (And even more confusing - is that Canadian Imperial gallons or US gallons?) Groceries have started showing prices in both pounds and kilograms for some stores, some merchants. Cans and bottles etc. are all metric, but some sizes are pretty close to old imperial sizes slightly rounded- 330ml instead of 12 oz, etc.

But the point is - there was serious screaming when Trudeau - the other, arrogant one - switched us to metric. It is convenient for these sort of things that a majority government in parliament is basically a dictatorship for 5 years. (and some cynical politician suggested once that the voting public's memory only extends to two years back...) There was serious screaming, claims of communist conspiracy, and the government had to threaten merchants with fines if they did not convert. Plus, the government had suggested that it would be as simple as sticking a new set of scale numbers on your merchant scales - but oddly enough, the scale manufacturers never produced those, preferring instead to sell brand new scales - which added to the protests.

In the USA the only thing that terrifies politicians more than losing funding from lobbyists - is screaming constituents; I cannot imagine US politicians going along with any plan to threaten small businesses over metric.
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Old 07-12-2018, 11:50 AM
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Everyone who thinks that the great advantage of traditional units is that you can divide them easily into thirds and fourths, well, you can do the exact same thing with metric.

You can have a quarter of a gram, or a third of a meter. The exactly same calculations can be done as with a third of a yard. The only thing that's missing is that a third of a meter doesn't have a traditional name. A third of a yard is a foot, sure. But if you're doing length calculations, you're not going to separately keep track of yards and feet, are you? That's a messed up way to calculate.

Yes, you can say six feet three inches. Wow, that's precise! And in metric you'd have to have some gawdawful repeating decimal that goes on forever! Except did you really measure six feet and 3 inches? Or did you round that fucker off to the nearest inch? You rounded it off. So if you were measuring the same distance in meters, you'd round it off at some point, just the same as you always did when using traditional units.

If you're building a house, and keeping track of measurements as combinations of feet and inches, then all you're really doing is keeping track of measurements in terms of feet and fractional feet. You can do the exact same thing in metric. You could write 2 2/3 meters on your blueprint. The reason why nobody ever does that is that, and they just write 2.66 meters is that preserving that exact fraction is a fiction. You measured 7 feet 3 inches, sure. But you didn't measure 7 feet 3.000000 inches. You measured 7 feet 3.0 inches instead, and called it good. So you don't actually have more precision. And again, if you really do need that precision, you can express metric units as fractions if you need to, for some unknown reason. For the same reason that when you're calculating you should keep terms like pi, e, or sqrt(2) as long as you can, rather than writing out a decimal approximation and using that.

You can't do an exact decimal expression for a third of a foot. All you can do is write 4 inches. Which is just another way of writing a third of a foot. Again, if you have a need for that kind of precision, just write down a third of a meter instead of 0.33333 meters.
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Old 07-12-2018, 12:26 PM
Orwell Orwell is offline
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I actually prefer the Fahrenheit temperature scale because 0-100 is essentially the temperature of the world we live in. If I say that temps are sub-zero, we know that that's freaking cold in a way that single-digits doesn't convey. Similarly, when temps are in triple digits, it conveys an extremely hot day in ways that in the 90s doesn't. Zero and 100 are temperature touchstones in a way that I don't think -18 and 38 are in the Celsius system.
Exactly. I would have no problem with the metric system for lengths, weights and volumes, and would actually prefer it for some applications like wrenches and kitchen measurements. But not temperature. Yeah, I get the scientific rationale for 0=freezing and 100=boiling, but that means little in everyday life as we live it. Fahrenheit is much more intuitive and useful for weather and indoor and outdoor temps.

As for:
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The US still has pennies, paper money and a large enough population that screams bloody murder if told to wear seat belts - what makes you think any politician would want to deal with that?
Seatbelt use is now at 90% in the US. If some are screaming bloody murder, it isn't making much of an impact. We're actually higher than many European countries, though not nearly as high as the obedient Japanese (99 percent).
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Old 07-12-2018, 12:31 PM
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Exactly. I would have no problem with the metric system for lengths, weights and volumes, and would actually prefer it for some applications like wrenches and kitchen measurements. But not temperature. Yeah, I get the scientific rationale for 0=freezing and 100=boiling, but that means little in everyday life as we live it.
Interesting that on one hand you speak of kitchen measurements and on the other, apparently you don't cook.
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Old 07-12-2018, 12:31 PM
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The round off though for inches and feet makes for ease of calculation. Let's say you're building a chair. You're going to make it 18 inches high with a support halfway down and then one at 2/3 of the distance between the halfway point and the floor which is a fairly common design. So I have 18/2 = 9 inches and then 2/3 of that is 6 inches off the floor. If we move that to metric, it's probably 45 cm. Half of that is 22.5 and then 2/3 of 22.5 is 15. You can certainly get there, but the calculation isn't nearly as quick. Similarly with building. US standards are 16 inches on center for studs. This gives you 6 studs per 8 foot which is a standard size for plywood and drywall. Metric standards are 45 cm which is 6 studs per 2.7 meters although some countries have gone up to a 60 cm standard (which honestly I think is dangerous since it's basically 24 inch studs, but I think they rely on fewer weather extremes and they up their nominal stud size to about 3.86 inches from our 3.5. It's interesting though that they still colloquially tend to refer to things as 2x4. Canada is also an exception in that it just builds using Imperial measures rather than metric.) just so that it can go evenly-ish into 1220 x2440 plywood (although some countries mill at 1200x2400, the 1220 x 2440 is more standard) Regardless though, Imperial makes for very easy construction calculations that are much more difficult in metric.
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Old 07-12-2018, 12:35 PM
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Interesting that on one hand you speak of kitchen measurements and on the other, apparently you don't cook.
100 doesn't matter for cooking. The 100 is only at sea level and most of us don't live there. The boiling point where I live is about 98.5. For any cooking application that requires that type of precision (the only thing that I make that does is various candies), you're using a thermometer with a very specific temperature point that typically doesn't mean much in either Celsius of Fahrenheit. Caramels for example are about 245 Fahrenheit or a touch below 119 Celsius. They're just numbers that don't really mean much.

Last edited by senoy; 07-12-2018 at 12:37 PM.
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Old 07-12-2018, 12:38 PM
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Actually, it's not at sea level; it's under a pressure of 1 atmosphere. Back to 6th grade physics with you.
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Old 07-12-2018, 12:45 PM
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The Fahrenheit scale really isn't that much more of a precise than the Centigrade scale. Each degree C is only 1.8 times as large a degree F.
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Old 07-12-2018, 12:45 PM
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Actually, it's not at sea level; it's under a pressure of 1 atmosphere. Back to 6th grade physics with you.
Yes, but 1 atmosphere is based on standard gravity which is a calculated average gravity at sea level. That's why water boils at very close to 100 at Sea Level and at 95 in Denver.
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Old 07-12-2018, 12:46 PM
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I often hear how Americans are resistant to switching to the metric system. It just seems too much trouble to relearn. It made me start wondering why we didnt use it since the people that came from England and started our country must have already been using it.
Just to clear up a possible point of confusion, the metric system didn't exist when the United States was founded. We became an independent country in 1776 and adopted our current system of government in 1788. The metric system was introduced in France in 1800.
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Old 07-12-2018, 12:46 PM
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Interesting that on one hand you speak of kitchen measurements and on the other, apparently you don't cook.
I cook a lot, actually. I know I like to cook my steaks to 125 and I like to BBQ at 225 to 250. I bake stuff at 350 most of the time, but sometimes at 300, 325, 400 or 425.

When I need to boil water, I heat it until I see the bubbles coming to the top. I don't stick a thermometer in it to see if it is 212 F or 100 C. When I need to freeze something, I stick it in the freezer until it's solid. No measurement necessary.

I was referring to teaspoons, tablespoons, etc. I think it would be much easier to use 5ml, 10ml, etc when trying to halve or double a recipe.

Last edited by Orwell; 07-12-2018 at 12:48 PM.
  #38  
Old 07-12-2018, 12:54 PM
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You can't do an exact decimal expression for a third of a foot. All you can do is write 4 inches. Which is just another way of writing a third of a foot. Again, if you have a need for that kind of precision, just write down a third of a meter instead of 0.33333 meters.
0.33333 of a meter is an approximation and rounding errors do matter.

Explosion of the Ariane 5 rocket, Patriot Missile Failures, the Green party getting a seat in German parliament, and the crash of the Vancouver Stock Exchange are all examples of disasters caused by rounding errors.

Rounding error can accumulate, sometimes dominating the calculation.

Sure you could keep all number 100% rational, but computers don't, and the claim that rational numbers are too hard for people to use is a large reason why the SI system is typically advocated for. The claim is that 9/16's being smaller than 5/8's is beyond the average person (which I don't believe) but your statement seems to make a case that reduces the need to change.

Plus how do you even use the metric prefixes while keeping rational numbers? As my previous post pointed out 1/10 or 1/100 or 1/000 isn't a number you can even write in binary, so just changing prefixes has a loss of precision. FYI even when you write 10^-3 a computer converts that to 1/1000 and gives back the rounded off result of .001.

The SI system is the most prominent standard, that is it's primary value. While precision may not be important to you, I am very happy that, for example, air travel uses the nautical mile which is equal to one minute of latitude for navigation. It is a ICAO standard for good reason.
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Old 07-12-2018, 12:56 PM
senoy senoy is offline
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Just to clear up a possible point of confusion, the metric system didn't exist when the United States was founded. We became an independent country in 1776 and adopted our current system of government in 1788. The metric system was introduced in France in 1800.
Yeah, just to piggyback on that, the world didn't really become metric until relatively recently. French speaking countries converted first in the early 1800s. Most of South America and Western Europe went in the 1870s. Eastern Europe and China in the 1920s (although parts of Eastern Europe went earlier, it was very gradual there.) The Middle East in the 1930s. The rest of Asia in the 40s and 50s and finally the English Commonwealth in the 60s (although Jamaica held out until 1998) Africa was still under the influence of colonialism during much of the conversions and tended to be dragged along by whatever their ruling countries did.
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Old 07-12-2018, 12:59 PM
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Are gas marks a thing in US ovens?

I've always had gas ovens so I cook by gas marks but lots of recipes have temperature, that's a pain to remember
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Old 07-12-2018, 01:00 PM
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Yeah, I get the scientific rationale for 0=freezing and 100=boiling, but that means little in everyday life as we live it. Fahrenheit is much more intuitive and useful for weather and indoor and outdoor temps.
Whatever you grew up with is going to be more intuitive. There's nothing inherently intuitive about either temperature scale. And 0=freezing is an important temperature in everyday life - it's the difference between rain and snow, ice on roads vs. puddles, refrigerated food vs. frozen, etc. There's nothing special about 0F or 100F.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Surreal
The Fahrenheit scale really isn't that much more of a precise than the Centigrade scale. Each degree C is only 1.8 times as large a degree F.
True, but I would concede that for climate control, 1F precision is sufficient, but 1C can be marginal. AC thermostats in Japan typically have 0.5C steps, and I think that's very much desirable. I've been in situations where setting it to 25.0 seemed too cool and 26.0 too warm.
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Old 07-12-2018, 01:05 PM
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Yes, but 1 atmosphere is based on standard gravity which is a calculated average gravity at sea level. That's why water boils at very close to 100 at Sea Level and at 95 in Denver.
To add to this,

Standard gravity was originally based on the acceleration of a body in free fall at sea level at a geodetic latitude of 45 but was set to a consent.

Without standard gravity you can't actually accurately derive the newton (kg⋅m/s), pascal (kg⋅m^−1⋅s^−2), watt (kg⋅m2⋅s^−3) or other units.

This is part of the reason they want to find a replacement for the IPK, which is a physical artifact. Because you need to know air pressure to offset buoyancy when calculating weight to correct for standard gravity. It is a circular dependency with the last remaining physical prototype.
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Old 07-12-2018, 01:05 PM
scr4 scr4 is offline
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Originally Posted by rat avatar View Post
0.33333 of a meter is an approximation and rounding errors do matter.
If representing 1/3 of a meter as 0.33333 m results in rounding errors that actually matter to you, then you should be representing it as 0.333333 m instead.

Quote:
Explosion of the Ariane 5 rocket, Patriot Missile Failures, the Green party getting a seat in German parliament, and the crash of the Vancouver Stock Exchange are all examples of disasters caused by rounding errors.
And using different units would have made no difference in those examples.
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Old 07-12-2018, 01:06 PM
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Most people don't use measurements in any serious fashion, so the system doesn't matter very much to them.
The people who do (cooks) are either too invested in the US system and are unaware of the advantages of Metric (scaling, for one thing), or like my wife, actually kind of clueless about measurements in general.
I wonder how many people actually understand that fluid ounces and weight ounces are unrelated?
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Old 07-12-2018, 01:11 PM
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Are gas marks a thing in US ovens?

I've always had gas ovens so I cook by gas marks but lots of recipes have temperature, that's a pain to remember
Gas marks are rare to non-existent in the US. I personally have never seen one on this side of the pond. The reason that they exist in the UK and Commonwealth countries is that prior to the conversion, everything was done in Fahrenheit, so recipes were in Fahrenheit. After the conversion, the recipes didn't change, but converting 350 to 177 was strange at best, so they just added gas marks. Gas marks are a Fahrenheit scale that starts at 1 = 275 and then you add 25 degrees for every mark. 2=300, 3=325,4=350, etc. In the US, we just use the Fahrenheit scale, so you probably bake using 4 and 6 most commonly. We would bake at 350 and 400 respectively. Canadians solved this problem by largely still using Fahrenheit ovens. Canada is a strange place, but a good place.

Last edited by senoy; 07-12-2018 at 01:12 PM.
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Old 07-12-2018, 01:14 PM
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Originally Posted by scr4 View Post
If representing 1/3 of a meter as 0.33333 m results in rounding errors that actually matter to you, then you should be representing it as 0.333333 m instead.

And using different units would have made no difference in those examples.
4 inches vs:
0.33333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333 3333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333 3333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333 3333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333 3333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333 M

4 inches is exact and the metric equivalent is still an approximation.

But once again the issue is that 0.1 does not exist in Floating-Point.


You can stay with rational numbers like 1/3, but a main point of a decimal based system is to get rid of those fractions.

Last edited by rat avatar; 07-12-2018 at 01:16 PM.
  #47  
Old 07-12-2018, 01:16 PM
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Gas marks are rare to non-existent in the US. I personally have never seen one on this side of the pond. The reason that they exist in the UK and Commonwealth countries is that prior to the conversion, everything was done in Fahrenheit, so recipes were in Fahrenheit. After the conversion, the recipes didn't change, but converting 350 to 177 was strange at best, so they just added gas marks. Gas marks are a Fahrenheit scale that starts at 1 = 275 and then you add 25 degrees for every mark. 2=300, 3=325,4=350, etc. In the US, we just use the Fahrenheit scale, so you probably bake using 4 and 6 most commonly. We would bake at 350 and 400 respectively. Canadians solved this problem by largely still using Fahrenheit ovens. Canada is a strange place, but a good place.
The gas marks I have seen approximate the old slow, quick, fast temperatures for ovens that were used in recipes when people cooked by wood/coal fire.
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Old 07-12-2018, 01:23 PM
Orwell Orwell is offline
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Whatever you grew up with is going to be more intuitive. There's nothing inherently intuitive about either temperature scale. And 0=freezing is an important temperature in everyday life - it's the difference between rain and snow, ice on roads vs. puddles, refrigerated food vs. frozen, etc. There's nothing special about 0F or 100F.
I disagree completely, and it has little to do with familiarity. Sure, I could get used to C, but it is less useful as a scale for living (as opposed to measuring water freezing and boiling). Most of us live our lives between 0 and 100 F. If it's below 0F, it's damn cold. If it's above 100F, it's damn hot. In between, each decile has an easily observable and relatable amount of coolness or warmth. That simply doesn't happen with the C scale.

I'm probably not going to convince you about F, and you are definitely not going to convince me about C.
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Old 07-12-2018, 01:28 PM
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4 inches is exact and the metric equivalent is still an approximation.
In the real world,those 4 inches are also an approximation.
All measurements have errors, unless you're measuring spherical cows, you will never ever have exactly 4 inches.
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Old 07-12-2018, 01:29 PM
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I disagree completely, and it has little to do with familiarity. Sure, I could get used to C, but it is less useful as a scale for living (as opposed to measuring water freezing and boiling). Most of us live our lives between 0 and 100 F. If it's below 0F, it's damn cold. If it's above 100F, it's damn hot. In between, each decile has an easily observable and relatable amount of coolness or warmth. That simply doesn't happen with the C scale.

I'm probably not going to convince you about F, and you are definitely not going to convince me about C.
I've never thought about the decile thing. How do Celsius countries do it? If asked the temperature, we'll frequently give the decile. "It's going to be up in the 90s today." Or "It's going to be in the 40s tonight." What do you Celsius people do? Just refer to the actual projected high or low? If I say it's going to be in the 70s, that means something to most people. Do you say the low 20s? What if you're trying to differentiate between the low and the high decile? Does that just not happen? I'm actually interested.

Last edited by senoy; 07-12-2018 at 01:30 PM.
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