Wikipedia’s almost, but not quite right – the official system of the UK is metric, but we’ve got an opt-out for specific purposes. Beer can still be sold in pints, and roadsigns still measure in miles and yards – although yards are slowly being replaced by metres…
thanks for the note tim…even so…I’m all for one system being in a field where we have to build/engineer objects in one format, but then transition it all easily when speaking to manufactures around the world…it’s easy at times, but can also be a pain in the butt many other times…
Metric has obvious practical benefits, but like other legacies of the French Revolution, it’s not necessarily an across-the-board improvement on what it was brought in to replace. In the realm of spatial dimensioning, at least, it happens that feet-&-inches is a system surprisingly well adapted to modular & proportional thinking. It makes translating between proportional relations & arithmetic a more flexibly accessible operation than decimal units can. I’m sure metric method can be used in a way that’s more or less natural for building furniture & buildings & so on, but as a carpenter in residential remodeling, I’m glad I don’t have millimeters in place of my 3/32, 3/16, 3/8, 3/4, 1 1/2, 3 … or my 48″ & 96″ modules that divide nicely by 2′s (24″ centers) and 3′s (16″ centers) … and so on.
Well Paul, if you had used the metric from the beginning you would notice how “proportional” and easy it is.
My height is 1,74 mtr, or 174 cm. Do you see how easy is the conversion?
How much is that on feet and inches? No idea… 45 feet 24 inches, for example doesn’t tell me anything. But let’s say 100mtrs? I know it’s a block. I know 10 mtrs is ten times one meter. But how many inches make 24 feet? What is 3/8 ? = 0.375 what? You need a calculator to do it; but again: My height is 1,74 mtr, or 174 cm, easy.
I’m in the UK and I prefer the imperial system. It’s just more natural. If you’re estimating someone’s height it’s easier to guess in feet than in centimetres or metres. I’m 6′ exactly or 183 centimetres. I know which one would be easier to give as a description if I were a suspect in a robbery!
Also, the 12 inches in a foot (and the general binary nature of imperial measurements) make division easier. For example, 12 divides nicely by 2, 3, 4 and 6. 10 centimetres only divides by 2 and 5.
Likewise with weights, 16 ounces in a pound divides by 2, 4 and 8 with no fractions.
If you need small, precise measurements (or even large precise measurements) then clearly the metric system is superior, but for average day to day stuff the imperial system is much more useful. That is, afterall, how it came about: measurements like feet, inches, cubits, spans and acres all have anthropomorphic roots; they are the sizes of actual body parts making estimation easy (with the exception of the acre which, IIRC, is the area a man and two oxen can plough in one day).
Plus I’m still annoyed that Bombardier have switched from selling beer in pint bottles to using 500ml for the same cost, despite losing 68mls from the volume.
Being Canadian, I’m metric by nature, and not surprised that the only backwards country left is our neighbor to the south, after all, they produced the ‘Hummer’ just in time for peak oil, sold out GM workers in Oshawa Canada for their excellent award winning services, can’t get the ‘Volt’ up and running in spite of the ‘Tesla’, have trouble knowing when to pull out. Have one in four of their under 16 year old daughters sick with STDs, can’t write a fair mortgage, don’t have health care, burn food for fuel, and paid over a billion dollars for a jet fighterplane that can’t beat some philosopher in a toga and a turban hiding in the desert. Metric doesn’t suit their mentality. Its too simple, smooth quick scientific and mostly smart!
P.S. Heard a rumor that they still use Microsoft Vista instead of Ubuntu, the free one that works!
“Heard a rumor that they still use Microsoft Vista instead of Ubuntu, the free one that works!”
Hey, at least we don’t use Macs. You Canuks have been trying to force that on us for years with your dirt-oil-fueled mind-control devices crafted from old broken hockey sticks, ice, french to english dictionaries and mooses
there have been a great deal of different systems of measure that have come and gone.however, the imperial system, as said before, has some intrinsic characteristic that makes it optimal for proportional and modular thinking. it is simply easier to use in a number of situations due to the curious nature of its proportions. metric may be easier mathematically, but apparently it lacks that indefinable imperial quality.
Well, after working on cars for several years i find that i use both systems. For example, the diameter of car wheels are measured in inches, the bolt circle in millimeters, and the bolt size in inches. Although the rest of the car with the exception of tolerances in the engine are metric on new cars. The Imperial system is better suited for tolerances in engines(0.030, 0.036, 0.026 are some common measurements).
Like someone previously said, both systems have their uses. Imperial is good for every day, casual measurements, while metric is much better for things that require precise amounts, such as cooking or chemistry.
i’m an engineer, i use imperial and metric daily and am comfortable with both.
in everyday life i more naturally use imperial- i think of height in feet and inches, distances in miles and yards, drinks in pints and so on.
however i’m under no illusion that i do so because there is something more intuitive about imperial measurements; this is clearly daft. if i’d only been around metric growing up i’d have no problem thinking in km, cm and litres. it’s such an obviously better system, and as an engineer my life would be much easier if it were universal.
the only reason i don’t is because we brits are too stubborn to give it up, probably out of some superiority complex/ xenophobia towards our european neighbours.
the usa is the same. we need to swallow our pride and admit metric’s better.
@ Uncle B…
backwards country, huh? Do you speak French? No? Why are all the street signs in Toronto (which I am guessing you are from) also in French? Seems a little backwards to me, that the entire Canada MUST have French on any government things, on all labels, etc. because ONE province wants it that way… at least in the states they leave the choice of metric vs imperial to each individual state. after all, and the “they produced the â€˜Hummerâ€™ just in time for peak oil” crap, is just that, crap. The hummer has been out for years & years. Thats besides the fact that you are talking about one “American” company. (GM is as much Canadian as it is American.) What about Canada’s trouble with knowing when to pull out? How many Canadian soldiers were killed in Afghanistan so far? But go ahead and blame that on the US, no problem. BTW I live in Toronto, and I liked the “health care” in the states a lot more than in Canada. See in the states, most insurances cover Dental… does OHIP cover that? Is dental not part of health care? The same goes for prescription medicines… why do most insurances in the US pay for them, but OHIP doesn’t? And lets not talk about the coverage of experimental life saving cancer drugs…. And about Vista… For some reason I have a lot harder of a time convincing my Canadian friends to TRY out Ubuntu, then my American friends, of which I have already convinced a few to switch. It seems to me that Canadians like having Americans screwing them over….
After all that, I wouldn’t live here if I didn’t love it, its just wimpy, blame it on America, lets shut our lights off all together for one hour, thereby causing a surge in electricity and accomplishing the exact opposite of what we are trying to do, people like you that I cannot stand.
I must say, I use Imperial for most things. As a British motorist, Its easier to think in miles, yards and MPH, as a golfer, its easier to think in yards and feet, as a beer drinker, its easier to drink in pints. But if I was measuring something and it needed to be acurate, I’d do it in centimetres and metres.
I’m a US resident, and I typically use the metric system for day to day things, it’s just so much easier than trying to remember how many ounces in a pound and stuff like that. We really need to catch up.
Firstly if you can’t divide 10 by 4 or 3 you’re clearly a child who hasn’t progressed to decimals. It’s 2.5 and 3.33. Secondly it’s much easier to convert between weights, lengths etc with metric. i.e. 1 milliliter of water weights 1 gram and measures 1cm cubed. How much does one pint of water weigh ? Answer – 1.04375 pounds. A cup is 250ml or a quarter of a liter. Nice and easy. And finally the best use of grams. One heroic dose of Mushrooms is simply 5 dried grams or 0.17636981 ounces. Tell me which is better now.
As a French I would say that a lot of you are saying the imperial system is more practical because you all have grown up with it, and it’s normal to think that way. I grew up with metric system and when I travelled to the UK I understood nothing about the imperial system (except the pint). all I know is that with the coexistance of both it is very difficult to talk with my British bros about some measures.
“Do you speak French? No? Why are all the street signs in Toronto (which I am guessing you are from) also in French?”
They aren’t. The only time you see bilingual signs is when you are close to the airport. I have a hard time believing you are actually from Toronto if you haven’t noticed that stop signs are in English only.
“Seems a little backwards to me, that the entire Canada MUST have French on any government things, on all labels, etc. because ONE province wants it that way”
Probably more to do with a quarter of the population speaking french and it being an official language.
In my mind, it’s all about what you’re used to. I grew up in US. Lived in Germany 5 years (had no choice but to learn to live metric. I still weigh myself in kilos). From there we lived in South Africa (25 yrs ago). They had switched to metric not that long before. Folks just got used to right away.
My in-laws (88 and 90 yrs old) think in metric. In other words, let’s get on with the switch. It’s just not that big of a deal.
I’ve been a UK scientist for 30 years and use SI units (formal version of metric) all the time for work. At home, I generally prefer Imperial for most things since I find them more practical for perceived distances, weights etc. Anyway, converting all the time will help stave off Alzheimer’s! Interestingly, an experiment reported in a cognitive psychology journal supports my erratic use of units. Kids brought up using metric, but aware of Imperial, were asked to estimate the size of a big hall using both units. Those using metric, even though these were “their” units, generally got it hopelessly wrong, with errors of several metres. Those using Imperial units generally made very good estimates, with some getting the dimensions of the hall right to within a few centimetres.
Don’t forget when you hear the arguments for switching, there’s a lot of money to be made from this so the advocates may not be particularly honest. Personally, I don’t know anybody who can’t cope well using whatever units are convenient at the time. Most Brits and Americans can drive and live in Europe without killing anybody or being ripped off! And the UK has millions of metric migrants who have no trouble with Imperial.