# Metric vs. Imperial: Life vs. Science

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Split out from http://forums.getpaint.net/index.php?/topic/107595-measurement-ruler-on-image-um-units .

The metric system is taught in Elementary (primary) School, so we all understand it. However, since the imperial system is so dominant here, we all tend to think in terms of imperial units.

Very true. I've always thought of Metric (SI) as being better for scientific pursuits, but Imperial as better for daily life. For instance, Fahrenheit is pretty well calibrated to a human being's survivability range (0° being an average temperature for the coldest areas humans tend to habitate, 100° being an average temperature for the warmest). Similarly, the foot is an easy measure of distance for a human to approximate (since an adult human's foot is within a reasonable approximation of one foot long), and a mile is about the average distance a human eye can effectively distinguish objects. A pound is about the weight of your hand, which makes it easy to approximate, and a second (which the SI uses as well) is a good approximation at the time it takes for a human to perform a complete action (about 0.25s to register and interpret a visual signal, another 0.25s to formulate a response, and about 0.5s for your body to complete the motion).

It's not even close to perfect, for sure, but it doesn't have to be. Imperial is for life. SI is for science.

The Doctor: There was a goblin, or a trickster, or a warrior... A nameless, terrible thing, soaked in the blood of a billion galaxies. The most feared being in all the cosmos. And nothing could stop it, or hold it, or reason with it. One day it would just drop out of the sky and tear down your world.
Amy: But how did it end up in there?
The Doctor: You know fairy tales. A good wizard tricked it.
River Song: I hate good wizards in fairy tales; they always turn out to be him.

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It's not even close to perfect, for sure, but it doesn't have to be. Imperial is for life. SI is for science.

I guess there is just no strong need to change it. In former Europe where each country used its own units there was the need to make trading easier (plus there was Napoleon who forced us).

At the end it is more about what you are accustomed to use. Meter feels much more natural for me than anything else.

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I can't agree with you David. Metric feels better in everyday life IMHO. 0 deg C water freezes and 100 deg C it boils. That's a range I can instantly understand.

Same for volume & weight. 1 liter of water weighs 1 kilogram. I weigh the same as 66 liters of water.

I have a feeling a meter was based on the distance from someone's nose to outstretched fingertip. Makes about as much sense as the length of your foot Being in a profession concerned with feet I can categorically state the length of an average foot is no where near 12 inches

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I take issue with your taking issue with my statement.

How often is the boiling point of water useful for your life?  If you're trying to decide what to wear for the day, you might want to know about the freezing point of water, but you'll die so long before the boiling point that there's no use even having it on the scale.  Besides, Fahrenheit offers far more graduations between "chilly" and "hot"; almost twice as many, if you consider 50°F/10°C to be "chilly" and 80°F/25°C to be "hot".

And if you're trying to estimate the weight of the fruit you're about to buy, how often are you going to have a liter of water nearby, as opposed to the hand at the end of your arm?

I would be willing to bet that a meter was indeed based on the nose-to-fingertip measurement (though it is officially designated as the distance traveled by light in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458 of a second).  But if you're trying to, say, quickly mark off an ad-hoc sporting field, either definition is utterly useless.  The length of your foot, though, would be quite useful for that pursuit.  And far be it from me to disagree with a professional, but according to a quick Google search, the average foot length for adult men (ed.: in North America) is a little over ten inches; add a little bit on either side for a shoe, and you have yourself a pretty reasonable approximation of twelve inches.

So I maintain my insistence that Imperial is good for life, and metric is good for science.

Edited by david.atwell
average foot length in NA

The Doctor: There was a goblin, or a trickster, or a warrior... A nameless, terrible thing, soaked in the blood of a billion galaxies. The most feared being in all the cosmos. And nothing could stop it, or hold it, or reason with it. One day it would just drop out of the sky and tear down your world.
Amy: But how did it end up in there?
The Doctor: You know fairy tales. A good wizard tricked it.
River Song: I hate good wizards in fairy tales; they always turn out to be him.

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I have a feeling a meter was based on the distance from someone's nose to outstretched fingertip.

I would be willing to bet that a meter was indeed based on the nose-to-fingertip measurement

I naturally assumed it was a decimal fraction (millionth or something) of the distance from equator to pole? and the chap that devised it was beheaded... history's not my forte!

& E.E.R., you must consider the 'dwarve' foot. (thought it was inner elbow to wrist anyway?... or is that cubits).

Edit: - only out by a factor of ten!

The metre was originally defined in 1793 as one ten-millionth of the distance from the equator to the North Pole. In 1889

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metre

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I naturally assumed it was a decimal fraction (millionth or something) of the distance from equator to pole? and the chap that devised it was beheaded... history's not my forte!

& E.E.R., you must consider the 'dwarve' foot. (thought it was inner elbow to wrist anyway?... or is that cubits).

Edit: - only out by a factor of ten!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metre

As I noted, it has an official measurement now, which is the distance light travels in a certain time.  But I do believe that they chose that particular length (the equator fraction) as a base SI unit because of its similarity to the nose-fingertip length.

The Doctor: There was a goblin, or a trickster, or a warrior... A nameless, terrible thing, soaked in the blood of a billion galaxies. The most feared being in all the cosmos. And nothing could stop it, or hold it, or reason with it. One day it would just drop out of the sky and tear down your world.
Amy: But how did it end up in there?
The Doctor: You know fairy tales. A good wizard tricked it.
River Song: I hate good wizards in fairy tales; they always turn out to be him.

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Besides, Fahrenheit offers far more graduations between "chilly" and "hot"; almost twice as many, if you consider 50°F/10°C to be "chilly" and 80°F/25°C to be "hot".

typical - men arguing about size.I think Fahrenheit was compensating for something

Go out there and be amazing. Have Fun, TR

Some Pretty Pictures Some Cool Plugins

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Yeah. Don't forget Reaumur! Using oldfashioned Fahrenheit, inches and feets only shows, how tradition works. If "life" and "science" are arguments for comparsion, then something goes wrong with life. The metric system is straight logical and all the complex conversions are unnecessary.

Maybe I'm making now enemies in this forum, but pretty much the whole civilized world laughs so over the USA and shakes his head.

<snip!>

Edited by david.atwell
removed for language
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If "life" and "science" are arguments for comparsion, then something goes wrong with life.

We don't exactly get to choose our proportions and sizes in life.  Your comment doesn't make any sense.

Anyway, I'm sorry to hear that most of the mod staff and forum population are laughingstocks to you.

You're welcome to your opinion; but please refrain from insults, and remember that images and text with inappropriate language will be removed.

The Doctor: There was a goblin, or a trickster, or a warrior... A nameless, terrible thing, soaked in the blood of a billion galaxies. The most feared being in all the cosmos. And nothing could stop it, or hold it, or reason with it. One day it would just drop out of the sky and tear down your world.
Amy: But how did it end up in there?
The Doctor: You know fairy tales. A good wizard tricked it.
River Song: I hate good wizards in fairy tales; they always turn out to be him.

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Split out offtopic conversation.

The Doctor: There was a goblin, or a trickster, or a warrior... A nameless, terrible thing, soaked in the blood of a billion galaxies. The most feared being in all the cosmos. And nothing could stop it, or hold it, or reason with it. One day it would just drop out of the sky and tear down your world.
Amy: But how did it end up in there?
The Doctor: You know fairy tales. A good wizard tricked it.
River Song: I hate good wizards in fairy tales; they always turn out to be him.

##### Share on other sites

And that was exactly the reaction that I feared. To designate a simple comparison of the handling in the US and around the world with respect to the units as "insult", I think is exaggerated and hypersensitive.

that most of the mod staff and forum population are laughingstocks to you.

That wasn't especially my point. It's the common reaction outside the US. Do not kill the messenger for the message.

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I do not travel a lot. But when I do it I hope to find something that will break my habits. Something different. Measurements are one of those things and I am glad there are some differences from one country to another. It is like when you go to UK and have to drive on the left side, or just going to ASDA (WalMart) and strugle with the coins at the checkout. If there were no differences I would just stay at home. Different measuring ways and methods are part of culture and I love different cultures.

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But when I do it I hope to find something that will break my habits. Something different. Measurements are one of those things and I am glad there are some differences from one country to another.... Different measuring ways and methods are part of culture and I love different cultures.

Really? Not enough, that people speek an other language, wear different clothes, cities have different architecture and so on - you are happy, if they use different measurements? Wow! Are you happy even via different power outlets?

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Language, architecture, clothing, habits, food, music and measurements are part of the whole package of culture. I enjoy getting lost and meeting people when I travel, it helps me forget my routine. I never make a reservation in advance, I just arrive to another country and hope I will find a place to sleep. My adventure starts as soon as I step down the plane.

I better stop. Toe_head2001 will have some difficult getting some input for the Measurement Ruler effect from this conversation.

Edited by Eli
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I better stop. Toe_head2001 will have some difficult getting some input for the Measurement Ruler effect from this conversation.

That's why I split out the conversation. *glares at Eli and IRON*

Also,

And that was exactly the reaction that I feared. To designate a simple comparison of the handling in the US and around the world with respect to the units as "insult", I think is exaggerated and hypersensitive.

It was not a simple comparison.  The image you posted was straight ridicule and contained profanity.  There isn't anything there that wasn't an insult.

That wasn't especially my point. It's the common reaction outside the US. Do not kill the messenger for the message.

Be that as it may, most of your mods and fellow forum users are from the US. Consider your audience. Many a cruel person has hidden behind "don't kill the messenger," but it is not a good argument.

The Doctor: There was a goblin, or a trickster, or a warrior... A nameless, terrible thing, soaked in the blood of a billion galaxies. The most feared being in all the cosmos. And nothing could stop it, or hold it, or reason with it. One day it would just drop out of the sky and tear down your world.
Amy: But how did it end up in there?
The Doctor: You know fairy tales. A good wizard tricked it.
River Song: I hate good wizards in fairy tales; they always turn out to be him.

##### Share on other sites

To myself and my friends, who are all of a certain age - we all still measure in feet and inches, yards are easier than metres BUT Celcius is easier for temperature

In some respects it's a generation thing I think - an ounce is easier to understand than 25 grammes.  You buy a litre of milk but a pint of beer is still a pint

Petrol and diesel consuption is still measured as miles per gallon but sold as xxx per litre.

Good arguments all round here.  47 years old and I still struggle to understand all the different measurements - or more to the point why we need different ones.

The day they change a Football pitch to metric and the 18 yard box becomes the 16.4592 metre box is when I have a meltdown

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Back in the 70's we Yanks considered the metric system

Go out there and be amazing. Have Fun, TR

Some Pretty Pictures Some Cool Plugins

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I once talked to an engineer who left Europe in USA.

He took a year to get used to the Imperial system of measurement.

I understand how difficult it is for someone to switch from one system to another.

On the other hand, even in Europe metric system coexist with the imperial.

For example, metal pipe diameter is measured in inches while plastic pipes diameter is measured in mm.

I think both systems are good for people with different culture.

Like @midora said, meter feels much more natural for me than anything else.

But we must learn from each other.

We don't need to fight. We need to understand each other.

Edited by xod
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typical - men arguing about size.I think Fahrenheit was compensating for something

Perfect match ;-)

Local units are quite often used to protect markets. In Switzerland the size of kitchen furniture was different from the rest of Europe. Meant everything was quite expensive and the selection was poor. I'm pretty sure that we didn't loose our culture by changing this.

And why do we have to measure the altitude of a plane in feet? Or use horsepower for cars? Or inch fro screens?

All this means nothing to me ;-)

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And why do we have to measure the altitude of a plane in feet? Or use horsepower for cars? Or inch fro screens?

All this means nothing to me ;-)

Plane altitude and car power, I'm with you. Inches for screens should probably be regionalized, since you want to be able to envision the actual size easily.

The Doctor: There was a goblin, or a trickster, or a warrior... A nameless, terrible thing, soaked in the blood of a billion galaxies. The most feared being in all the cosmos. And nothing could stop it, or hold it, or reason with it. One day it would just drop out of the sky and tear down your world.
Amy: But how did it end up in there?
The Doctor: You know fairy tales. A good wizard tricked it.
River Song: I hate good wizards in fairy tales; they always turn out to be him.

##### Share on other sites

Well...Since I'm studying physics...

Go one metre or go home.

Although the physical definitions for simple things like a metre or a second always make me laugh.

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