What You Ought to Know: Metric vs Imperial

…and that’s one of the things that makes me REALLY glad to be a Canadian… along with our awesome health system. ;)

[Via Reddit]


17 Responses to What You Ought to Know: Metric vs Imperial

  1. Oh yeah, you guys have a WONDERFUL health care system up there! The wait lines in the er are nice and long and if you really really need a procedure done that they won't do you have to pay OUT OF YOUR POCKET to come down to the US to get it done.

    yeah, you guys have a WONDERFUL system =b

  2. I must point out that the primary objection to imperial system is based on an unrealistic usage pattern. Do you really have the necessity of combining feet and miles on a regular basis? I think unit conversions are a relatively rare necessity. Furthermore, I'd guess a computer does most of them.

    Do you know how many decimeters are in a kilometer? Do you know whether to divide or multiply when converting between centimeters and millimeters? (Ok, on this site you might. But in the general population, I doubt it.)

    If we were really smart, we'd drop the base 10 numbering system and adopt either a base 8 or base 12 one. That would make a number of different calculations easier. It doesn't actually make sense to adopt a measurement system tuned to work with our poor choice of a base.

    Having said all of that: while I'm not sold on the benefits of the metric system, adopting the same system as the result of the world would be good. That alone pretty much overcomes all potential issues with metrics.

    • System of base 8 or base 12? That purely makes no sense. The specimens belonging the 'general population' which you refer to all have ten fingers, which, I guess, was the main cause of introducing base 10 system. There is no point in any other base for a numeric system in everyday life. To make it clear, I am talking about common needs, not about scienctifical or mathematical usage – in which you are right, computers do the most instead of people… so why bother? ;-)

      By the way, at least here in Poland everyone knows how to divide or multiply in a metric system… some of us beginning at an early stage of education, not to mention adults.

      • 12 is divisible by 2,3,4, and 6. That would make many calculations easier. Consider for example the ease with which you can divide or multiply numbers by 5. That's because 10 is divisible by 5. If our base was divisible by more numbers such as 12 is, many more calculations would be divisible.

    • So you never do any type of conversions? I would guess that you never bake or cook. I do conversions everyday. I admit I am a programmer so that does require math. But I have had to use Dimensional Analysis before when cooking. I wouldn't had to resort to using that type of math if everything were metric. Then I could just move the decimal place.

      I admit I may be biased. I started school overseas using the metric system. Then I move to the United States and had to learn standard. I still hate the standard system after all these years.

      • Having to resort to Dimensional Analysis is probably a result of not being used to the system. i.e. You learned the metric system first and know it best. If you had learned the imperial system first and best, you would instantly know how to do the conversions.

        I rarely convert anything. I do however cook and program computers. (Baking is beyond my skill set) Neither of those lead me to do conversions. If I three cups of milk, I measure out three cups of milk. If I need to do conversions, the measurements must have been in the wrong units originally.

    • Base 10 is easy… base 12 is not… I don't see your reasoning there. I find it fun to work in hexadecimal but that doesn't mean it is easy.

      If you are talking in the fact that the world and nature doesn't work around base 10 all too well, then sure… but humans have most of everything wrong anyway… or at least the modern western world does.Solar calendar years that are actually incorrectly calculated compared to lunisolar calendars like the Chinese chalendar. That's not even getting picky and talking about leap seconds.

      However it is better to have a system people actually can use easily. As for you assumption that not everyone can make those conversions well perhaps a number of people couldn't do some because they don't have a simple understanding of things like deci, kilo, milli and centi etc. However with the standard terms used it is quite easy to do conversions and everyone who made it through early primary school could do so. Decimetre in a kilometre would get some people stumped because they don't know that deci = 1/10.

      Converting between cm and mm is something everyone is taught in about grade 1 or 2 or something like that so the general population do know what to do there off by heart so to speak. Like if you asked a person what you need to do to convert inches into feet… I'm assuming that the general American knows there are 12 inches to a foot and how to calculate that.

      After mm cm is the next standard used (10mm in a cm); after cm standard use would go to m as there are 100cm in 1m, and from that 1000m in a km. Things like decimetres are not used in general use, neither are things like nanometres or pictometres…

      Now the sort of thing people in general don't tend to remember is that 1 litre of water is 1000 cubic centimetres, one cc is the same as a millilitre of water; from there we take the general knowledge that there is 1000mL in a L. One mL off water weighs 1g and thus 1L will weigh 1kg (with there being 1000 grams in a kilogram but you can easily guess that from the kilo- prefix). I learnt this in grade 3… well not the reasoning behind it but the fact that one L of water weighs 1kg. (Also this is while the water is a 4°C but for general purposes the difference due to change in water density at different temperatures is negligible)

      • Base 10 is only easier because we are used to it. Many calculations would be easier if done in base 12. That is, if we consistently used base 12 we would be better off.

        People can get used to any measurement system. The person used to the imperial systems knows without thinking that there are 12 inches in a foot. The person used to the metric system knows that there are 10 millimeters in a centimeter. So its all a matter of what you are used to.

  3. Oh yeah lets use hexadecimal or octal numeral system. Really easy for everyone to calculate XD
    Winston I hope your comment is sarcastic.
    Every child can convert in the metric system in seconds.
    Whole rest of the world uses metric system. The imperial is just random and makes no sense.

    • Many calculations would be easier in hexadecimal if that was what we were used to. If we could pick any base for our number system, 10 is clearly not optimal. Other bases would be better.

      I'll agree that adopting the metric system to fit with the rest of the world makes sense.

  4. @Winston Ewert:

    How often have you measured something that came out *exactly* divisible by 2, 3, 4, or 6?

    Given that physical objects in real-life rarely measure up like that, that portion of your argument is irrelevant. No matter which system (metric or imperial) you use, there will always by fractions of units to deal with.

    You might have a case for a non-base 10 counting system, but even then metric would win out given the above. Why?

    Because converting from one unit to another is *far* easier with the metric system. You just multiply or divide by 1000. That's it. All the prefixes are the same amongst the SI units, so once you learn it for one unit type it works for the others.

    With a base 8 or base 12 system, it would still be easy to divide or multiply by 1000. Sure, 1000 is base 8 is not equal to 1000 in base 10, but multiplying or dividing is just as easy – move the decimal point one way or the other, and add or remove some zeroes.

    In base 8 or base 12, the imperial system would be just as awful as it is now:

    How many inches in a foot? How many feet in a mile? How many ounces in a pound? How many pounds in a ton? How many fluid ounces in a gallon? Why do each of these questions have a random, unrelated answer?

    • "How often have you measured something that came out *exactly* divisible by 2, 3, 4, or 6?"

      More often then its divisible by 2, 5 or 10.

      "You might have a case for a non-base 10 counting system, but even then metric would win out given the above. Why?"

      I don't think you can call the system you are proposing here metric. Since we are now using base 12, 1 km doesn't equal what 1 km used to. But you undeniably correct that conversions are easier if the relation between units is the same as that of the base system.

      "In base 8 or base 12, the imperial system would be just as awful as it is now:"

      Actually, where the Imperial system uses factors like 4, 3, and 12, the conversions would be easier in base 12. That doesn't help for miles or other factors, but it does help in some cases.

      "How many inches in a foot? How many feet in a mile? How many ounces in a pound? How many pounds in a ton? How many fluid ounces in a gallon? Why do each of these questions have a random, unrelated answer? "

      I agree, the relationship between units is arbitrary. However, the units came into use because they were found to be practically useful. Metric units came merely from the fact that they were easily convertible. While metric clearly wins on the conversions, I'd argue that it has produced less useful units. I think conversions are rare enough, thats not the point you should be optimizing.

  5. Are you kidding? We here in the good old USA would NEVER switch to something that works on a base-10 system for our daily use……well, except for that base-10 money thing we use just about every minute of every day and find it incredibly easy and fast to calculate with…….

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