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Imperial measurements just feel better

  1. Feb 17, 2013 #1
    Metric holds an advantage in simplicity, but imperial seems to have better unit amounts.

    For instance, temperature. I cannot think in celcius. 60's weather is 15-20 celcius. 70's is 20-26 celcius. 80's weather is 27-34 celcius.

    Lengths: a mile is a significant accomplishment for human endurance. A kilometer is barely enough to get your heartbeat up.

    Weights. having to say 1800 kilograms instead of saying 2 tons is unwieldy, and is . Tons seems right because they indicate when you've reached industrial capacities.

    Liquid. Gallons vs liters. A gallon seems to be a substantial amount of liquid, while a liter is basically too small to really be of substantial measure, and too big for personal consumption compared to the pint.

    Even when calculating like interstellar distances, any advantage from metric is going to be non-existent because the unit you're using will either be miles or kilometers and there won't be much conversion to other units going on. Or, for microscopic measurements, you could probably use micro-inches as a measure just as easily as nano-meters are commonly used today.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 17, 2013 #2


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    I think it is a matter of what you've become used to over the years.

    For example, I've been told temperatures in celcius for years, so I know that 32C is ambient temperature here. If someone now tells me that it is 90F outside, because I am not used to referencing F I'll be a bit lost. And well the conversion from C to F is a bit tedious.
  4. Feb 17, 2013 #3
    I'll try to answer your highly intelligent question with an equally sophisticated response.
    First, nearly the whole world uses the metric system. Imperial units are only used by a small fraction of the worlds population. That alone makes them bad since nearly no one knows what they mean.
    Furthermore imperial units are impractical. Water for examply freezes at 0 and boils at 100°C. Thats easy. With imperial units I get ugly numbers like 32 and 212. Who is supposed to remember that? In metric units the body temperature is a nice cosy 37. In the imperial system it's 100 which sounds really unhealthy.
    Liquid - 1 litre is the perfect amount for beverages. At the oktoberfest for example beer is always served in 1 litre glasses. And every experienced beer drinker will agree that that is the perfect size.
    Weights - the metric tonne is used in industry everywhere in the world and of course it's a lot more practical than the imperial ton since it's exactly 1000kg. The imperial ton however is 907kg in the US and 1016kg in the UK. Again really ugly numbers that no one can be bothered to remember.
    So in short the metric system is clearly far superior.
  5. Feb 17, 2013 #4
    To water boiling: how often do you have to worry about that? Worthy tradeoff for getting temperatures in the 60's, 70's, and 80's.

    Hadn't realized the metric tonne. my bad.

    Still, it seems like a 180 lb body weight is easier to envision than a 80kg bodyweight.
  6. Feb 17, 2013 #5
    The problem with imperial units is that different magnitudes of numbers are measured in different units with confusing and inconsistent conversions between the different sized units.

    For example, a mile is 5280 feet. A foot is 12 inches. A ton is 2000 pounds. A pound is 16 ounces (weight). A gallon is 16 cups and a cup is 8 fluid ounces. You need a chart to remember all the conversions.

    It really wouldn't be bad if we measured larger distances in kilofeet and megafeet. Weights in kilopounds, etc. In that case, there really wouldn't be any good reason to choose metric over imperial, except out of popularity.
  7. Feb 17, 2013 #6


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    And all of the unit names in SI are instantly comprehensible without referring to an SI dictionary to figure out the component units.
  8. Feb 17, 2013 #7


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    My only complaint about SI is the kilo in kilogram as a base unit. Is 1000 kg = 1 kkg or 1 Mg?
  9. Feb 17, 2013 #8


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    I remember the chaos when Tchernobyl happened to explode just after introduction of the SI and people got completely confused with Rem, Sievert, Gray, Curie, Becquerel and the like.
    So you can guess my surprise when I learned after Fukushima that the Japanese authorities where still using the old units whose definition I long had forgotten. And this with Japan, (I am tempted to say: In contrast to the USA) being a high tech state.
  10. Feb 17, 2013 #9


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    I also don't quite understand why we differentiate between Hz and Bq on one hand and Sievert and Gray on the other.
  11. Feb 17, 2013 #10
    How is it difficult? Someone weighing 2.5 is a baby, 50 is normal and 100 is overweight. Nice even multiples of 20 and 2. Contrast with imperial system of ugly numbers like 6, 145 and 210.

    Also, how much does 10000000 people weigh and express in units such that the answer has absolute value between 1 and 10? lol. Try it without metric.
  12. Feb 17, 2013 #11


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    As others have said, the fact that you find it easy to work with one vs. the other is due to experience and members from metric countries have pointed out that our imperial system is confusing to them.

    The REAL problem is conversions in a scientific setting. Let's say you're a cook and you received a 10lb package of meat. Let's say you have a recipe to duplicate that calls for 4oz portions. You have to do this very stupid 16oz = 1 lb conversion. What if you have a gallon of water and you need to use 1 pint of it. I actually don't even know what the heck that conversion is. In SI units, you don't have these ridiculous conversions to try to remember. If I want to know how many feet are in a mile, you gotta remember this 5280 number. Metric? Just knock off a few decimals to go from meter -> km. There are plenty of other examples but the more you have to use numbers, the more annoying it is.
  13. Feb 17, 2013 #12
    I work at a research institution and when a directive was issued that all papers for domestic consumption (U.S.) had to use English units, I immediately responded that I refused to discuss the transmit power of radios in horsepower.

    The English system can be much more confusing than the metric system. Wikipedia lists many units whose measurement has been long forgotten by most people. It is far too long for this post but please check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_units

    The English system can also cause much confusion. What percentage of people using the English system understand that the ounce used for measuring gold is different from the ounce used to measure most anything else? To find out, ask a sampling of people, which weighs more, an ounce of feathers or an ounce of gold. What proportion of people think a fluid ounce is a measurement of weight?

    I used to work for a company that specified dimensions only in English units, yet we ordered most of our components from China. There were instances in which the components arrived dimensionally out of spec., most likely because the supplier didn't understand English units, resulting delays to our production.
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2013
  14. Feb 17, 2013 #13
    Quite honestly i hate this difference around the world.Well I understand that people have been proud of their achievements and want to name some things different just to stand out and many other factors come to play but it would be great to make one universal measurement system, because physics is the same no matter where you go.Yet some countries teach their children one system the others other ones.
    Ofcourse they can be calculated from one to another but why the extra problems?
    I fully agree to the quote that "Everything should be as simple as possible but not simpler" Albert Einstein although there is a debate whether it is his quote but that's not the point here anyways.
    A kg is just as heavy in the US as in EU or Russia.

    @ DrDu yes while the Fukushima I wasn't actually following the details that much but the media sometimes mixed up their own heads when they were reporting the official radiation readings once in roentgens and later on in sieverts only they changed the name but forgot to convert the numbers themselves.

    Not about this topic but one world language would be a disaster from a cultural point of view but a relief and a huge step forward from trading business and scientific progress point of view.
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2013
  15. Feb 17, 2013 #14
    Using metric would have saved us a Mars orbiter:
    http://articles.cnn.com/1999-09-30/tech/9909_30_mars.metric.02_1_climate-orbiter-spacecraft-team-metric-system?_s=PM:TECH [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  16. Feb 17, 2013 #15


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    As a Brit, I find these "body weight" examples mystifying. I have no idea if "180 pounds" means fat or thin without thinking about it, but I know what "a 12 stone weakling" means.

    When the UK currency was based on 20's and 12's not on the decimal system, every kid learned to deal with that as soon as "money" became an interesting concept. So dealing with a few more factors in other measurement units wasn't a big deal.
  17. Feb 17, 2013 #16
    The base unit is the gram, as the meter or the liter. Then as with all, you have kilogram, kilometer and kiloliter as 1000 times the basic unit. And 1000 kilograms or 1000000 grams will be the 1 Mg (usually called 1ton) as with meter and liters. That's all.
    The fact is that meter and liter are more 'standard human' sizes when compared to gram, but not that much.
  18. Feb 17, 2013 #17
    32C is ambient temperature where you live? Are you in the Sahara? Usually room temperature is around 21C.
  19. Feb 17, 2013 #18


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    and my only complaint is that ... even tho some dont like to use the metric system
    ( one particular country in mind ... wink)
    I wish they would at least spell the metric words correctly

    Metre not meter ... meter is usually a thing with a needle indicating Volts, Amps etc
    Litre not liter ... dunno what a liter is ? is it a smaller than usual litter of puppies ? ;)
    Tonne not ton


    ... just a little fun dig in the ribs :)
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2013
  20. Feb 17, 2013 #19


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    no, that would be 40C avg/ambient daytime temp

    anywhere in the tropics is nominally around the 30C area

    Darwin city in northern Australia its temp day or nite doesnt vary much from 30C all year round ( approx 28 - 32)
    Where my wife comes from in the southern Philippines is very similar hot and humid 27/7/365

  21. Feb 17, 2013 #20


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    No, the base unit is the kg. Otherwise the derived units would be in terms of g not kg. E.g. 1 N would be 1 g m/s². See:
    http://www.bipm.org/en/si/si_brochure/chapter2/2-2/table3.html [Broken]

    It appears that you are correct about this:
    http://www.bipm.org/en/si/si_brochure/chapter3/3-2.html [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
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