Re: Metric Time (was Re: Why not 13 months? (Was La Systeme Metrique))

Gerard Fryer (
Fri, 13 Oct 1995 22:14:36 GMT

In article <45jpra$2l5@cnn.Princeton.EDU>, davelee@davelee (David H. Lee) writes:
|> [snip]
|> : Methinks that any who advocates metric numbers is in the wrong
|> : business.
|> Okay, lets see *you* do classical mechanics and E&M using imperial units.
|> Hmmm lbs.. is that force or mass? hmm. whats a slug?
|> horsepower?! what does a horse have to do with power?
|> etc.

Who cares what the units are? Give me an acceleration in
furlongs/(fortnight**2) and I can translate into whatever my
favorite measure is. The only reason for moving to metric is
because that's what the rest of the world uses. If you think
that your economy is an island and interaction with the rest of
the world is unnecessary, then you can define any units of
measure you like. What you don't want to do is to use two
systems in parallel; that way you have people presenting
stupidities like "Which would you rather buy, a pound of
chocolate or 454 grams?" The question doesn't warrant an answer.

Frankly, I rather like the metric system. Back in the Old Sod I
was delighted when I could throw away all my BSF and Whitworth
tools in favor of metric (I know instantly that 8mm is more than
6mm; but quick: which is larger, 5/16" or 3/8"?); here in the US
one of my first discoveries was that a 13mm socket would fit a
1/2" nut.

BAck during the Arab oil embargo, when Hawaii had the dubious
distinction of being the first state in the US in which gasoline
prices exceeded a dollar a gallon (a short gallon, of course),
the old-style pumps didn't have the ability to show the correct
price. For a while everything was confusion because some gas
stations sold the stuff by the half-gallon and others by the
liter. Standardization could have gone either way, but in the
end the state opted for liters. What a revelation! People had no
difficulty! When you went shopping for a new car you would ask
the salesman how many miles per liter it got (think about it,
that's rather weird!). Then the mainland prices pushed up over a
dollar too, new pumps were devised, and we were back to gallons
again. Too bad.

But regardless of how people measure things, I'm always going to
buy my peanuts by the kati, measure wheel diameters in inches,
drink beer by the pint, and plonk by the liter. Fairy tales
will always be rich with seven-league boots, and half-witted
cowboys will always wear five-gallon hats. Some traditions are
worth preserving, as long as you recognise that they are just
traditions (I was reluctant to give up heat-flow units in favor
of mW/(m**2), but I have finally managed it).

Gerard Fryer

Personal views only.