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the metric system

I interviewed a board member of the United States Metric Association:



It was a pretty cool e-mail exchange... totally re-kindled my enthusiasm for going metric. I hate that the US is stuck in a backward measurement system. I hate it when people say things like, "I just can't picture distances in kilometers"... seriously, drive it for like three days, you'd be there. It's not that tough. Most of our lives have nothing to do with measurement, from a conceptual level, you tell someone how far Kansas City is in hours. You buy $35 worth of gas. You know something is too heavy to lift. So who cares what you use to measure it, why not just use the most scientific method?

I'm also pro-metric because I think the anti-metric people are unusually annoying, they use blind patriotism, antiquated tradition, and gut feelings as excuses for us to stick with the old system. I hate arguments based on that stuff, the "it's what we're used to, just stick with it" argument. That's what people use to tell me same-sex marriage is wrong, microsoft windows is the best operating system, women aren't born to be engineers. The guy I interviewed said that measurement is this totally pure non-political thing, but I see trends that speak otherwise.


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 24th, 2008 12:05 am (UTC)
I think it's great that you pick arbitrary things about which to be passionate. I support that.

How much do I weigh in kilos?
Jan. 24th, 2008 12:47 am (UTC)
You don't. Kilos measure mass, not weight. :)
Jan. 24th, 2008 11:33 pm (UTC)
Jan. 25th, 2008 02:15 am (UTC)
Measuring Weight in Kilos
So during my 5 years of working in Japan, all the work that my companies have been doing is wrong? I'll have to let everyone know that we've made a mistake and need to start over!
Jan. 25th, 2008 02:23 am (UTC)
Re: Measuring Weight in Kilos
Yes. I'm being pedantic.

Just like you don't measure distance in time, but if you ask many people how far they live from work, or how far they commute, they'll answer in hours (or minutes).

Under certain circumstances (with a given acceleration due to gravity, or with given traffic patterns), the two (weight and mass, or distance and time) are often used interchangeably. But, strictly speaking, they measure two different things.

It makes more sense in most situations where you'd want to measure mass or weight to measure mass. Mass is more constant than weight (which may vary slightly due to altitude), and makes more sense. The companies in Japan were probably doing it more appropriately by measuring these things in kg (and measuring mass) than Americans do by measuring them in lbs (and measuring weight). It's the Americans you need to tell about their mistakes, and not those Japanese companies. :)
Jan. 24th, 2008 12:45 am (UTC)
I agree with you on the metric thing.

In any case, if you are passionate about the metric stuff you should read "The Measure of All Things" by Ken Alder. It is the story of the two men who originally derived the meter during the French revolution. It is a great story and told well (from the notes of the two men).
Jan. 24th, 2008 01:05 am (UTC)
I think the whole base-ten idea was a mistake in the first place, but that's just me.
Jan. 24th, 2008 02:34 am (UTC)
word up! but that's a whole different ballgame to tackle.
Jan. 24th, 2008 03:10 am (UTC)
i guess, but I'd rather switch to a base-twelve number system (or something similar) than to metric.

then again I like old archaic things even to the point of nigh-unusability: LPs, BBSes, netscape communicator v. 1.22
Jan. 24th, 2008 06:38 am (UTC)
Here in the UK we have officially been metric for over 30 years

Err except we left the road signs in miles

And the beer in pints

All through school we got taught everything in meters, kilometers, grams and kilograms, then you step out the school gate and someone says "Get me a lb of that"

So we all had to learn lbs, ozs, etc unofficially as we went along. I am just thankful that I am too young to remeber the old money system.

And we measure our weight in stones
Jan. 24th, 2008 09:15 am (UTC)
We do both here. It seems to work, it would work even better if everybody could add up.
Jan. 24th, 2008 09:20 pm (UTC)
I think having both systems is handy, sometimes one is better than the other, when it is cold I think in Celsius as zero is a good indicator of "rather cold" however once it starts to warm up I switch to Fahrenheit as 100 is good for "very hot", not that it gets that hot here very often.

For the most part I use imperial for every day life and metric If I'm trying to calculate something.
Jan. 24th, 2008 11:39 pm (UTC)
metric, ftw.
Jan. 24th, 2008 11:54 pm (UTC)
I've lived in the US for 10 years now, and I still haven't quite memorized what a pint, quart, or mile is in metric. Is that embarassing?
Jan. 25th, 2008 02:17 am (UTC)
Hand me an 11/17 wrench.

a... what?
*eyes glaze over*
Jan. 25th, 2008 04:23 am (UTC)
I would like it if my friends in the US are used to using the metric system. That way, I wouldn't have to convert units whenever I wanted to tell them any measurements. (I'm usually the one who ends up doing all the calculations, especially if I'm in an IRC channel where almost all the other people are from the US.)

Once I was talking to a friend in the US about clothing sizes, and she mentioned her weight (well, mass if you want to be pedantic), and I told her what that would be in kilograms, and she said that it sounds so much better that way (because it's a smaller number). xD
Jan. 25th, 2008 12:34 pm (UTC)
you should refuse to convert, tell them metric is better! that's what I do, and I am an american.

Edited at 2008-01-25 12:35 pm (UTC)
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

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