Episode 2013: the imperial system strikes back

by , Digital Producer Consumer Rights 13 January 2013
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The imperial measurement system is not just still alive – it may be staging a comeback, according to reports. Should school children be taught to use both imperial and metric measurements?

Small boy with a measuring tape and pencil

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, is apparently making plans to reintroduce the teaching of imperial units in schools. The draft curriculum for England is set to teach pupils how to convert between imperial and metric

I can see some logic for doing this in maths classes; the interview for my first job in a DIY chain had questions on converting feet into centimetres. My customers were a real mix of imperial and metric users, but I don’t recall imperial being taught at school. My knowledge was probably more down to my ruler using both measurements – it was a 12″ one with a rather odd 31cm on the other side.

So, should we just ditch imperial and spend time teaching kids about something else? JD Baines told us on our last imperial vs metric debate:

‘Few teachers now understand imperial, whereas in schools in the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s decimal was taught in schools alongside imperial. One was taught the conversion factors as well, which were “simplified” on the official decimalisation on the UK – thus one could not go to a timber yard and get 50mm x 100mm – it was still 2″×4″. (50mm x 100mm is actually smaller!).’

Wavechange offered an alternative solution:

‘I am happy for kids to learn about imperial measures – but it should be in history classes.’

Your thoughts on the imperial march

When we last had a conversation about measurement systems, almost half of the voters in our poll thought we should ditch imperial units altogether, while a third thought we should keep our current mix. Over a fifth preferred a return to imperial. Some of the comments showed hard lines on the debate. Seares was ready to go metric; ‘It’s about bloody time.’

While David Ramsay spoke for imperial users:

‘NOOOOOOOOOO. I will refuse to use anything other than imperial and will ask for all purchases to be measured accordingly.’

John Knox was equally emphatic:

‘Imperial all the way! I still do everything pretty much in imperial. You know that the jars of jam and honey, etc. you buy are a pound in weight in the supermarket despite them putting the diabolical French measurements on instead.

‘A pint of milk is still a pint of milk and same for beer! We also know our quarter-pounder and half-pounder burgers!’

Popular abroad, the metric system is

The UK is not the only place to have converted from imperial to metric. Michael Glass offered a viewpoint from a country far, far away:

‘As an Australian I find all this angst about metrication quite appalling. Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and a whole lot of other countries changed without all this fuss and bother.’

Seares thinks we should go Dutch:

‘I’m in Holland – there doesn’t seem to be any problem here with metric, and they still have their own culture (and cheese). Why would we alone in our island lose our ‘nationality’ or ‘history’ or whatever if we used the system most other countries do?’

Finally, Swanseasteve pointed out that Sandringham listed its size in hectares:

‘If metric values are good enough for the Queen they’re good enough for us!’

What are your thoughts? Is the proposed move to teach imperial putting the best foot forward or taking us back by miles?

Should imperial measurements be taught in schools?

No, it's time to go fully metric (51%, 287 Votes)

Yes, they are helpful for daily life (38%, 215 Votes)

Only if they are taught in history lessons (11%, 60 Votes)

Total Voters: 566

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454 comments

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Peter Hargreaves

Author: Peter Hargreaves
W J G, Your Comment:

“The mixed measurement situation is divisive. It diivides this country, and arguably more than any other country, it divides the community, society, and the nation. It is unneeded, unwanted, and makes this country look backward, instead of forward, it makes this country weaker not stronger.
The popularity of Imperial measures only occurs, because people are given a choice”

Sorry wjg; but who’s talking about a mixed measurement system here, you need to know when to get the best out of each measurement system, which to a large extent is influenced by each individuals profession and hobbies, which I have already mentioned in earlier comments. In the last paragraph you mention that imperial measures only occur because people are given a choice. This is precisely what governments are elected for, to address the needs of the electorate. Most British people want to retain use of imperial measurements in certain situations. Speaking to the younger generation coming out of schools, colleges and universities they prefer to use imperial measurements when relating to the natural world. These are intelligent, articulate young people who are making an informed choice. But as I have said before they prefer metric when the topics of science and engineering are mentioned. To say that this makes our country weaker and backward is nonsense. Most of our international trade is conducted in metric anyway. The medical profession, post office, paper industry and printing industry to name a few. Crucially all health and safety legislation is in metric, which is in line with European directives. It is an easy option to blame government. Most people in this country are not really interested in this debate and would be both surprised by your comments and amused.

Finally, I wonder how many people actually order their petrol by the litre. Most people I know will say “twenty or thirty pounds worth of petrol please”. Whereas previously they would have said “ten gallons of petrol please”. So much for the popularity of the metric system.

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swanseasteve

Peter – you claim “This is precisely what governments are elected for, to address the needs of the electorate.”

Oh come on now! If that was true, we’d have capital punishment back, all immigrants would be rounded up and deported, and we’d not have been involved in recent wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. No – the government is elected to run the country as best it can for the country’s general benefit. What that means does depend on what party/parties get elected. But individual peoples’ whims are not likely to get taken seriously into account once they’re up and running.

Then, later “I wonder how many people actually order their petrol by the litre.”

Dunno about you, but I’ve never seen anyone “order petrol”. It’s all self-serve these days. You get out and put whatever you want into your tank. I typically put about 30 litres into mine on a fill. Others might put in £50′s worth or whatever. It’s up to them, but they never actually “order” it.

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Stimpy

@swanseasteve

You honestly and purposely put 30 (or any other number) litres in? I have never seen that. So you would slow down the pump at – say – 27 litres and dribble the rest needed for 30? Then you pay the obscure/un-round-able cash? Wow – there’s commitment. Gimme gallons and I would’t do that.

My methods are

1) create intercourse betwixt car and ‘liquid gold machine’ pump. Grip the handle to start the fill. Check out the weather. Check out the girl at pump ’2′. Check out the teenager with a Lambo. Then “CLUNK”. Stop. Wiggle. Holster. Cry at the numbers next to ‘£’ – then drive away or walk to the pay part.

2) “I’m in a hurry” – so I splosh 20 quid in – without accuracy – pay – drive to the urgency.

3) ..is abroad. The hire car contract states that you must leave the car with the key under the carpet with the same level petrol as when you picked it up. So I drive to the garage – put in a fiver’s worth, pay, then swear profusely as you beg the needle to move a bit more up – tapping it gently then hoping the hire company doesn’t notice.

I’ve only heard of another person who actually states/delivers a perfect ‘X’ litres – but he was slightly unhinged.

Here’s a tip. If you drive a diesel car look at the pump. If there is a black button (unmarked) above or under the holster then push it. The delivery is then in ‘Lorry-mode’. Only do this if you know your car can accept high speed dispensing.

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wavechange

When I fill my fuel can for the lawnmower, I put in exactly 10 litres. When the supermarket offers five or ten pence off per litre, I put in an exact number of litres.

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swanseasteve

@stimpy

“You honestly and purposely put 30 (or any other number) litres in? I have never seen that.”

Well, now you’ve heard of it, even if you haven’t seen it. Yes I do that regularly. 30L is a half a tank. For a while I was monitoring my fuel usage and round numbers of litres just made the sums come out looking neater. Turned out I was using 8.5L/100km in the end which is roughly what the car manual said I should expect, so nothing much wrong with the engine there….

“So you would slow down the pump at – say – 27 litres and dribble the rest needed for 30? Then you pay the obscure/un-round-able cash?”

Yeah – you just hand over your card and they debit what you’ve spent. It doesn’t matter what that amount is, as such.

“Wow – there’s commitment. Gimme gallons and I would’t do that.”

What, filling up with gallons is somehow different?? It’s just fuel, dude. Put in a given amount of fuel, or a given value of fuel or brim your tank or randomly put some fuel in – the units that count up on the pump have nothing to do with it!

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Stimpy

@Wavechange

Well you’ve just proved to me that there are all sorts out there. I literally know of no-one who uses capacity of a fuel tank (which will have redial fuel in it) and then put a perfect number of decimally spot on litres to join an unknown quantity of ‘left overs’ in the tank.

Please forgive me for saying ‘odd’.

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Stimpy

@swansea/abertawe

Wow – that’s just – well – “weird” ! Do you engage in Chemistry or something?

I’m sorry to tell you that 30L is only half a tank if you completely use up all your petrol. Oh PLEASE don’t tell me you use recovery trucks so you can retain accuracy? No way!

And then you use the data to generate a statistic that almost no-one will understand.

If you REALLY wanted to know info in modern UK speak you should-

1 – go to petrol station
2 – fill up untill it goes ‘clunk’
3 – reset your mileometer and do a load of driving
4 – do number ’2′ again but keep note of the litre things and your mileage
5 – go to browser and ask ‘mpg from x litres and Y miles’ and you’ll get the mpg

Using the refill method does away with ‘reserve’ or unused petrol (unless you use a truck etc).

To your gallons remark about my gallons remark – it’s quite simple… The single overiding factor that is most important to almost every car driver is the numbers next to “£”. Nothing more/nothing less. Even if it was gallons (unless I wanted to make up a daft story that elevates the word “gallons” to more than a legal data requirement (unless, again, I was checking the mpg/

You lot are causing sparks in my brain box and as such cannot go near a petrol station!

Jeesh!

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wavechange

Stimpy

I don’t measure the amount of fuel every time I fill up, though I do every time I fill up fuel cans, simply because over-filling can cause leakage. In the past, I used to lug around 20 litre cans of red diesel for various purposes, and invariably filled them with the exact amount of fuel, which is very easy.

I’ve been described as a ‘maniac’ on Which? Conversation, so calling me ‘odd’ is very restrained. Perhaps you should re-read all your postings in opposition to completion of metrication, because that does not seem quite normal behaviour to me.

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Stimpy

@wavechange

Your reasoning makes sense – it’s not something I’ve thought of before. I was imagining someone putting petrol in their car and filling it to the drop of a rounded litre.

Sorry if my use of ‘odd’ offended you – it was not my intention, it was more a throwaway remark for the circumstances.

You ask me to re-read my posts under the same ‘oddnicity’ (I just made a new word).Although my personal view is that I prefer imperial but use both depending on application. I cannot work in fractions of an inch except half and quarter; I use celsius when it gets cold and Fahrenheit when summer finally arrives (I believe the UK is the only place where such behaviour occurs).

In truth I’m more fascinated in the argument than in the detail. Essentially it’s about what numbers people use when they describe tallness, short distance, long distance, volume, etc etc. For whatever reason the subject matter can get as heated as a real hot topic like abortion or rape. I also recognise that only few people really like to argue about the subject. The majority doesn’t even know people debate this so passionately sometimes.

This is why I like this particular debate.

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wavechange

Stimpy

Thanks to various contributors (mainly David Ramsay in the previous Conversation, Peter Hargreaves and yourself), I have switched to using metric measures in conversation with older people, and this is working very well. Previously I had used imperial measures when talking to people of my age (I’m 61) or older, who have not had the benefit of learning the metric system at school. I will use metric measures when I revise an instruction booklet that is mainly used by retired people in a charity that I work for, and I have already updated the charity’s website to make these changes.

It’s great to find how well older people cope with the metric system. Your efforts to promote the imperial system are merely helping to remind me not to use it. If anyone struggles, I can use my experience of teaching to help get them on the right track.

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John Ward

I try to use metric values so far as possible. I’m doing a lot of DIY jobs at the moment and I thought everything would be in metric measurements. The actuality is entirely irrational. Timber seems to either be metricated to the absurd millimetre or sold as [say] 2″x1″ in curious lengths approximating to feet. Boxed woodscrews stick to inches for length. Try buying a garden shed – they are categorised in Imperial dimensions that are not even close to their actual sizes in some instances. I think this is all probably because retailers fear that the population just will not adapt, but if they started to use sensible and modular metric units life would be so much simpler and comprehensible with the relationship between sizes, weights and volumes more obvious. I also get tired of the assumption that anyone over fifty is totally incapable of coping with modern technology, new ideas and people from abroad, and any changes to the traditional “British” way of life [I shall resist the temptation to read anything into recent election results]. My view is that if I can manage it then practically anyone can.

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Stimpy

John Ward, your post wandered into scientific approaches at one point (ie relationships between different metric units. All quite interesting but not very important when buying a shed. Can’t you see that shed sizes are mentioned in ft/in because people can relate it to body sizes. Without guessing you’d know exactly how useful a 6 ft tall 4 ft depth shed when comparing to a shed that’s 4ft tall and 6ft deep. Attempt it in millimetres.

Ok. Here’s a practical example of me trying to / wanting to try to / use metric some time ago. I wanted to put a cat flap in the back door (please don’t look for any euphemisms!). Initially I tried using the mm to gauge where to cut and how far etc. At this point I must say I am not good at numbers or people’s names! I still don’t know my wife’s mobile nr. So I tried to keep sets of 3 figure sizes, all different, in my head. I genuinely tried (please believe me!). Eventually I gave up and used the imperial instructions on the reverse of the form. 5 by 8 was the main figures I think. Anyway- imperial worked for me better on that occasion. But that’s the beauty of being in (what about 6 people call ‘mess’) a mixed unit democracy(-ish). I can still almost always choose.

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John Ward

Stimpy – Thanks for that response.

I suppose I am hoping for common sense and consistency across related categories, whether it’s cat flaps or flat caps, not the confusion that prevails at the moment where it depends which chain retailer you are in whether you have to switch on the requisite conversion formula in your brain. A local hardware store sells 50mm nails by the pound; given a choice I would buy fifty.

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wavechange

John – I thought it was illegal to trade in imperial units, so I wonder if your nails were marked in price per 454 g.

I always buy metric screws – which are readily available – and unlike nails, you can change your mind. :-)

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Stimpy

Go for self tapping – as you screw (ahem) you’d be going – mm – inches – mm – inches – mm – inches – LOL

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Stimpy

Well – you are the first person I know of that fills the car up in exact quantities rather than ‘to full’ or an amount in £

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Stimpy

@PeterH – cheers for that post.
I want to add to your point if I may?
I know about the policy stuff.There are 2 systems in the UK. Metric & Imperial. I thank all the pro-mets here for not doing the ‘which imperial’ stuff. That’s silly. But back to those points. First biggy WJG – PLEASE realise that this is NOT divisive. It’s only ever ‘hot’ for measurement loons like ourselves. Right now – if you ask what’s wrong with Britain I will guarantee you that only a tiny minority or none will mention miles and stuff. It does not harm our domestic interests. International trade might be impacted – from 50-inch TVs to Kilos of Cocaine :-) but in the scheme of things people really don’t care – enough to ‘not noticeable’ (except ‘odd’ usage to make a point). There is a confusion over force and choice. People are forced to use litres of petrol – that does not mean they prefer it. In fact we still only use mpg, not mpl – think about that – forced to have litres of petrol yet choose to stick with mpg. The HUGE MAIN thing, of course, is casual usage. No-one says “I am going to buy two hundred and fifty grammes of butter” – the product is (forced) metric but people would just say “get some butter”. Ok – go to the deli and you can use anything – even “two inches of salami please” !! Can’t comment on the ‘gallon preference usage when it was at the pumps’ – I was too young. I hold my breath and go for the ‘clunk’ after which I look at the £ and I internally rage about how they get away with it – a full tank is a designer jacket, if you get my drift.
Back to usage..There are some odd figures that come up – like the biggest ‘supporters’ of imperial are those in the 20-to-30y/o band. The moaners are 50+ y/o. I wonder if younger people base their preferences on dislike of the EU (who are involved in certain things).
Being a natural libertarian I tend to believe in choice EXCEPT on two things. Medication in metric and roads in imperial. Both on safety grounds (although medication should be VERY carefully labeled in milligrammes only – microgrammes causes confuse and misplaced decimal points could be fatal)

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wavechange

Stimpy wrote: (although medication should be VERY carefully labeled in milligrammes only – microgrammes causes confuse and misplaced decimal points could be fatal)

Sorry, but this is another example of where you are completely wrong. I am an asthmatic and I use three common inhalers: salbutamol (100 microgram per dose), salmeterol (25 microgram) and beclometasone (100 micrograms). That is 0.1, 0.025 and 0.1 milligrams, respectively. As you say, decimal points could cause confusion – which is why the units are micrograms.

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Stimpy

You say I am completely wrong and then drift to the middle ground. What was I wrong about? Can observations be wrong? To who?

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wavechange

I don’t think I can explain myself more clearly. Incidentally, microgram is abbreviated as mcg rather than the official symbol (containing the Greek letter mu) in recording drug doses. As you say, mistakes could be fatal.

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Stimpy

@wavechange – the micro symbol to which you refer is quite abstract – I don’t even know how to ‘compose’ it on my Mac. The trouble with ‘mcg’ is that it’s not strictly SI, not even tolerated. Correct me if I’m wrong but ‘c’ is the symbol for candela? calorie? Anyway- it is not metric. But you – being a reasonable chap – would say that it’s ‘loosely correct and tolerable to use mcg as a rule bender.’.
More importantly – I’m sorry to hear of your health issue and I hope the drugs allow you to keep it in remission enough to enjoy life as normal as possible.

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wavechange

Stimpy

To produce the Greek letter mu in Microsoft Word 2011 for Mac, hold down Alt and press m , or choose Insert > Symbol and find mu.

The SI symbol for candela is cd.

Just look up microgram in Wikipedia and you will see that mcg is an acceptable abbreviation, though not the SI abbreviation. As a scientist, I have never once used mcg, but if it can avoid giving someone a drug overdose, that makes sense. The British National Formulary (a list of drugs and doses available for prescription that is on every GPs desk) advises that ‘micrograms’ is written in full on prescription forms.

Using mcg is not the only example of use of an alternative to the SI unit. When writing papers and reports, scientists often use L instead of l for litres because the lower case version looks like the number one in many fonts.

It’s best to use kJ instead of calories since in the context of food, calorie generally refers to 1000 calories or 1 kcal. Moving to kJ is one area where we are actually making some progress.

If you had chosen science subject at school, I think you would have seen the benefits of getting rid of the imperial system.

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Stimpy

wavechange – I take on what you say with some interest and I would definitely spell out the whole word to be on the safe side.

I did science at school and naturally I expected and got metric stuff. They’re just numbers,

I see no benefit whatsoever in ‘getting rid’ of imperial units. Like it or not imperial is preferred over metric when out of the science block or not being forced. Even GP/doctors would revert to stones, feet, etc when shovelling the money into their boots. It’s the UK. it’s how people talk about how long things are or what stuff weighs. It was a non issue before brussels wrestled grey John Major into signing even more sovereignty away. Cymraeg (Welsh) is a language used by many people in the UK/Wales. Why don’t we “get rid” of that while we’re at it.

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Seares

What a load of codswallop!
” It’s the UK. it’s how people talk about how long things are or what stuff weighs. It was a non issue before brussels wrestled grey John Major into signing even more sovereignty away.”
Well, I’m 82 now, and it’s 150 years since the Select Committee in Queen Victoria’s reign recommended metrication. Do I have to wait another 150 years for a sensible measuring system? As she might well have said “We are not amused”

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Stimpy

@Sears

Do you know what ‘Codswallop’ is? It’s not a criticism – it’s a real question. ‘Spose a quick look on Wikipedia will tell me.

Anyhow – you seems to poo-poo my quote and then go on to subliminally agree with it by stating whether you’d have to live another….etc etc

Totally different angle for the moment – It’s nice to see a 80+ year old without technophobia and using the web. You have become the oldest person I know that does this.

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Seares

Of course I know what codswallop is, and up with it I will not put. It’s the use of old nonsensical measures as if our very cultural identity depends on them. I used to make commercial documentary films and showing one made in Syria in 1963 to the Geographical Association recently I had to admit to my shame that the distances, temperatures and weights were in those parochial imperial measurements. It really seemed very odd and to my mind made the film now seem very amateurish. Slight saving grace- the film had foreign language versions using universal metric measures. Gott sei Dank! (OK, I may be 82, but what’s that got to do with use of the metric system? Just used it to show how slowly grind the wheels of reform in this country)

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swanseasteve

@Stimpy
“Like it or not imperial is preferred over metric”

Oh, rubbish! It’s nothing to do with preference, it’s to do with familiarity. Loads of under-30s habitually use imperial measurements for things because their parents did that and because they get bombarded with imperial measures with every news bulletin on Radio 1, or any time a Radio 1 DJ mentions anything involving measurement. If you look at some rare aspect of life where the BBC *has* metricated (like with temperatures on weather forecasts for instance) you find the entire population has happily switched to using those same units with no fuss and no bother. When did you last hear anyone refer to the temperature in Fahrenheit?

We, the pro-metric brigade, are merely fed up that our youth can visibly be seen throwing away the expensive education that *we* paid for, making themselves less employable on the international stage because they feel they have to conform with Radio 1, their own parents and their peer group (all of whom suffer the same problem). Thay could gang up and go “stuff this, we’re 21st century kids – enough with the granny units”. But that takes organisation, and no-one’s providing it.

” It was a non issue before brussels wrestled grey John Major into signing even more sovereignty away.”

Oh, come on! Don’t try and blame it on the bloody E.U. Thay’ve got nothing to do with metric. It’s a world system. Sure the other countries of the E.U. use metric exclusively, but that’s just because they consider themselves “part of the world”.

As should we.

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Stimpy

@sears..
I had to look up cods wallop on Wiktionary and I’m still not sure!
The use of ‘old nonsensible measures’ *IS* part of our culture. And I’m not just referring to the pint of beer or milk. The measurements are interweaved into conversation in an ‘official’ way and in a colloquial way. It’s just the way it is. It’s like foreign pop-groups use English despite being Norwegian or Italian and using ‘miles’ in their lyrics. Even THINKING about using km in a song seems clinical. If ‘foreigners’ use our measurement units then WE should at least teach our kids what it all means. They’re going to learn it in ‘life’ anyway (and please don’t do the ‘ask them how many yards in a mile’ thing – when would such a conversation come up?). I was schooled in the Thatcher years (Thatcher’s babies) and – ironically – imperial was dropped from the curriculum. We still knew it though. Peer pressure and family. Tony Blair’s govt brought it back in. Wow – Tony Blair and good thing in the same sentence.

That film you were talking about – ever known where ‘footage’ comes from? :-)

Please don’t take my remark about age as being noteworthy to the topic – nor was it a form of abuse. I was encouraged and delighted to see Macs (and PC’s) being used by – erm – the more senior in society and I actively encourage it. Unfortunately my Nan has only recently got to grips with a landline phone. We can forget internet! Thus – please see my remark as a remark of (non-patronising) respect.

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Stimpy

Familiarity = choice = preference. Metric is there to be used, sometimes even forced.
See it like Welsh (I’m Welsh btw). In West and North West Wales people of all ages choose to talk in Welsh. They have the choice of English as that is in the curriculum (as is Welsh) however they could converse in English because EVERYONE knows English. Why do they do that? To p*ss off English people ‘entering the shop’? Nope – very few people use nationalism within a dull subject that hardly anyone can be bothered with (eg – the turnout of having a Welsh assembly). They do it because Welsh is very melodic and consistent and, if you can speak it, feels more poetic than ‘standard English’. Embarrassingly cymro ydw i but my grammar lets me down.

“If you look at some rare aspect of life where the BBC *has* metricated (like with temperatures on weather forecasts for instance) ”

Don’t you notice the emphasis on Fahrenheit by some forecasters if it’s going to be warm – granted it’s usually like ‘mid eighties’. I do hear from people returning from hols mentioning it being OTT and in the high 90′s. Come winter and I totally agree – 32 F is rare to hear – although Sian Lloyd does mention ‘F’ regardless of year position. I believe it is up to the forecaster if he/she wants to include it (except LBC who force the use of C-only).

“they feel they have to conform with Radio 1, their own parents and their peer group (all of whom suffer the same problem). Thay could gang up and go “stuff this, we’re 21st century kids – enough with the granny units”. But that takes organisation, and no-one’s providing it.”

You talk of conformity and problems – do people REALLY think like that? Ok – I agree that enforced ‘conformity’ exists (no prize for which ‘side’). What do you suggest then? Ban Radio 1? Fine them for using words not allowed by the state? How about the parents – do they get put on a training course or risk the local authorities stepping in regarding family matters? Do you police peer groups? I would hate to live in that country. I really cannot see kids ‘ganging up’ and saying ‘stuff this we’re gonna use different terms and an alternative decimal based cool thang!’ You can see the reason why no-one’s agreeing with it because nature and nurture overtake enforcement.

“Oh, come on! Don’t try and blame it on the bloody E.U.”
Major signed Maastricht – that’s where the ‘come down heavy on the market stalls who speak British’. Funnily enough I do not believe the topic was included in any manifesto.

And we all know the ‘UKIP-factor’ (lets not branch down that route!)

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Stimpy

@AlexB

@stimpy imperial is not around purely because it is “popular”, it is still around because businesses are allowed to continue using it.

“Businesses are allowed” LOL – how gracious – can we have some more sir? :-)

Interesting thought – Canadian roads – metric signs – did the specific govt put that in their manifesto?

You say “When we switched to decimal currency we retained some of the old coinage and some of the older generation at the time also retained some of the old language”

Erm – that’s news for me. I was too young to notice but I don’t know of keeping old money. I don’t buy the money/metric thing (excuse the pun)

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wavechange

Just look at Wikipedia and you can discover which of the old coins remained valid after decimalization, on 15 February 1971.

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swanseasteve

@Stimpy

‘“Businesses are allowed” LOL – how gracious – can we have some more sir? :-)

Stimpy, obviously you and I weren’t around at the time, but when Imperial was the dominant system throughout most of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, it was *enforced*. There were stiff fines for failing to sell in approved Imperial amounts, there were fines for using non-officially calibrated scales. That’s what trading standards officers were there for – they raided businesses on a random basis checking up on these sorts of things. If you wanted to sell potatoes by the bushel after 1826 you were likely to end up with a fine or in jail.

These days, trading standards officials seem to have been told to forget about enforcing metric as a system, an therefore we see all the persistent nonsense of two systems running side-by-side, messing up our children and making Romanian immigrants’ children a better employment bet than local kids for certain jobs. This isn’t what I pay my taxes for!

If you “choose” to celebrate Bastille day by driving on the right hand side of the road, I suspect you won’t get far before you have a mighty accident, and (assuming you survive) will be arrested and thrown in the clink. People don’t (and mustn’t) have the freedom to choose which side of the road they drive on – but I bet I don’t hear you complain about that. You shouldn’t have the freedom (as a shop owner) to sell things in anything other than the approved measurement system of the day.

From 1826 – 1965 that was Imperial.
From 1965 – present that should have been metric.

And if it had been done like that no-one would have batted an eyelid, and we wouldn’t be having this discussion now!

As an aside: James May’s Man Lab (Series 3) featured an article in which the hapless Rory got to run a Whelk Stall. He had a poster on his stall advertising “3oz whelks – £4″.

Illegal!!

He got raided by the street market’s Trading Standards man who *ignored* that, but had noticed that the hapless Rory wasn’t displaying a Food Safety and Hygine certificate. So Rory had to close his stall for half a day and get such a certificate. When he resumed that afternoon, he continued trying to sell by the illegal 3oz and no-one stopped him. If he’d tried the equivalent in 1826 (i.e selling in Queen Anne units, not imperial) he would have copped it.

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Stimpy

@swansealove
You miss my point – and that is forcing change when no-one (internally) asked for it. I say ‘no-one’ based on severe probability figures.

Also – don’t you find it good that TSO’s are ticking people off on hygiene rather than arriving with police to take scales away? I’m more than happy for them to put health before little numbers.

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jraf

A great example of Imperial and metric living harmony.
We were abroad visiting our Grandson and my wife could not believe how tall he had grown since she last saw him and asked if someone would measure him to acertain what height he was. So with the aid of an Ikea metric tape the task was carried out. ‘He is one centimetre short of three foot!! came the reply. Priceless.

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cvs

From Wikepedia:
In the metric system, a microgram (µg or mcg) is a unit of mass equal to one millionth (1/1,000,000) of a gram (1 × 10−6), or 1/1000 of a milligram. It is one of the smallest units of mass (or weight) used in a macroscopic context. The symbol “µg” (mu-g) conforms to the International System of Units and is often used in scientific literature, but the United States-based JCAHO recommends that hospitals do not use this symbol in handwritten orders due to the risk that the symbol µ might be misread as the prefix m, resulting in a thousandfold overdose. The abbreviation mcg is recommended instead

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Seares

You think we’re in a mess?
Try this from India: (just for amusement- this was 1962; might be- hope it is- metricated by now)

FRESH MILK RIKOTTA
As from today M.M.U. fresh milk rikotta will be sold at the summer price of 3s. 6d. per rotolo. Wholesalers collecting rikotta from the Milk Marketing Undertaking are allowed a commission of lOd. per rotolo; while on rikotta delivered to the wholesaler the commission is 8d. per rotolo. The tare allowed is one fourth of a rotolo per basket.”

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Stimpy

The two best known systems of measure are Imperial and metric and assumptions are usually made – however you have drifted into localised measures used by other countries that are neither of the two. Good luck to them.
I believe that in Sweden a mile is 10km (I think it’s Sweden). That’s one hell of a mile but there you go.
I think it was malaysia or south Korea that recently decided to push for full metrication. How? You got it! By force! “Metrication is so popular it has to be forced on people”. I think there were v.large fines for using local measures (remind you of anyone?). I suspect that North Korea will be steadfastly metric!
Anyway – mines 1 rotolo of Magners, if you’re asking…..

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Peter Hargreaves

Author: Peter Hargreaves
Comment: John Ward

“I try to use metric values so far as possible. I’m doing a lot of DIY jobs at the moment and I thought everything would be in metric measurements. The actuality is entirely irrational. Timber seems to either be metricated to the absurd millimetre or sold as [say] 2″x1″ in curious lengths approximating to feet. Boxed woodscrews stick to inches for length. Try buying a garden shed – they are categorised in Imperial dimensions that are not even close to their actual sizes in some instances. I think this is all probably because retailers fear that the population just will not adapt”.

In answer to your question many retailers have tried to go along the completely metric route. But many in the trade and the general public are opposed. The reasons are quite simple; in a number of cases the imperial measurements are easier to follow. What you also have to remember is that in some cases there really is no satisfactory metric alternative. Large “Do it yourself” stores who often employ older people because of their maturity and knowledge, will naturally be familiar with the imperial system. But talk to many youngsters who have just left school and they actually prefer dealing in imperial when talking to customers about certain products. Items such as woodscrews, paints brushes, abrasive papers (density of grit per inch), and saw teeth per inch, to name a few.

Let me give you four examples of why people prefer imperial and sometimes a mixture of both.

Example One

Imperial size paint brushes 1” 2” 3” 4”
Metric size paint brushes 25mm 50mm 75mm 100mm
Most people will quote imperial because quite simply it is easier to say.

Example Two

Hanging a fire door: I will pull out my tape measure to 78 inches for the height by 30 inches for the width to 1½ inches for the thickness. It is easier locate on the tape measure, the clearer markings of the imperial measurement and I know that this door is a standard size based on imperial measurements. But when I router the intumescent strip around the edge I will use my metric size router bits.

Example Three

Fencing: My fence is 5 ft high and I order 4 by 4 inch fence posts. Most fencing companies prefer to use imperial with fewer numbers involved. As untreated timber is a variable substrate why would you need the accuracy of the millimetre? It is quite simply over the top with too many numbers involved when making calculations.

Example Four

Cabinet Making: When I design and make a chest of draws I will generally use metric. You are working with hard woods and you need that level of accuracy with draws and dovetail joints. But if I want to buy a chest of draws for my house, I will pull out my tape measure and measure the height, depth and width using inches, because again it is quicker to locate on the ruler. I don’t need absolute accuracy just an approximation. Most of my own engineering tools are metric, but most of my carpentry tools are imperial.
This is how a large proportion of the population works. Yes of course engineers and scientists would disagree and would fail to see the logic with the imperial system as they live in a logical world. But what you have to respect is how other trades and people work. For a quick assessment, an approximation of your own immediate dimensions, the imperial is the preferred option.

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Stimpy

Nice post. I recently saw the absurdity of forcing metric. There was a car park (you can check it out – it’s the Swan in High Wycombe) which shows height clearance in feet and then in millimetres right down to the unrounded millimetre). I have no doubt the comedy is common.

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Alex B

Nice post indeed… but in my mind you actually pointed out what much of the problem is. I have a tape measure, rulers and bathroom scales that ONLY measure in metric, they were purchased in France and there was no imperial option on any of then. What this means is that when I measure something there are no imperial measures to get in the way or cause any confusion.

In example 1 you quote the size of paint brushes… I find no problems with 25, 50, 75 and 100 mm sized, in fact if they didn’t show the ” on the other side of any of the brands nobody would know there was a problem. In fact I would use screw lengths as a better example… it’s easy to know that 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50 mm are increasing in size but what about 1″, 1 1/8″, 1 1/4″ 1 3/8″, 1 1/2″, 1 5/8″… looks complicated to me.

Example 2 you’re hanging a fire door… my tape measure has no inches so it is easy to see both cm and mm markings. What precision do we need? 0.5 or 1 cm precision?

Example 3 is the same… I’m sure your 5 foot high fence isn’t exactly 5 foot in the same way as my 1.8 metre high fence is not exactly 1.8 metres… if I measure something like that at 1854 mm I’m just going to write 1.8 metres, you don’t need any better precision than that for a fence any more than you need to know it’s 5 foot 3/8 inch.

Example 4 is no different. You choose the level of precision you need depending on the job you’re doing. If you need to machine parts to they fit snugly then you use mm… even if it’s something big like a window you may need to do this but if you’re going to drive a car through a hole in a wall then rounded to the nearest .1 metres will be sufficient, the only reason why people insist on writing 1800 mm is because there seems to be an obsession with some Brits with equating metric with absolute precision when this is not actually the case. Yes, metric is ideal when precision is preferred because of the millimetre and the fact that fractions are not used but that doesn’t mean you have to use it in every case.

After all, my bathroom scales say I weigh 79 kg, I’m not interested in knowing it to the nearest .1 kg in the same way as I’m happy to say I’m 1.8 metres tall, measuring myself to the nearest mm isn’t important. On the other hand that few mm might make the difference between that new pane of glass fitting or not, I’m not going to mess about with x/y of an inch because I’m just going to get confused!

As has been said elsewhere, remove the constant references to imperial measures in media and people would soon stop using them… this would not change our culture and theatre fans could still have their pound of flesh.

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wavechange

Alex – Every tape measure I own has the imperial scale at the top, which is very annoying. It is fairly easy to buy steel rules that are metric-only or the metric and imperial scales are on opposite sides. It should not be necessary to go to France or order a tape measure online.

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Alex B

Which is precisely why I wanted a metric-only tape measure, on one trip to France there was an opportunity to get one so I took it and haven’t regretted it.

I have noted that occasionally the budget tape measures sold by the supermarkets are metric only but you just cannot get anything more heavy duty in DIY stores… I know, I’ve asked. Obtaining metric-only kitchen implements is just as hard, if not harder. The “pint” and “fl oz” markings on measuring jugs get in the way much more than inches on tape measures!

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wavechange

I use digital scales to measure the weight of liquid ingredients when cooking, and assume that 1 gram is equivalent to 1 ml. It can save time and cut down on washing-up.

It’s a long time since I last looked at tape measures, so I will have a look in B&Q this afternoon.

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John Ward

Thank you, Peter, for your extensive response to my previous post [06/05/13 @ 11:09]. I can see what you’re saying but I tend to side with Alex on this one. It is curious that you mention “large DIY stores who often employ older people”, because I was thinking about B&Q when I wrote about dimensions to “the absurd millimetre”; they have metricated in a quite unhelpful fashion and I think this is the root of the problem in the UK. In the absence of determination to use either one system or the other universally it has become a free-for-all with common sense going out of the window.

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swanseasteve

@wavechange
I can save you some bother in B&Q. All their measures are imperial on the top and metric underneath. I’ve complained to them about that before. What’s the point in selling 5 different brands of tape measure that are all effectively the same thing??

It would be more sensible if some measures were metric on top, imperial underneath. And if some were metric-only.

I managed to buy a nice 5m metric-only tape in Tesco’s of all places, and it’s my tape of choice when doing anything. You can read it starting from the left or starting fron the right, those pesky inch things don’t get in the way either way!

I would expect that Aldi and Lidl are good places to look for metric-only tapes, but your best online bet for buying them is Amazon. I found several on offer there – Stanley “Fat Max” amongst the brands I recall.

I bought a 50m metric-only surveyors’ tape in Lidl once, BTW.

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wavechange

I forgot about the tape measures when I went to B&Q. I visit Lidl for their cheap hardware, so will keep my eyes open and also look in Tesco. Thanks for the tip.

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Stimpy

Sorry to nip into another chat – although thats what forums are for.
You seem to be coming to the middle a bit and in many cases state that either imperial or metric is fine and the super-accuracy is the big issue. That and fractionalised inches – which I don’t like too (except the easy fractions!)
Your french measure – have you noticed that the UK tapes show imperial as the prominent measure – ie on the most convenient side?

Paint brushes — Prior to entering the store I will have a picture in my mind of which paint brush to get. I can ‘see’ 2 inches, 6 inches etc. Give me mm and I’ll either wait and see the visable side or do some divisions.

Doors – correct me if I’m wrong but the professionals know that a standard door height is 72 (?) inches high and also inch depth. I actually don’t like ‘big inches’ because you may as well use metric. Imperial allows sub sizes – so 6 foot 4 in. gives me a mind image better than XX inches.

“After all, my bathroom scales say I weigh 79 kg”
I will put a tenner on the fact that over 90% of Brits will focus on the st/lb (or switched the digital ones accordingly). This includes Mr Farage’s figures ;-)

“As has been said elsewhere, remove the constant references to imperial measures in media and people would soon stop using them”

I strongly disagree. Sometimes the media ‘pretends’ we are all happy with metric and uses it to the detriment of the viewer/listener. Casual conversation might be almost entirely imperial though (but you can’t force people to stop…..err….can you?)

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Stimpy

@wavechange – ebay is the way!!!

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Stimpy

@John Ward – ’tis funny because I find the teen to 40 staff go with imperial default and middle-age-plus are the ‘metricons’ as it were. Maybe it’s regional.

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Stimpy

@wc

Be honest – if you entered Lidl or Aldi would you wear a disguise?

[humour]

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w j g

Stanley do make metric only metal (builders) retractible tape measures, but they are hard to find in the UK but are common in Australia and NZ. The following are Stanley part numbers

33-732 Stanley Fat Max 8m (has both millimetre markings and millimetre numbering)
33-966 Stanley Max 8m (same as above)
30-528 Stanley Leverlock 8m (same as above) this is the one I have and I find the magnetic leverlock very handly.

The tape measures above are 8 m but they also make the 5 m as above but I dont have the part numbers for them.

I hope this helps anyone wanting to purchase metric only builders tapes.

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wavechange

Peter and Stimpy

I invite you both to join some of the other discussions on Which? Conversation.

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dieseltaylor

!!!!

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Stimpy

I might well do that

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Malcolm R

Where most posts are right is that metric is the system we should use “professionally”. As far as my experience goes, industry and commerce have used it from many years ago, so I see nothing that holds us back as a trading nation.
As far as education goes, an understanding of older things – whether historic or more recent – has some merit providing the core subjects are properly taught (I wish we could just decide how to teach subjects and not keep changing methods). While we still use miles and pints then there needs to be knowledge of imperial.
But it is my choice how I choose to use measurements in my personal life. Others can make their choice, but not impose on anyone what they should and should not do – thankfully. As it happens, as an engineer I worked in metric, of course, and still do largely. However there are times when I revert to imperial – probably because I still visualise some things better in feet and inches. Buying curtains recently, 72 inch drop was slightly easier for me to visualise than 1820mm – only just. In metric I still prefer mm to cm – which is generally the correct measure anyway.

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wavechange

Malcolm – Having worked in teaching at university level, I would like to defend change in teaching methods, but I certainly do not support change for the sake of it. I could give plenty of examples, but that would not be relevant here. Anyone who has brought up children will know that a lot has changed since they were children themselves.

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Malcolm R

I’m not against change, but I would like to see stability – in both methods and in examinations. Brought up in an era of O, AS and A level and meaningful degrees, I wonder what was really wrong with them – except perhaps not letting under-achievers through. There were other qualifications available, ONC, HNC, apprenticeships and vocational for those more talented in trade skills for example.
My children were brought up in the post-imperial era, have become very imaginative engineers, and we communicate effectively!

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wavechange

Malcolm

There are many valid reasons for change in education. The ability to carry around information has been debased thanks to computers and the Internet. Our parents’ generation did more learning by rote than we did, so this change had started long before computers. Kids of today are surrounded by a vast amount of information and it’s important that they develop critical thinking skills to help evaluate the quality of what they read. It is so much easier to copy information that children have to learn what is acceptable at an earlier age.

Many people of our generation can do mental arithmetic and although I still feel that this is worthwhile learning, it is a bit of a lost cause. The introduction of the pocket calculator was probably the main reason for this change.

I could not agree more about the decline in degree standards, and that is the fault of successive governments pushing large numbers of school-leavers straight into higher education, often irrespective of their motivation and ability. Coping with weaker students often means that the better ones are not challenged and it is difficult for them to reach their full potential. Having said that, education at all levels has moved on to help people who would not have succeeded in our day. It is wonderful what people with dyslexia and other fairly common problems can achieve if their condition is recognised and some thought is give to teaching and assessment methods. Towards the end of my teaching career I specialised in modules with class sizes of around 250, making extensive use of learning support delivered online, peer support and interesting practicals to help engage with the students. It’s a lot more challenging than having classes of 30, which I experienced when I did my degree. I see no need for revolution, but plenty of reason for evolution.

Despite all the changes, understanding how to use units and remembering some conversions is an example of where Victorian teaching methods still have a place in education.

I agree about the apprenticeships and vocational skills too. I really don’t trust government (any government) to look after education.

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cvs

@Malcolm R
Re your comment “While we still use miles and pints then there needs to be knowledge of imperial”
Isn’t the simple answer to this to stop using miles and pints rather than letting the tail wag the dog?

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Stimpy

“But it is my choice how I choose to use measurements in my personal life. Others can make their choice, but not impose on anyone what they should and should not do – thankfully.”

Hear hear!

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Stimpy

@Malcolm – Are they STILL allowing calculators into maths exams?

Why not go the whole hog and let kids use Wikipedia in their history exams, “writes Mr Angry from Kent” (I had to add that last bit to prevent me looking like a Daily Mail worshipper).

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Stimpy

@CVS – -you can see from other posters that ‘miles and pints’ is very abbreviated from ‘imperial generally’ although I do get your ultimate point.

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Malcolm R

CVS – I didn’t state that “simple” solution; but certainly if that is what everyone wants, then you are not wrong. My point was that while we have these units in use they need to be understood.

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Malcolm R

Stimpy, no idea about calculators, but I see no problem in using them – in my day it was a slide rule (but not for maths). If you were testing arithmetic (still taught?) then no calculators is my vote. We should still encourage mental arithmetic, so when you are shopping or comparing deals you can work out the answer without having to dig out your mobile phone. A number of Conversations show how a lack of numeracy is a real hindrance to making everyday choices.

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Stimpy

@MalcolmR
Rising A-level scores, etc. Could technology have something to do with it? Rhetorical (!)

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Malcolm R

Rising A level scores is down to reduced standards. What’s the point in that?

Good to see people are still happy to discuss this. I was reminded of the debate this weekend when looking for a bookcase, where different suppliers put sizes in feet, some in inches, others mm or cm, which made top of the head comparisons a bit tricky.

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wavechange

I’m sure we would all be grateful for further information about the governments plans to reintroduce teaching of imperial units in schools. I have not seen anything recent, apart from what has been posted here.

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swanseasteve

Yeah – considering that that was supposed to be the whole point of this conversation in the first place!!

I’ve seen nothing mentioned since January. Maybe Gove got a backroom kicking from his own party for being a prat, and has brushed the whole thing under the carpet? He got another kicking from the Teachers’ unions subsequently, but that was all about different issues.

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Stimpy

@Author – and – of course – books come in all shapes and sizes! The conformity and uniformity brigade have forgot that one. Shhh. Keep quiet!

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Stimpy

@Abertawe-Carriad
With Mr Farage’s popularity Mr Gove may be considering Roman units!

I have had a look – Google is wonderful for letting you filter by time, location and words – but there’s not been a squeak that’s been published on the web about imperial units in schools since January.

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Stimpy

@Jonathon.
Those kids got rescued in the U.S. for over 10 years captive. The Queen opens parliament. Somalia is kicking off. Half a family got killed in Cornwall. UKIP blasts the polls (not poles). Maggie died, Charles is taking some jobs from his mum.

How does measuring things slip in. It would be a ‘low news’ day.

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wavechange

I phoned Arnold Laver to get a quotation for non-slip phenolic plywood. I’m familiar with plywood being sold in the metric equivalent of 8 foot x 4 foot sheets, but this is 2500 x 1220 mm – or 2.5 metres x 4 foot. Very strange.

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w j g

@wavechange
Plywood sold as 2500 mm x 1220 mm is a bit strange. The width of 1220 mm is the equivalent of 4 foot which is the standard for the old Imperial 16 inch wall stud centre to centre spacing. ( 3x16inch=48inch or 4 feet). The old Imperial standard wall height was 8 foot ( 2440 mm ) and if the plywood was 2440 mm x 1220 mm (4 x 8 ) it could be mounted either vertical or horizontal becasue the length when mounted horrizontaly also matchs the 16 inch c/c stud spacing ( 6x 16inch=96inch or 8 feet) So if you are going to use it as wallboard it will need to be cut to 2440 mm (8 feet) for wall height or to match stud spacing.

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wavechange

Thanks. I appreciate the reason why we are still using old sizes for plywood, though I have never been involved in building work. This is intended for use as flooring that will be non-slip, even when wet. It’s called HeksaPly and is classed as a phenolic plywood. I was amused by the strange size.

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Malcolm R

While most panels are 2440/3050×1220, their are some Euro panels that seem equally curious: 2550×1250 and 3050 (= 10ft!) x 1250.

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Peter Hargreaves

Author: Peter Hargreaves
Comment: wavechange
Peter and Stimpy
I invite you both to join some of the other discussions on Which? Conversation.

I welcome any debate, but what I will stress as I have mentioned before, is that while I support the metric system, I am also trying to highlight the fact that a large proportion of the population prefer to use imperial measurements for certain applications. What I do not want to get involved in is a slanging match with words crap, rubbish and bloody used when comparing one system to another. I am also patriotic and resent statements such as:

“The imperial system is one of the most anoying things about living in the uk it is like a poltergeist on British socity .It makes the UK look arrogant and old fashioned and it is one on the main resons why Britian is hated arround the world .”

Keep the debate constructive and try to understand how others prefer to work. Perhaps we should also put spelling and grammar on the agenda as well!

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wavechange

It was not me that made the comment you have quoted, Peter, and I have not used the rude words you have referred to.

I’m patriotic too, and hate to see the country being held back because some don’t want to move on and complete metrication. We are both entitled to our views and I agree that there is no need for any slanging match. I am sorry if I have offended you with my invitation, but maybe Stimpy will be interested.

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Stimpy

@PeterH

Your point is spot on.

I notice that there is no bullying or insults or name calling going on here – and there is a subtle tone of humour now and again. That is great.

I have been on similar forums where (and I’m afraid to say) some pro-mets are completely hostile.

I’m not going to name names as that gets us no-where but here is 2 honest different people’s thoughts (ie 2 people)

1… That imperial (and USC) versus metric will soon become civil war and the invasion of Iraq was to put a stop to an idea that Saddam was going to price up oil in Euros and use litres as a measure. The US and UK could not allow this to happen so they invaded. Apparently we are very close to this spilling on to our streets and there WILL be a physical measurement war (physical being fisticuffs !)

2.. An individual who would not accept that milk in cartons were pints and multiple pints thereof. If you were in the know then you’d know that for legal considerations the volume is measured in metric figures too and shown to a ridiculous accuracy. He would argue (with highly offensive personal insults) that they were selling XXXX litres and that’s it. It was the worse case of pedantry I have ever seen! LOL

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Stimpy

@wavechange

I’m very happy with the tone of this topic!

It takes a lot to annoy me.

While Wales are the best rugby side in the world I shall remain happy.

Who said ‘all blacks’? C’mon!

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w j g

@stimpy

I’m glad that you are happy.
a bit off topic but..

Its nice to see that the Wales rugby team is the best in the world.

But a question for you

Where was the current Wales rugby team coach born?

a clue ..It wasnt in NZ.

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Cliff

Peter Hargreaves,
The reason that a large proportion of the population prefer to use imperial measurements for certain applications is because they are still not familiar with the alternative. Despite many years of metric education in schools the road signs outside the schools remain in imperial units. There’s little point in knowing a car’s fuel consumption in litres/100km or speeds in km/h when it’s illegal to show kilometres on sign posts.I would guess that there are many people in the UK that don’t even know that there are 1000 metres in a kilometre. The popular newspapers and commercial TV and radio rarely quote metric measurements and when they do it’s usually followed up with a conspiratorial …….” and that’s X (miles)(feet)(inches) in real money.” There is no incentive for anyone to change and the subliminal message from the establishment is to keep on resisting change. Of course people will go with the familiar rather than the unknown.
True patriots want what is best for their country. Being subservient to the past by clinging on to an outmoded form of measurement is not being patriotic. Refusing to change is not a virtue. It’s a weakness. A national SYSTEM of measurement (that also happens to be international) makes far more sense than a random collection of ancient measurements which is why the vast majority of countries in the world abandoned their own parochial weights and measures years ago. There is no point in clinging on to something purely because it’s old. An old bottle of Coca Cola is not a vintage bottle of Coca Cola, it’s just a soft drink that’s past it’s use-by date.
If some posters on this forum resort to mild profanities it’s probably out of frustration due to having to wait 50 years for the change that was promised but never delivered.

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Stimpy

Rugby coach. I have NOT pre-prepared myself for my answer. I thought he was Welsh but I cannot even remember his name. I love it when Neil Jenkins comes on whenever there’s a penalty to be kicked.

Realistically – we have to win against the all blacks IN NZ. I’d have a heart attack if I watched that game if it ever happened.

You forgot to mention – when France joined the 4 nations (aka home nations) the game switched to metric. Aren’t we pleasant (ahem). The commentators are still imperial – check the ‘per player’ stats.

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Stimpy

@cliff

“If some posters on this forum resort to mild profanities it’s probably out of frustration due to having to wait 50 years for the change that was promised but never delivered.”

It works both ways – those who are pro-imp feel they are under attack and some might use fighting talk. I’m a pro-imp (not referring to the mini-challenger!) but I try to ‘keep it real’.

I think.

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w j g

@Peter Hargreaves
With reference to the four examples in your post.

Example One

Imperial size paint brushes 1” 2” 3” 4”
Metric size paint brushes 25mm 50mm 75mm 100mm
Most people will quote imperial because quite simply it is easier to say.
I fully agree. There is no doubt that one syllable words, such as inch, foot, yard, and mile, are easier to say, than multiple syllable words such as millimetre, centimetre or kilometre. But why? Because unit names like inch, yard, foot, and mile, are unit names that standalone, whille unit names like millimetre, centimetre, and kilometre do not standalone.
For example.. compare inch to millimetre. The name “inch” stands alone. The name has no reference to the foot. Its not 1/12th of a foot (the measure is, but NOT the name) and for the same reason, it has no reference to the yard.
However the unit name millimetre, is actually two words.. milli (the prefix) meaning 1/1000 and the metre, the base unit for length/distance. It does not standalone. Its connected to the metre. Whereas the inch (in name only), has no connection to the foot or yard. By using prefixs, metric units are easier to understand and use, (one of the advantages of metric), but its also a disadvantge, because they will have at least two syllables, whereas Imperial units generally are only one syllable, and easier on the tongue than metric units.

Example Two

Two of the advantages of metric measures, are, 1) Being able to remove decimal fractions and use whole units, and 2) Being able to use one unit only.
If you are measuring a 6 foot 6 inch door, or 6.5 foot door, as 78 inchs, you are using Imperial measures, like metric measures are used. You are using the inch (one unit, not two, feet and inchs) You are also removing the fraction, 6.5 feet or 6 1/2 feet. This is a good way to use Imperial measures.
Also I think most people when doing DIY, would find it best to use Imperial measures, and Imperial only measuring tapes, instruments, etc, when woking on doors fixtures etc, that have been biult in Imperial measures, and using metric only tapes, etc, on buildings, doors etc that have been built using metric measures.
I agree, also that Imperial tape measures are easier to read, than metric tape measures. Lay them side by side and one will see a big difference. On the metric tape the 1,2,3,4 6,7,8,9 mm markings and their multiples of ten, are the same length, making it hard to read. On the Imperial tape, fractions of an inch have markings of different lengths, making it easier to read. Its one of the little hurdles that the tape manufactuers have made to turn people off metric. There are others.

Example Three

I agree, that one does not need the accuracy of the small millimetre when buiding a fence But also, one does not need the accuracy of the 1/16 inch, or the 1/8 inch either.
Metric does use larger numbers than Imperial. This is because metric uses one unit, and removes decimal fractions, by moving the decimal point, and therefore moving to smaller units. For example .. 10 feet 3 inchs and 3/8 inch (thats 2 units and a fraction), although it could be 123 inchs and 3/8 inch, is equal to 3140 mm, (one unit and no fraction). However, I would have to disagree with you, that allthough metric uses larger numbers, it is easier to use for calculations, because it uses one unit and no fraction. Especially when measureing for area, floor area for example.

Example Four

I will pull out my tape measure and measure the height, depth and width using inches, because again it is quicker to locate on the ruler.
As stated above, Imperial tape measures are easier to read, than metric tape measures. But I would also suggest, that you are more used to using the Imperial tape. I use a metric only tape (hybrid tapes are awkward to use) that has millimetres, because I’m used to it.
What measures one is used to, will almost always, be the measures one will use. Other measures are difficult to understand and use.

As a cabinet maker you may be interested in this link. Its from the US, but could equally apply in the UK.

http://www.cabinetdoors.com/blog/how-adopting-the-metric-system-has-dramatically-reduced-cutting-errors-in-manufacturing-at-cabinetdoor-com

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Stimpy

@wjg
Handy post there and you are right about simple word names. Note that songs that include measures use imperial (even ‘foreign’ ones). I can think of one that opposes that assumption – “Freestlyer (rock the microphone)” a (dutch?) dance band called Bomfunk MCs.:-

“Styles, steelos, we bring many kilos”

You may have an idea of wtf they’re talking about.

BTW – the kilo(gramme) is the metric/SI unit of mass – NOT the gramme! The ever decreasing kilo prototype sits in France somewhere.

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Peter Hargreaves

My comments wavechange were not directed at you, but I felt that the tone of some comments shows that people are really stressed out about using imperial measurements. I have never thought that people could get so passionate about numbers. I have pursued various different hobbies, sports and met many people from different backgrounds and professions. From engineers, craftsman, gardener’s and the hospitality trade to name a few. None of them are really bothered about which measurement they use, which is why I find the blinkered approach of the UK Metric Association hard to fathom (or should I use the word metre here). I prefer to highlight on this website the positive side of using both metric and imperial by giving examples. These are related from my own experience in working with various trades. The carpentry points I raised earlier are not just from my own handiwork, but also from speaking to carpenters and retailers.
Perhaps a better way to highlight the advantages of using two measurements would be to use the paper industry as a clearer example. Most people over forty will remember that foolscap folio paper was 8 by 13 inches. But I wonder how many will know what size an A4 sheet of paper is. If you do, then you can calculate the complete range of the A series of metric paper sizes. By folding the sheet in half or adding by two, you have got all your sizes from AO (one square metre) right down to A10. A wonderfully simple system with short easy to remember reference numbers and letters. This system is universally accepted as the standard worldwide, (except the United States) by the domestic home users and the print and publishing industries. I don’t think anyone will miss the complex structure and names of the old imperial system. However where the metric system wins on printed papers, it fails in the photographic paper industry. On this the imperial measurement system has the upper hand.

Look at the two following examples:

Imperial
6 x 4 7 x 5 8 x 6

Metric
152mm x 102mm 178mm x 127mm 203mm x 152mm

Even a class of five year olds will find the imperial system much easier here. Too many syllables to pronounce and too many figures. To add further to the problem of using metric, these sizes can sometimes be quoted in centremetres.
I have discussed this with professional photographers and retailers and they and their customers demand imperial. Even in Australia where they were supposed to have completed metrication in 1988, they still use imperial measurements for photographic prints and frames. Since when has this system held the photographic industry back? It is certainly not unneeded, unwanted, or backward. Good reasons, why you will find it hard to purchase a metric only tape measure or ruler. People actually want the choice. Incidentally corrugated box sizes are also generally referred to in imperial size for the very same reasons as stated above. Finally for those who have forgotten A4 size is 297mm by 210mm.

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wavechange

I am very familiar with the paper sizes you mention, Peter, having produced artwork at every size from A6 to A0. In fact I have offered to go in to the university where I used to work to help a former colleague who is struggling with an A0 roll printer. It is a brilliant system for paper sizes and that more than makes up for having the most commonly used size of 297 x 210 mm.

The main consideration when buying photographic paper (paper for printing photos is more common these days) is to choose a 4:3 or 2:1 aspect ratio, to match the camera settings. Maybe there is scope to use coding, like the A series of paper sizes.

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Stimpy

@wchange
Here’s an example of ‘measurement redundancy’. You could measure paper as whatever by whatever.
Interestingly – in the UK A4 (etc) sometimes comes by ‘mm’ in the labelling.
And then go to the photo place/shop/paper aisle and it’s 4 by 6 or 5 by 3 (or whatever, these days pictures are mostly what fills the monitor screens, probably unfortunately).

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wavechange

I can cope fine with paper sizes in millimetres, even if they look a bit odd.

Have you had a look at boxes of drill bits? Metric ones are often 1 – 10 mm in 0.5 mm steps. Imperial ones have 1/4, 17/64, 9/32 and 3/8 inch sizes, for example. Fortunately they are nicely organised, but here the metric sizes are just so much easier to visualise.

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Stimpy

@w/change

First, I am a ‘that looks about right’ DIY. So I end up with a big mixture at home – so they could be metric or imperial without knowing it. It seems to have worked so far :-)

Your point is slightly irritating (the point, not your post). With all the (more extreme members of ) official beurocrats who talk about ‘metric NOT imperial’ yet I can’t see why they don’t allow decimal inches. 0.2 inches, 0.7 inches, 0.5 OR half an inch. It’s like “you should be using metric,metric,metric and not imperial but make sure you express inches in accurate fractions thereof’

Don’t you just love officialdom in Britain?
LOL

Another non measure specific officialdom. First – the EU are adding more and more to our MOT rules as if there’s one unelected person getting bored in euroland hq and passes his day dreaming up daft ideas (check out with your local frustrated MOT person).

My car failed becausethe passenger side wiper wasn’t very good and the battery had to have a construction to sit on the battery (EU requirement).

But…… I had a propshaft which did not sit properly (due to age). He was VERY concerned and told me the results of the propshaft becoming free while driving – he almost didn’t want me to drive away!! And guess what? This bit PASSED the MOT.

(I got it fixed btw)

Sorry for the OT twist

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wavechange

Stimpy

There are plenty of imperial rulers that have subdivisions of a tenth of an inch. I agree that this is to be preferred – though a poor substitute for centimetres and millimetres.

In the 1970s, integrated circuits became a popular way of replacing numerous individual components. I remember being very disappointed that these new-fangled dual-in-line packages had imperial pin spacings, with 0.1 inch between pins and 0.3 inch between rows. In these days I made my own circuit boards, designing the layout on graph paper. It was easy to get metric graph paper but imperial graph paper was very difficult to get hold of. I remember thinking how stupid someone must have been to even think of using imperial units. I’m out of touch but I think integrated circuit design has moved on.

I’m afraid that I won’t agree with you about the MOT rules being daft.

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Stimpy

@wc.
Re MOT – I was highlighting that a battery top failed while a extremely important part of the car – mechanically – was v. dangerous BUT PASSED. I won’t say lethal but the flaying propshaft would have made mincemeat of the back of the car as all the power would go through the diff and off to the broken part. 145 horses ripping my car boot to bets. Actually, at 70 mph it might have endangered people as the car would lose all power while all the acrobatics at the back was going on. My ‘onward’ point is that 1) I prefer our government and authorities to choose laws and 2) There seems to be a new rule every week. In fact I believe that one new law has come in during this forum. I’m not positive but I believe a new MOT failure is if your car amber coloured ‘engine management’ light comes on. BTW – just a quick ‘did you know’…. amber warnings are ‘do something about this’ whereas red warnings mean stop the vehicle.

Previous point:
I believe they attempted a whole decimisation of imperial during Queen Vic’a time – something like 10 inches in a foot etc. I’ve seen a document but nothing (obv) happened.

Naturally I disagree with your sentiment but you’d expect that.

Talking about circuit boards and chips and all the new stuff in the 70′s. I remembered having to work in binary or hex in the late 80′s. That was ‘fun’.

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wavechange

I agree that a car should fail the MOT if the tester finds anything dangerous, even if this is not itemised on their list of points to check. Maybe if people stopped complaining about the current test being full of daft ideas we could do this. There are Conversations about the MOT if you want to continue the discussion.

Decimalisation of the foot would not help bring us in line with the countries we trade with.

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Malcolm R

wavechange, let’s not lose sight of the fact that from a trading / manufacturing standpoint this country is metric, and has been for a long time. The issues mainly relate to residual imperial measures that some either use personally, or linger on such as miles and pints. We should be able to tolerate those without assuming the UK is destined for the scrap heap.

The original topic was whether schools should make pupils aware of imperial – we seem not to know whether this is a real issue or not. I would rather policy proposals were put in front of the public for debate first, and withdrawn or modified as a result, than decided irrevocably behind closed doors. Perhaps Which could confirm the current status of this proposal?

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wavechange

I think that it would be great help if more people were to use metric measurements in their everyday life. It is working for me and in conversation I now only use imperial measurements if someone is confused. That has happened only twice in the last three months, and on one occasion it was just because someone had not picked up what I was saying. We may be officially using the metric system, but it is unhelpful if people go into shops and refer to imperial sizes.

I agree it would be good to get back to discussing education, and I have also asked for an update earlier on this page. It is disappointing that we have not had a lot more input from those in education.

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wavechange

Malcolm – I forgot to say that I agree that the public should have the opportunity to make an input before decisions concerning education are made.

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Malcolm R

wavechange, thought I’d email the Dept for Education to see what the current position is. They aim to respond within 15 working days (is such speed consistent with the government’s case for HS2?)

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wavechange

That’s a lot more use than all of us sitting here speculating, Malcolm. :-)

My guess is that Mr Gove has shelved his plans.

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Stimpy

@WC
My point was borne from a chap who recently wanted to buy a different car off me. His reasons were ‘at least I know it’s completely safe’.

And yes – decimalised ft are not comparable – I just thought I’d add a ‘did you know’ into the mix by digging out this oddity

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Stimpy

@MR – What about all those lovely 60″ plasmas?! ;-)

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Stimpy

@wg – this is close to forcing other to conform. Think about John Cleese shouting loudly, in English, to a German person to get what I mean. Let’ get our act together before we pretend to engineer other people’s lives as some political monoliths do.

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Stimpy

Re- printing pictures – there is also DPI (dots per inch).
I think this is used to compare quality.
Reasonably I cannot imagine someone working out when their cartridge life left by how much text would mean how many dpi !!! :-)

Hi Malcolm R, thanks for contacting the DfE, as I said earlier I have not seen anything on the web so please let us know what their response is.

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Figgerty

Even a retailer like Marks and Spencer is confused as to whither they use imperial or metric measurements. Their website shows trouser lengths in imperial but I had to recently email an inquiry to them on the length of cropped jeans and they replied in metric. I had to get out my tape measure to understand the length.

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Stimpy

@Figgerty – This is what I call an example of companies “pretending we’re all metric now”. I once heard – then rewound (sky) heard – then rewound to hear that large bottomed Nigella lawson talk about cutting something into 2.54 cm squares. *THAT’S* when it gets embarrassing

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Stimpy

You may be horrified to know that this post has niggled me all day (when I found myself thinking about it). Bizarre eh?

Anyway – I think the treatment you got from M&S was putting petty beurocracy above customer care (does that still exist?).

Anyhow – I’m going to write to them “on your behalf”. I use quotes because the moan is from me at the end of the day. I thought M&S was one of the trusted quality places.

Which makes you a toff ;-)

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wavechange

I have not bought anything from the M&S website but their shops have labelled trousers in metric and imperial units for many years. I don’t understand the comment about bureaucracy.

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Stimpy

I always find that strange that M&S insist on using metric where personal remembered sizes are as imperial as the answer to how tall are you.

Real story – I went to Germany some years ago – it was Cologne (Koln to be precise) and I bought a pair of Armani jeans as 1) They were unbelievably cheap and 2) It p*ssed my mate off because *has* to wear the best labels. He’s 6’6 thus no stock. When they measured me up a very smart but terribly effeminate chap used the tape measure in ‘zoll’. You’ve probably guessed – tat’s “Inch”

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Peter Hargreaves

Author: Peter Hargreaves
Comment: wavechange
“The main consideration when buying photographic paper (paper for printing photos is more common these days) is to choose a 4:3 or 2:1 aspect ratio, to match the camera settings. Maybe there is scope to use coding, like the A series of paper sizes”.

You have a point here and it is something that has crossed my mind. But the problem becomes more complex when you start doing oval apertures for mounts. Here I use inches again, but instead of a two-inch difference between the long and short edge, I allow a one-inch difference to give that oval effect. I think what you have to bear in mind, is that the complete range of A and B series of paper sizes are only fully appreciated by those in the trade. With photographic papers you are dealing with the general public, involving all generations from the old to the very young. There is no point in changing something for the sake of it. If it isn’t broken don’t meddle with it.

You also mention in brackets that paper for printing photos is more common these days. I take that to mean printing your photos at home. I did some sums on this and worked out that with the cost of paper and in particular ink jet cartridges, it was cheaper for me to take my photos into Jessops to get them professionally printed. This worked well until they went out of business.

The imperial measurement system for photographic prints works well because it offers a simple easy to understand format. A pattern that people can follow. This same principle also applies to something completely different like wooden sheds. These come in popular sizes of 6 x 4, 7 x 5 and 8 x 6 mirroring the pattern of photographic paper sizes. The only difference of course, is that we are now talking in feet.

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wavechange

Peter

I’ve been playing with images since Photoshop 2, around 20 years ago, though I still regard myself as a novice. As far as I can remember, I’ve always worked in metric units, oval images and all. Paper may be sold in imperial sizes, but I can cope.

My next job is to print a family photo to display in a photo frame that I have been given by my nephew. I’m pleased to see that it is for a 20 x 25 cm photo and the approximate imperial equivalent is relegated to being given in parentheses.

I don’t understand why we have 7″ x 5″ paper because that does not correspond with the common 4 x 3 or 2 x 1 aspect ratios that seem to be the choice on many digital cameras.

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Stimpy

@wc

Most – if not all – photo shops (N.B. one would have thought they might be obsolete since colour printers are so cheap that it’s more expensive to run out of ink!) show the imperial size. Some packs show metric alongside or in brackets. It doesn’t matter much as you can measure it yourself with whatever side of the ruler you choose.

Anyhow – my Q is – how much is a ‘ream’? And is it outside imperial and metric – erm – or in both…..

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wavechange

A ream of paper is normally 500 sheets, though Wikipedia explains alternatives. It is neither metric or imperial.

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Peter Hargreaves

Author: Peter Hargreaves
Comment: wavechange
“I’ve been playing with images since Photoshop 2, around 20 years ago, though I still regard myself as a novice. As far as I can remember, I’ve always worked in metric units, oval images and all. Paper may be sold in imperial sizes, but I can cope.
My next job is to print a family photo to display in a photo frame that I have been given by my nephew. I’m pleased to see that it is for a 20 x 25 cm photo and the approximate imperial equivalent is relegated to being given in parentheses.”

For family photographs old and new, I size these in photoshop in imperial measurements because the paper sizes are supplied by the retailers in imperial. I prefer to use oval apertures for family portraits because I think this enhances the image. When I design the oval apertures on to a mount I will produce this on my Apple Mac in illustrator using vector graphics to give me a perfect curve. This avoids the jagged edges of a pixel-based programme like photoshop. If am making a collage of photos then I will lay them out on a piece of card and send this to the art shop, who will then produce an exact replica on 1000-micron board. I could buy a machine to do this myself, but at £200 and a very steady hand, it is just not worth the effort. I tend to use imperial on the mac for photos and mounts because I prefer the simplicity of using single figures and it avoids all the multiple calculations of using six figures with millimetres. This only works well if you stick to the inch and don’t enter into fractions. All my spacing between each picture and the frame will be one inch so that everything is in proportion. I recently produced a circular image with a seven-foot diameter. As the image was a steam locomotive it was better for me to replicate this using imperial dimensions. For doing illustrations I also have in my possession a typographers scale ruler, this only comes in imperial. The traditional typographic units are based on non-metric units of the French royal inch (pouce) they did try to introduce a metric system of typographic or typesetting units, but it did not catch on.

I notice that in your example you used centimetres. I am used to working in millimetres for paper sizes. I tend to avoid centimetres if I can. I have over the years used the following imperial and metric measurements when dealing with the printing, publishing and photographic industry.

Metric:
Grammes per square metre for paper weights up to 200.
Over 200 grammes I use a micrometer and measure card by thickness in microns
The A series of printed paper sizes, B series for poster and C series for envelopes, I always use millimetres never centimetres.
Only very occasionally have nanometres come up for discussion and this is in respect of laser and scanning technology.

Imperial:
Typographic or Typesetting units (6 picas equal approximately 1 inch, there are 12 points to 1 pica)
Dots per inch (DPI) to measure the output resolution of a printer
Lines per inch (LPI) to measure print resolution for halftone images
Pixels per inch (to measure pixels per inch in your image)
Photographic paper sizes
Photograph apertures, mounts and frames
Corrugated boxes

I am sure that I have probably forgotten a few others here. But getting back to the core subject of this debate, this is another important reason why children at school should have a basic understanding of the imperial system.

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wavechange

Peter

I started using Aldus Freehand, a vector drawing program, on my Mac Classic II (with a b/w screen smaller than an iPad) and now use Illustrator. I do like scaleable graphics and small file sizes.

I’m familiar with the items in your ‘imperial’ list, with the exception of corrugated boxes. There are other examples, such as pixels per inch. I’m familiar with the terms and the history, but give them little thought. I don’t mind whether lengths are quoted in mm or cm because I’ve spent many years teaching people that you must always give units when quoting numbers. In the example I quoted, the size of the photo frame is given in cm. It irritates that a local chap who produces banners for me gives prices for 6 ft x 2 ft, etc., but the price is good and his little workshop is just up the road. InDesign would handle inches and decimal inches, but I do conversions and work in millimetres. The rulers in Microsoft Word are set to display in centimetres – millimetres would not be practical for this purpose.

As I have said before, it would be more useful for kids to learn about the imperial system than Greek mythology, but in both cases you can look up what you need to know.

I’ve been working in metric since I was a schoolkid and I’m now over 60. I’m sorry, but you are not going to convince me to see much value in the imperial system in the 21st century.

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Seares

Metric should be the bedrock of any education curriculum with other oddities picked up on a ‘Need to know’ basis later. For example: hands (for horses), fathoms (for seafarers), light-years (for astronomers), horsepower (for vintage car enthusiasts), cups and spoons (for American recipes) poles, rods, yards, acres (for history researchers) and so on. Only a masochist would choose to learn all these oddities at school.

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Stimpy

You’re half there (IMO).
BUT….
hands are important (not for me personally) for those who have an interest in horses.
horsepower – I suspect you’re not a keen car enthusiast? Look at the mags that cover all things ‘car’. Most will have HP, other PS (German translation for horse power although their horses are slightly more powerful that ours! I preferred ‘BHP’ as you knew it was from a dyno from the Wheels

Second BUT….
I wash’t aware that light years was imperial
cups ‘n’ spoons – yep, thats the Americans (although it rids the usuage of imp v met.
Poles and rods (and chains) should be skimmed into class room as a ‘did you know’. Cricket players use all three.
Yards – go for a drive
Acres – go for a drive and note the measures used in advertising land (I believe that acres are more rounded and fits into a farm ‘square’ (that you see when you are landing in the uK.

The use of metric instead of acres just makes me laugh (think about it, think about it)!!

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Martin Vlietstra

The metric conversion of hand is very simple – as a first approximation, 10 hands equal one metre. (Actually it is 102 cm).

Please explain where rods and poles are used in cricket – they certainly do not appear in the “laws of cricket”. I agree that the distance between the stumps is one chain.

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Seares

Exactly! Learn these oddities as and when you need them. But not by being taught them at school (with the inevitable examinations)

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wavechange

In our information age, it is not even necessary to learn things unless they are needed regularly.

I have never bothered to learn A0 and A1 paper sizes because I don’t use them regularly. When I need to print a poster I look them up or calculate them from the size of A4 paper – which I use regularly and remember the dimensions.

What everyone needs to learn is that the metric system usually makes our lives very much easier.

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Stimpy

@MV
I thought they used rods & poles – pls accept my apology if I’m wrong – I thought it was something to do with the 35 yard line or one of the distances to do with that.

Most people won’t know after the 6th jug of Pimms anyway.

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Stimpy

@sears
This is why I ‘approve’ (as if I had the power!!) of the idea of ‘teaching measurements that are imperial and are common use today’.

The fancier measures could be a ‘did you know?’ style teaching

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Stimpy

@WC
You make a valid point – you ‘know” what A4 is. It’s just…just…well ‘normal’ as in a normal sheet of paper. fold it to make A5 then fold again for A6. Don’t fold 7 times though because it’s impossible.

Units – within daily life – become and ARE our language.

“Mine returns 50 mpg” – no one is going to drive out 50 miles and look at a gallon to see how it is. We know 50 is good, 60 better. We also know that supercars could be below 15mpg

Here’s another one – your tyres. Almost ALWAYS shown as PSI. Go to a petrol station and unless they have the analogue measure on the screen you’ll find anything but PSI missing. It’s just how it is.

I remember one day a lady came to me for some help at the Esso (or BP?) in Beaconsfield. She said she wanted to make sure her tyres were ok but her data only referred to bars (bars of what? gold? I I digress).

I told her that (from my Father’s company in the 80′s 90′s that dealt with mechanics) the majority was about 26 psi – so this is what I told her. She was very thankful to me (and now I know there’s a place in heaven for me ====WAIT=== not yet please)

Her car was a VW.

This swing back to petrol and prices – not – litres.
“I filled up from empty and it cost £20″. Your reaction?
“I filled up from empty and it cost £120″. Your reaction?

Numbers. They mean so much more than the units used when use in context.

Right – moving on.
I have a 50″ Pioneer plasma. It was the best of it’s kind but won’t do 3D. Any offers?!?! ;-)

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wavechange

My car (also a VW) shows tyre pressures in bars, conveniently under the fuel filler cover. The SI unit of pressure is the Pascal and a bar is around 101 kPa. Incidentally, tyre pressures should be checked when cold, so doing the job at a garage is not good practice.

Since Easter, my (diesel) car is averaging 4.7 litres per 100 km.

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w j g

Many people dont see the advantage of measureing fuel efficiency by recording ..fuel used/set distance traveled ..compared to.. distance travelled/set fuel quanity.
Fuel consumption ..is litres consumed/100 km travelled,.. or.. gallons consumed per 100 miles travelled.
Fuel economy ..is km travelled/litre ..or.. miles travelled per gallon.
The problem with using the fuel economy equation is that it in an inverse equation. The fuel consumption equation is not inverse.
However the metric litres/100km is not used by many, because speedometers (the odometer) only record in miles.

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Malcolm R

wavechange,your new car? After how many miles is that.
My Espace does between 36 and 42mpg. Its tyre size ( currently Continental) is 225/55 R17 – that is 225mm wide with a tyre wall 55% of the tyre width, for a 17 inch wheel, . I still have an old Espace with the temperature gauge (for outside) in Farenheit. What can I say.

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wavechange

6736 miles (10,840 km) and it’s 10 months old.

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Stimpy

@wc –
The point is – I found it odd that one firm does this. Next time you you go to Esso or whatever – check if they have digital air pressure machines.

You are indeed correct about tyre temps (I used to be in the tyre service industry – a ‘family thing’, so I’m not patronising you).

If your petrol st is less than 2 miles away then pressure checks will be ok (based upon not doing 0-60 timing repeatedly all the way there).
So your point would be best ‘exampled’ in regards to motorway SStations. Underinflating is massively more dangerous than over inflating – checking you tyres on the M/way could lead to you letting air out of your tyres!

I’ve got a gadget that tells me the tyre’s PSI (default) and temp in C (default). It is quite remarkable how the heat goes up. I wish everyone had this device – it could save your life.

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Stimpy

@wjg – another fine post and handy guide.

I like to visualise a gallon (a green 5 L container if you wish) and seeing how much travel you’d get.
If the computer says 1gal on the readout then I try to stay at 50mph and know that I have 20 miles till badness.
Ok ok – I know that 1) it’s not that accurate and 2) they leave some spare EVEN IF the screen says 1 gal)

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Stimpy

@malcomR
You picked up a very good example of one thing using both systems. Wheels are imperial though – like 6j 15. I’ve never worked out why a ‘j’ is put there.

Also – BMW’s (used to?) let you choose between F and C for outside temp but that then changed the distances to km etc – you could not choose (maybe they do now).

Incidentally – in the US and UK PSI is used….in Europe the l/100km (or whatever it is ) is used….in the far east km per litre is used.

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wavechange

I have a pump with an accurate digital gauge and prefer to check my tyres at home, when cold. I’ve seen the results of running a tyre (not mine) under-inflated, and it was frightening. I check my tyres weekly and even feel the tread temperature if I stop for a break in a motorway service area.

The pressure is approximately proportional to the absolute temperature (in Kelvin – an SI unit), according to the Gas Laws.

I cannot remember when I last measured tyre pressures in PSI – probably nearly 20 years ago.

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Stimpy

@wg
- that’s some dedication there, or one of those obsessional wotsits

You avoid station tyre air machines.
Trust me – if it’s a digital one it will be PSI down to 0.5
If it’s one where you hold a unit prior to the tyre valve then it will have a window on the ‘gun’ – it has all the foreign stuff you refer to.

To cap it all – the MICHELIN tyre metal poster with every known car on it shows PSI only and that’s a FRENCH company.

I don’t like ‘bar’. Not granular enough.

You’ll find that PSI is quite a handy unit and is used in more places than you’d ever think.

I drove one of my cars with a rear tyre at 8 — yes EIGHT — PSI. It’s a tiny Riley Elf so with 10″ tyres you might not notice but I was horrified at first.

Another thing regarding tyres (sorry that this has flipped off the topic but it is still straining to be with imperial teachings etc)
Aquaplaning – or Waterplaning,
With wife + 3 y/o plus me using a hire car (an extremely boring Chrysler Spark) we turned to go down a long straight road. Then the heavens opened and water came down like a tap in the bath.
I felt a twitch on the steering (that would have been the tyre finding tarmac as we did not know we were aquaplaning) – I took my foot of the accelerator (we were only doing 30mph). Then all hell broke loose. My gentle use of the brake caught another tyre purchasing tarmac (the road – although looking straight for more than a mile – had rises (gentle – not like a speed hump).
Whilst spinning I was trying to find a crash point for the car as it was leaving tarmac, Then the worst happened – it span to 90-degree – hit a minor bump – and it rolled around it’s axis – it flipped in the air once.

I was thinking ‘Why wont this end! Why wont this end!’ and bad thoughts about how long it was going for and the probability of fatality. The noise was sickening. It ended up on its side with me at the bottom. My adrenalin based first instinct was to reach round (with an arm that had been twisted) and see if little one was safe. The crying was ‘good’ if you get me but than I was horrified as I saw blood over his t-short. I was then relieved that the blood was mine. My wife managed to get on the left hand side of the car by pulling trough the ‘missing’ window – we got the little-un up that way. i was helped out by being pulled through a gap. My arm and hand were cut due to me fighting the steering wheel and then sliding sideways. I wish I took pictures for proof/reason etc. I forgot to check the tyre depth. I won’t forget again. But it’s a phenomenon- once you’re aqua-planing there’s not much left to do – it’s worse than ice (at least you can pick out safer areas with snow).

This all happened on Monday and as tyre safety was getting a grilling I thought I’d warn readers of this sort of thing. We were driving slow. The safest thing we could (/should?) have done was to pull over (good old retrospect ! If only I’d …, I could have…, etc).

My leg and ankle are almost back to normal (the cuts will sort themselves out). It was annoying that airbags didn’t deploy.

Anyway – I thought it would be mildly entertaining to say it and mildly on/off topic

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wavechange

Now why should I go to the garage to check my tyres when I’ve got a perfectly good pump with an accurate gauge? I keep it in the boot of the car and use it each weekend. The Tesco filling station nearby removed its air pump years ago. I check my tyres more often than I fill up with fuel. I use bars rather than PSI because that is what is shown on the reminder label on my car.

The signs showing tyre pressures can be unhelpful because most cars have various options for wheel/tyre sizes and the recommended pressure can vary. They also do not show the pressures for light and full load.

I’m sorry to hear about your nasty accident.

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Stimpy

@wc
Fair enough – if you have a pump at home etc etc. I have 2 (that’s not meant to sound like ‘my dad’s bigger than your dad’, incase it comes out that way). I occasionally use the garage one’s due to them being v accurate (a cross ref to test my devices).
You use it each weekend ? Wow – that’s ultra safety! i don’t do mine as often as I should. I assume you check dipsticks and stuff too.
I understand why you’re made to use bars but don’t you find them ‘not granular enough’? Just a thought.
I think the tyre pressure signs DO talk about ‘types’ of pressures but I’ll check next time.
My PSI computer thing had to have the main unit replaced and I still have to ‘tune’ it to the sensors in my tyres. ‘Let tyres down to 18 psi then hold button a and after 5 seconds press and hold B then press both for…’ bl**dy hell you have to have a degree in rocket science.
BTW – you do know that the tolerances on recommended tyre pressures are pretty generous don’t you? A lot of garages fill ‘standard’ cars with 26 all round.

Ta for the ‘sorry’ – I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to go through that therefore I’d never even wish it upon a metric fancier by miles! ;-) ;-)

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wavechange

For preference I would use kPa because that is the SI unit and as a scientist I have used metric units since I was at university. Bar is in common use in science. For example, I used high pressure liquid chromatographs at pressures of around 200 bar.

I know about permissible tolerances, which is why I don’t bother about ambient temperature when checking pressures. I’m not sure why you use your gadget, but if I had one, I would probably use it too.

I check tyre pressures, oil, etc. on a Saturday. If it’s raining, as today, this is done on a Sunday. It’s easy as part of a routine. The spare gets checked about four times a year – 4.2 bar if I recall correctly, though I keep it slightly over-inflated.

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Malcolm R

There are tyre pressure monitors on my car – realise how useful they are when alloy wheels age and rim leaks seem to develop (is it corrosion or potholes?). Also punctures these days seem very rare, but not so easy to detect initially when driving but the monitors spot the problem.

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Stimpy

@wc
You really are a dedicated follower of ScIence (guess the song I was [sort of] thinking of). Fair play to you. And – yes- it’s better to ‘add a bit’. Of of my cars is 28 all round but I put 32psi rear and 30 front.
Why the gadget? Well the car in question is a Triumph Stag and yes it’s my daily car! Next year it’s tax free too (i.s.o. £220) I digress. Stag alloys are renowned for leaking round the rim (insert your own gag) so I keep an eye on it and will go to 2psi under then grab the pump.

Also – I was driving it one day (before gadget) and the steering felt hard and difficult. I immediately thought ‘uh -oh how much is a new power steering’. Then there was smoke. I pulled over and I had driven on a flat tyre so it was irreparable. If the gadget senses a sharp drop in PSI it lets out a loud alarm – so if I was doing 70 on the motorway I could avoid a rather nasty scene.

You don’t have to answer but does your job involve the importance of correct settings or measure related aspects?

Back to topic – the first thing to go on a stag is the clock. Most people replace it with an oil pressure gauge – and so did I. The main unit shows a 2D box followed by the symbol ” – I thought that’s a nice way of saying ‘square’ and ‘inch’.

Just like the speedo design it shows metric as tiny numbers using kg/square cm. I’m sure that would annoy a metric aficionado on 2 accounts. It sits nicely above 50 PSI.

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Stimpy

@MR
Wow! If I had looked further I’d have seen your near identical-ish reasons.

When the alloy loses it’s thin protection (eg a scrape on a pavement edge) it goes from glossy to rough as the aluminium protects itself with ‘alloy rust’ (a layer of aluminium oxide) there are other factors too. We have an irritation on our Honda Civic (you know, the triangle space ship style which most new cars seemed to have copied). We’ve worked out that it depends on where – on the tyre – the car is parked. It has ridiculous 35 aspect ratio tyres which make it hard to see if it’s flat so that’s the next car to have the gadget. At some point.

Potholes are especially bad as they lead to lumps on the tyre wall where the steel and/or fabric has torn – somewhat dangerous. Councils would have to pay for new tyres for you before they put the notice ‘X borough council is not responsible for…. etc’

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wavechange

I’m a scientist who took early retirement, Stimpy, but I have been active in research and published many scientific papers and reviews. These make extensive use of SI units, but (rather annoyingly) the requirements differ between publishers, and these are set out in ‘instructions for authors’. For example, many journals use L and mL instead of l and ml because l looks like the number 1 in many fonts. Having used metric units since I was at school, using imperial units seems quaint, unprofessional and even embarrassing. I have seen the value of metric units first hand and helped students to understand how to understand how to handle numbers and scientific units, and also produced documentation to help colleagues to perform this role effectively.

Now, I don’t care what you or anyone else wants to do in their private lives. Please let us move on to complete metrication in communication with others.

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wavechange

Stimpy

After our recent discussion I remembered that I had purchased a new tyre pump with a digital gauge some months ago, though the only time I have used it was to test it. It will measure pressures in kPa (sadly shown as KPA). A bar is 100 kPa (kilopascal), so conversion is not difficult, but as a scientist I welcome any move towards SI units.

About ten years ago I bought a Bosch cordless drill with a ‘free’ tyre pump that used the same rechargeable batteries. It was far more convenient than any other tyre pump I have used. When the batteries expired, I converted it to a wired pump that would plug into cigarette lighter sockets. The compressor is starting to wear out (which is why I bought a new pump) but it is still fine for everyday use (well, every week) checking my tyres and topping them up when needed. Now that lithium batteries that keep their charge are commonplace in power tools, I hope that we will see cordless pumps with digital pressure gauges on the market. Making it easier to check tyre pressures might encourage more people to do this important job more often. Of course, a simple pressure gauge is even more convenient, until you find a tyre that needs to be inflated.

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Stimpy

to WC – oh yes, I realise that kpa and/or bar may be on the pump as an option – a ‘pump manufacturer’ would be daft not to cover all the eventualities – I’ve seen kg/cm2 used as well. It’s a bit ironic but there’s up to 3 metric measures on a pump but only 1 imperial. I realise that certain types of metric usage as ‘wrong and not legal to SI’. Phew. Anyway – my point was the default to PSI. I bet that in the UK there are so few forecourts defaulting to metric that – regarding how many decimal points you might use – you could say ‘all forecourts dflt to imperial’. You comment – “until you find a tyre that needs to be inflated” — LOL! I can see it, the bloke with the halfords footpump jumping up and down in frustration.
Bit off-topic but I realise your point about batteries, adding that I bought a B&Q ‘value’ electric drill which now only works for 5 minutes. I realise now why they put the second battery in there. Cycling batteries on the….. wired extension.

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Stimpy

@wc – thanks for the answer (job related) – much appreciated and beautifully apparent :-)

I think I understand your ‘embarrassment’ thing coming from a role built on the language of science – please let me tell you, there is no need for embarrassment. We’re all “doing it” !

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dieseltaylor

Tyre pressures recommendations are standardised as being taken at 70F AFAIK, which in the UK is a rare event. A short trip of a mile or two will not be significant.

Incidentally it was true in the past that the US car giants would take a tyre from the manufacturer built for a certain pressure range, and then soften the recommended pressure for comfort purposes.
Car manufacturers ask tyre manufacturers for the cheapest tyres to supply their new models, with exceptions for prestige brands.

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Stimpy

@DT
Interesting factoid you have. Here’s some more
They fitted a capri with tyres at 15psi and remotely controlled it to over 100 mph. One tyre blew out and another blew out less than a second later. The car reached 12ft in the air. Nasty.

Another: If the snow falls (like in the UK when almost everyone goes mad and organisations cease working and Norwegians/Swedes etc laugh at us) – if you are trying to get up a hill to your house then let out your tyre pressure to something like 10, switch off VSA, attempt to climb hill whilst rapidly steering left and right over and over. And take a run up! That’s the only time you should have v low pressures. It was funny watching people park their cars and give up and walked home while ‘somehow’ I got up a certain steep hill.

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tonyp

During my journey from school through university into the world of work I encountered first the fps (foot, pound, second) system of units, which introduced me to such exotica as slugs and poundals. I progressed to cgs (centimetre, gram, seconds) then to mks (metre, kilogram, second) and rationalised mks (which made some of the constants a little more sensible) before finally reaching the pinnacle of SI. If nothing else, this journey made it easy to adapt to changes in systems of units!

Some previous contributors have commented that UK industry needs to catch up to the metric world if it is to prosper. This surprises me because, in my experience, industry has been using the metric system for many decades. Certainly when I joined an R&D lab in 1960 the metric system was well in use although it was mainly based on mks and sometimes cgs rather than SI, simply because much of the source data, particularly in magnetic materials, had yet to catch up.

So for at least 5 decades I have been quite happy to live in a metric world professionally and an Imperial unit world outside and have never felt any conflict between the two. The only problems that I have met have been when working with US organisations and the consequent need to convert Imperial units, or whatever they call them over there, into metric in order for them to make sense.

The differences between the metric and Imperial systems of units are a little more fundamental than the graduations on rulers and so on. The metric system is, for want of a better expression, a completely artificial construct albeit highly organised and rational. In the case of the Imperial system, it grew from actual need. Each activity generated its own system to suit its own requirements and eventually they all came together to form the system we know today. The result is that for virtually every activity there is a unit most appropriate for whatever it is that we are measuring and which gives sensible figures that are not too small or too large. For instance, in weights we go from ounces to pounds to stones to hundredweights to tons and these cover most domestic needs. In the metric system we have just the gram, the kilogram and the tonne, each increment being a factor of 1000.

This tendency to generate units to suit particular requirements continues in modern times, with the same need to generate figures that are easier to comprehend: the light-year is one such. We have also generated some other units in a more domestic environment to suit this need, such as the London Bus, the Football Pitch and the Nelson’s Column.

In amongst all this kerfuffle there are some units common to all systems, notably the second and the degree. Whichever system is in use we still have 60 seconds to the minute, 60 minutes to the hour, 24 hours to the day and so on. Although in science we often use radians for angular measurement, it is still more normal to divide a circle into 360 degrees. None of these fit in very happily with the idea of nice, orderly decade increments!

Some comments have been made about the apparent oddity that rulers in Imperial units divide the inch into fractional increments such as ½, ¼ and so on. The reason for this is historical. Given, say, a one inch increment it is easy to divide it into two equal parts by eye to quite a high accuracy. This process can then be continued to generate smaller divisions. This resulted in the convention that we now see on rulers. In the days when drawings were in Imperial units it was the convention that the default tolerance for fractional dimensions was plus or minus 1/64” and for decimal dimensions was plus or minus 0.005”. The thought was that the former would be measured using a ruler and the latter with a micrometer.

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Stimpy

@Tonyp

An enjoyable read – thanks for that – it’s an angle (excuse the tangent (excuse the..)) that has new thoughts I have not realised before.

I entirely agree with you (except the bit about living your life!)

It’s funny, though, there are still weird extremes. Like non-opinionated folk not even realising that there is metric around us and the point that ‘behind the scenes’ a lot of things are metric – even if they seem daftly accurate to X dec places sometime.

It’s this sort of thing that I like – we live imperial on a metric ‘underground standard’. Some call it a ‘British mess’. To me it shows variety, choice. ‘stealing’ the best of two worlds and history. It’s one of those things that makes me PROUD to be British.

Mess? Some people seem to be living a very boring life. The instigator of the mess is – of course – back stabber Geoffrey Howe. Boring? Just listen to him talk…

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w j g

Why is the metric system easier than Imperial? The most frequently given answers include:

1…Because metric is simple and consistent. There is only one meter and one kilometer and one liter..Unlike the mile (3 miles, international mile, US Survey mile, nautical mile.) and two gallons (Imperial gallon and US gallon) metric is simple and less confusing, fewer errors, less cost.
2…Because it dramatically reduces conversion factors in calculations. Less time doing calculations, fewer errors, less wastage in material and time, less cost.
3…Because metric prefix’s enable whole numbers only. Avoiding decimal fractions and missinteruptation and errors.
4…Because metric offers units from very large to very small.
5…Because metric dimensions are easier to divide by three.
6…Because it has links between related measurements.
7…Because it uses logical symbols.
8..Because it is the only properly maintained system.
9..Because practically everyone uses it. For more than 95% of the world population, the metric system is the customary system of units, and for more than half of the industrialized world, it has been for at least a century.

Also
I beleive that the metric system is better than Imperial measures because..

The metric system is a system.
The metric system is the only measurement method ever developed as a complete system. All previous attempts used random developments at different places, at different times, and for different purposes.

The metric system is universal.
The metric system has been gradually adopted by all of the world’s people. Despite often-vigorous opposition, the metric system has always been successful.

The metric system is coherent.
Because the metric system was developed as a complete system, it was possible to design it so that it has an internal consistency. Its internal coherence means that if you learn one part of the metric system you can easily extend your knowledge to all other parts.

The metric system is capable.
All crafts, trades, and professions can successfully use the metric system. Although the structure of the metric system is quite simple, it can be used in every human activity.

The metric system is equitable.
The metric system is fair and just to all who use it.

The metric system is simple.
The metric system uses only 7 base units and 22 units with special names — 29 units in all. There are now only 20 old measures left that are non-SI units currently accepted for use with the International System.

The metric system is supported.
International treaties and research keep the metric system modern and forward looking.

The metric system is fundamental.
The metric system is the only system used internationally. It is now fundamental to all measurements, both old and new.

The metric system is unique.
The metric system is unique because: it was planned; it is decimal; it has prefixes; and it is human in scale. It is unique because there has never been a measuring system like it.

The metric system is legal.
Legislation in every country in the world supports the metric system. It is often the sole method of measurement recognised by governments. International agreements also support the metric system so that contracts written in metric units have validity across international borders.

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Stimpy

oh dear oh dear wig…..

@wjg – a response

Comment:
Why is the metric system easier than Imperial? The most frequently given answers include:

1…Because metric is simple and consistent. There is only one meter and one kilometer and one liter..Unlike the mile (3 miles, international mile, US Survey mile, nautical mile.) and two gallons (Imperial gallon and US gallon) metric is simple and less confusing, fewer errors, less cost.

a:— I assumed we were talking ‘UK’ here? 1 mile is 1 mile (unless you are wandering the ‘country mile’!)
Simple? When was the last time someone got all confused when they said something like ‘it’s about half a mile on the right’?

2…Because it dramatically reduces conversion factors in calculations. Less time doing calculations, fewer errors, less wastage in material and time, less cost.

a:— Not really – it INCREASES the possibilities of decimal point misuse – plus which prefix to use.

3…Because metric prefix’s enable whole numbers only. Avoiding decimal fractions and missinteruptation and errors.

a:— I’ll remember that when a car is mentioned to be 14ft (XXXX mm) long

4…Because metric offers units from very large to very small.

a:— How far is a light year exactly?

5…Because metric dimensions are easier to divide by three.

a:— well you got me there, you seemed to jump into imperial mode. imperial tends to fraction better

6…Because it has links between related measurements.

a:— Which is an issue because when I’m 5 ft 11 in I can imagine basic height with added granularity

7…Because it uses logical symbols.

a:— which no-one uses beyond kilo and milli – unless they are talking computer numbers then 1k = 1024b

8..Because it is the only properly maintained system.

a:—The irony being that the more accurate the metric system gets then the better imperial becomes since they were pegged (like currencies) some years ago)

9..Because practically everyone uses it. For more than 95% of the world population, the metric system is the customary system of units, and for more than half of the industrialized world, it has been for at least a century.

a:— fine – I won’t force imperial down their throats then

Also
I beleive that the metric system is better than Imperial measures because..

The metric system is a system.
a— a system which has direct conversions to imperial
The metric system is the only measurement method ever developed as a complete system. All previous attempts used random developments at different places, at different times, and for different purposes.

a:— I assume you mean that you’re uncomfortable that imperial has evolved?

The metric system is universal.
The metric system has been gradually adopted by all of the world’s people. Despite often-vigorous opposition, the metric system has always been successful.

a:— Sorry – modern politics have left the old socialist or authoritarian methods behind. It’s why Brits choose imperial (when they can) over metric (in general)

The metric system is coherent.

a:— I’ll remember that when a car is mentioned to be 14ft (XXXX mm) long

Because the metric system was developed as a complete system, it was possible to design it so that it has an internal consistency. Its internal coherence means that if you learn one part of the metric system you can easily extend your knowledge to all other parts.

a:— Do you REALLY think people think so deeply about a pound of bananas?

The metric system is capable.
All crafts, trades, and professions can successfully use the metric system. Although the structure of the metric system is quite simple, it can be used in every human activity.

a:— I won’t mention the shuttle and (half of) concord

The metric system is equitable.
The metric system is fair and just to all who use it.

a:— as is the imperial system – that’s why I have 6 points for doing 100 (dammit)

The metric system is simple.

a:–I’ll remember that when a car is mentioned to be 14ft (XXXX mm) long

The metric system uses only 7 base units and 22 units with special names — 29 units in all. There are now only 20 old measures left that are non-SI units currently accepted for use with the International System.

a:— “accepted for use” – do you not see where metric – a way of measuring things – has been such a failure in the US/UK?

The metric system is supported.
International treaties and research keep the metric system modern and forward looking.

a: — And is linked to the imperial system

The metric system is fundamental.
The metric system is the only system used internationally. It is now fundamental to all measurements, both old and new.

a:— erm …?

The metric system is unique.
The metric system is unique because: it was planned; it is decimal; it has prefixes; and it is human in scale. It is unique because there has never been a measuring system like it.

a:—By unique I guess you mean the several metres over the years.

The metric system is legal.

a:— so is imperial. Try selling a house with a 40 ft living room thats only 4 metres long.

Legislation in every country in the world supports the metric system. It is often the sole method of measurement recognised by governments. International agreements also support the metric system so that contracts written in metric units have validity across international borders.

a: — in all honesty – this ‘no borders for trade’ has been hanging around everyone’s neck since the ‘common market’

Who in their right mind would choose their BASE UNITS to be -

a metre for length
a litre for capacity and then b*lls it up with
a kilogramme for ‘mass’…. eh? what happened there?

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Stimpy

I assume you are from America?

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Malcolm R

I don’t think many disagree that the metric system is generally the best option, nor that the UK has generally embraced it “professionally”. This conversation goes back to whether some understanding of the Imperial System should be taught in schools. We are waiting with baited breath to see whether M. Gove still proposes this, and to what extent.

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Alex B

I think you’re right about the professional side of metric usage, the real issue here is how we treat imperial… wether it should be allowed (or even forced) to die out or continue to be legitamised by it’s continued use in education and public life.

At the end of the day we all rely on education, the better our education is the better jobs we get… with the added side effect that a well educated workforce will make for better product and better trade. Like anything, if you use something often you’ll do it well… if your job required the use of measurement the more you use it the more proficient you’ll become. If you are applying for a job you’re more likely to get past the interviewer if you have a good working knowledge of that subject, if you’re going to be required to measure in metric all day having used imperial exclusively from the day you were born because of pressure in society and the home, regardless of what you learned at school, is going to work against you. The same is true of business as a whole… a workforce who are proficient at something are more likely to be able to make quality products that those who have an understanding.

My conclusion? We teach metric in schools and then encourage parents and the public in general to allow that education to be used in everyday life. We don’t confuse issues by teaching children that there is an alternative to metric and then sending them home to parents who can’t or won’t use metric for even the simple things like home cookery and the like.

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Martin Vlietstra

I agree fully with Alex B. However it is not just up to the parents, it is up to the government as a whole to do their bit by completing the metrication process and to stop playing silly political games that might gain them a short-term advantage but which in the long term disadvantages our children.

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Stimpy

“having used imperial exclusively from the day you were born” – is there such a person?

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Stimpy

who decided that “the metric system is generally the best option”? Chaps, we are seeing the whole-scale destruction of ‘IMHO’

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dieseltaylor

This line of argument :
“My conclusion? We teach metric in schools and then encourage parents and the public in general to allow that education to be used in everyday life. We don’t confuse issues by teaching children that there is an alternative to metric and then sending them home to parents who can’t or won’t use metric for even the simple things like home cookery and the like.”

Seems to blissfully ignore the teaching of Welsh and Gaelic in the UK, and other countries like Switzerland have four official languages. If we are to enforce what is logical let us not stop at mere maths.

It seems almost bizarre that those that argue so strongly for enforcement of metrification ONLY do not see the fallacy inherent in putting their thoughts in this matter so strongly. The use of English spellings could also be standardised on the one US style as that will certainly help those who browse the Web. The fact that more people in India learn UK English than the entire population of the US would be something to overcome.

Let us just accept what has been stated numerous times but seems not explicit enough.
1. Facility with numbers as a child is not damaged by learning different base numbers.
2. UK industry does already use metric
3. The amount of time spent on Imperial measures at school is trivial.

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Stimpy

(not ‘having a go’ at diesel – just concurring)
“Encourage parents…”? Having become one very recently I’d feel very patronised by such ‘adult re-programming’ – bl**dy h*ll ! That’s a comment that has made me more ‘Imperial friendly’ as my son will be. Incidentally – I’m not anti-metric, I just prefer imperial ‘usually’ but comments like that can easily add another viewer to the anti-metric brigade.

Being Welsh – I’m aware of dual road signs. Note that around ‘the valleys’ it’s English first and Welsh underneath – everywhere else it’s the other way around. LOL at the recent mileage sign on the west of the M4 telling me how far it was to Llandain (no guessing where that is). However even the English will quickly understand troedfedd, llath, and millitir as Wales shares the same unique road signage (incidentally – without saying ‘symbol’ there is no ‘k’ in the Welsh alphabet.

Anyway – there is room for metric and imperial. Anyone who wants metric only MUST hate imperial and thus you have to ask – ‘why do i hate a certain way of measuring things’?

Please note – a bit obvious – but on top of a possible strengthening of the already curriculum ‘imperial measures in common use today’ there is the obvious sublime teaching of imperial outside school. Remember the ‘millitir’ ?

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Martin Vlietstra

What is the point of dual language road signs when you can have single language road signs? What is best “Llandain 40 miles/millitir” or “Llandain 65 km”? The latter is international – the symbol (note symbol, not abbreviation) “km” is the same for all languages and has the same value in all countries (unlike the gallon or the pint ).

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Stimpy

Martin – see, I *knew* you’d say ‘symbol’ and you didn’t let me down ;-)
Quickie though…

‘km’ think of the ‘micro-’ symbol as comparison to non-alphabetic chars.

In Wales it *IS* one distance ‘milltir’ or ‘m’ (I know you don’t like the ‘m’ being pinched from your favourite system but the 2 languages start with the same letters. Sorry – got the spelling of mile wrong btw.

The sign says, btw – “London 170 m” and underneath London is ‘Llandain’. My initial surprise was seeing ‘London’ being translated for the first time (I think) on the M4 sign. The mileage, btw, is a non-accurate guess.

There seems to be a helpful change in the signs btw.
Whereas ’170 m’ would be quoted twice – there’s just one ‘m’ (same with llath). Maybe it’s just a few or something – perhaps I picked up on it due to it looking peculiar – perhaps in the same way as seeing ‘km’ would be.

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Peter Hargreaves

Author: Peter Hargreaves
Comment: wavechange
“What everyone needs to learn is that the metric system usually makes our lives very much easier.”
“I cannot remember when I last measured tyre pressures in PSI – probably nearly 20 years ago.”

Wavechange the crucial comment in your above statement is the word “usually.” It has certainly made a difference to a lot of people in their chosen profession, especially science and engineering. I suspect that most people who comment on this website are retired or nearing retirement, have gone to university and studied science or engineering living in a world of logic. But we live in an illogical world of organized chaos. Other professions see things differently and you have to respect this. Like you I have benefited greatly from the metric system in my profession. But outside work our views differ. As someone commented earlier, this debate is all about perspective. As Malcolm and tonyp have just pointed out, where it matters in international trade and industry we have more or less got this right. But this debate, going on the comments, represents only a small sample of the various professions. I joined this debate to further enhance my knowledge and learn about the points put forward by people who only use metric. I am obviously missing something here and still fail to understand how one system of measurement can cover every situation. As I have mentioned before in the field of science and engineering, precision with easy calculations and a set pattern is the requirement. We can call this the inorganic world, but what about the organic world of animals and plants? Here the keyword is approximation, not precision. Let me give you one example:

A bird of prey has a wingspan of imperial 6 ft: metric: 1. 83 metres.

Straight away you have to divide the metre up into a point something. Remember we don’t not need a precise measure here only an approximation. In this respect the imperial measurement has the upper hand, it gives us the foot. A smaller unit that has a name with just enough information for us to visualise the size of this bird in relation to our own dimensions. We could of course say a hundred and eighty three centimetres, but then we are been a little too precise. This is the fundamental flaw with the metric system. The centimetre is too small and the metre is too big. Yes the metric system follows a neat easy to follow scale, but we still need a smaller unit that people can refer to by name. This is why in many ball sports when quickly describing the state of play; both players and commentators prefer the imperial system of measurement.
Not all of us studied science and engineering at university, we don’t see things so logically. The purpose of this debate for me is to try and understand the other person’s point of view. Not too dismiss one persons view in a sentence, but to explain how I work in my environment. For example, you mention wavechange that you have not had to use psi measurements for twenty years. In my own environment I would find that extremely difficult to do. As a steam engine enthusiast I teach and demonstrate the history of steam power to children. I need to do that in Ibs per sq in. (or more accurately, pound-force per square inch) it would make life difficult and confusing to quote in metric. The children are already familiar with psi when their dads check the pressure of their bicycle tyres; the breaking strain of their fishing lines or have their children’s tennis rackets tensioned, which I believe is universally measured in psi anyway. I think all the recent comments relating to psi have revolved around our obsession with the motorcar, forgetting for a moment that it has many other applications. But children see things differently; this is their world. So as you can see my needs, my requirements are very different to yours. Another reason, why a basic understanding of the imperial system should be taught in schools.

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Seares

“A bird of prey has a wingspan of imperial 6 ft: metric: 1. 83 metres.”
Which bird of prey was that? It must be a different bird to the one I was thinking about which had a wing span of 2 metres.
!

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wavechange

Peter

I have given some thought to the age and education of contributors to this and the previous imperial vs metric Conversation and I think you are right. I suggest that we should give priority to the views of younger adults and think about what current schoolchildren will have to cope with.

As I have explained earlier, I can cope with metric and imperial units, in the same way that many are fluent in two or more languages. Thanks to the previous Conversation, I have stopped using imperial units when in conversation with older people, using them only when it is clear that they are confused. which has happened only twice. I work for a charity and have quite a lot of conversation with middle-aged and elderly people.

Your example of the wingspan of a bird of prey is rather contrived. What about a bird with a wingspan of 1 metre, which would correspond to about 3 feet 3 inches?

I measure my tyre pressures in bar because I have a label that shows the pressure in bar. I would prefer if we standardised on kPa because I see value in standardisation, and the SI system is the best we have in this respect. When I was doing research we used steam autoclaves ranging from the size of a domestic pressure cooker to a couple of cubic metres. Some of the older gauges were calibrated in PSI and the newer ones in bars, but these values were converted into kPa for reports, dissertations and theses. It makes sense to use whatever units the gauges show, but it also makes sense to communicate in SI units.

Unless some effort is made to move on and standardise on metric units, the imperial system is going to have a lingering death and make the population of the UK look disorganised, and deserving of pity by those countries that have moved on.

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Stimpy

wchange – do you honestly think that the world outside ‘pities’ the UK for using miles, yards etc? This line of thinking also comes in the comment “we’re a laughing stock of the world”.

It’s not that way and to most its obvious because the thought is silly and extreme.

I worked in the European HQ of a huge company which happens to be in the UK. There were many people from Italy, France, Germany, etc. None of them laughed at ‘mile’ signs or took pity. In fact the reverse happened. They were generally inquisitive of the units, e.g. why is a foot called a foot when it cannot be the size of everyones foot and talk of certain people ‘putting on an inch of make-up’. Most, if not all really liked the units and were eager to ‘speak the lingo’ in the same way they were proud of their English usage. The ‘mile’ was extensively used and a German was interested in realising his trousers were not a ‘size number’ but in fact were inches.

When you go to other countries for an extensive time you tend to *want* to emulate and talk the lingo. Well except trying a Jamaican accent in front of Jamaican people. That just sounds ridiculous and you *would* be a laughing stock!

Measures are really not as big a divide as the minority suggests. UK’ers of all ages just naturally use it with no harm to anyone as it’s used today. Also there was a poll that showed teens-to-twenties were the group to most prefer imperial and I think this might be (intellectual or ignorant) a response to EU’ize us as many who didn’t go through decimalisation (like me) and possibly thought that decimalisation should have been the time for metrication – maybe – and thus makes a bigger minority that prefers metric – if you get my drift

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Malcolm R

We make too much of this “pity” and “divide” issue. My family are in engineering and are metric in business, as is general in the UK. Our small use of imperial and our preferences in our private lives do not disadvantage the UK internationally. We are looking at whether schools may give an understanding – not a promotion – of the obsolescent imperial system. Hopefully we will hear from DoE what the current situation is.

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Stimpy

“small use”
“obsolescent”

I really don’t think hundreds of thousands of road signs and cars qualifies for either of those.
I really don’t want to post a huge list of usages but a few examples -
Roads,
Traffic talk (personal & radio),
Car economy on petrol,
The main pub “booze”,
Pizzas,
dual use in loose foods,
“illegal” use in street market loose food,
Personal characteristics,
Enthusiasts “Car language” eg. “though’s”, inches of chairs (as is on aeroplanes), steering wheel, list too long and semi-pedantic to go further,
Most hobbies,
dual or singular in HiFi/ TV talk
Total generic almost unnoticed use in daily use in personal communication
LPs,SPs
Sometimes dual for DVD/CD
Computer usage

Oh heck – list getting long, shutting down…….
Shutdown time has arrived.

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Malcolm R

Most are personal and not relevant to our international trade and standing.

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Stimpy

Yes, I agree – but I had to ‘sort of’ standup against ‘we IN THE UK use it any less’ and obsolescence.. It’s embedded. It might be found in our DNA :-) The human aural traffic in a busy day in a green park somewhere (perhaps avoiding findsbury). It’s people.

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Cliff

The metric system DOES make things easier for people. I’m not a nerd. I’ve never been interested in maths. It was my least favourite subject when I was at school and I avoid it whenever I can. Living in Australia, as I do now, I find the small amounts of calculations required in day to day life are easy due to the metric system being so firmly entrenched here. I even find myself doing simple calculations in my head to pass the time when I’m bored.
For example: The building I live in has a small lap pool. It’s about 15 metres long by 5 metres wide and has a constant depth of 1 metre. I don’t enjoy any exercise but I force myself to swim lengths because I’m 65 years old and I need to lose weight. It’s boring swimming up and down so I find myself working out in my head the distance I have swum and relate it to my 5 km walk home from work and the distances between the the various landmarks on my route. It’s easy to work out that 5 times up and 5 times back is 150 metres. That means 50 times up and 50 times back is 1.5 km. I still haven’t achieved that distance (I’m a lousy swimmer) even though it’s not far in comparison to my walk home from work . I also easily worked out that the pool contains 15 x 5 x 1000 = 75000 litres of water so it weighs 75 tonnes. I weigh 90 kg so it’s around 850 times my weight.
Today I travelled by tram ( I don’t always walk) to my daughter’s apartment which is signposted as 2.5 km from where I live. There were 10 more or less equally spaced stops so it doesn’t take a genius to work out that they’re round about 250 metres apart.I never knew that.Silly little things but none of these calculations would be easy using imperial units and I wouldn’t even attempt them.
They’re easy here because of the metric system. Metric measurements are the default. The ones used in science, industry, transport and the media. I sometimes read the British newspapers on-line and I cannot understand why everything has to be so old-fashioned and unnecessarily complicated with measurements. An example from a story in the Daily Mail about a sniper:
“……….It is only designed to be effective at up to 4,921ft – just less than a mile – and capable of only ‘ harassing fire’ beyond that range.” – I looked that measurement up and it’s 1.5km
“………..How quickly they travel over 1.54 miles”. – 1.54 miles is 2.5 km
Another Daily Mail story talked about MPs getting allowances for 52 gallons of petrol even though petrol is only sold in gallons in the US and they’re different sized gallons to imperial gallons!
I looked up 52 imperial gallons and it’s 200 litres.
Why continue to complicate things like this? Why patronise the public by constantly weeding out metric measurements and replacing them with rough imperial equivalents when the original measurements are perfectly logical?
I work with a lot of British expats and they’ve all adapted totally to the straight-forward way of doing things here and laugh at the muddle of measurements back in the old country like they would laugh at an eccentric old relative who refuses to have his house connected to gas or electricity. They can’t understand why I even bother to write to British websites since I spend most of my time here. I don’t know why I do it myself except that I am still very fond of the country where I was born and hate to see it decline from a world-leader in technology to an Olde English theme park for Americans due to a fear of change and a misguided sentimental patriotism. Every day I see how much better the changeover to the metric system was done in Australia and I’m ashamed of how badly it was handled in the UK.

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Seares

The Daily Mail is a stupid reactionary paper which assumes its readers are of similar ilk. Last bastion of Victorian imperialism.

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Stimpy

Better not read the bbc news site or listen to the radio/tv

first item i clicked on was about the EDL(far right) clash with a far left organisation – apparently they were ‘about 100 yds apart’.

Sorry :-)

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Stimpy

(I can already hear the tapping keyboards of complaints)

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Stimpy

MalcR: I did mention “Personal characteristics”.

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Stimpy

…. land for sale,
conversational
dimensions of houses sold at estate agents,
clothing sizing,
conversational,
wheels & tyres,
the press,
conversational,
the mass media,
examples in Europe,
Did I mention ‘conversational’?……

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dieseltaylor

http://www.connexionfrance.com/Bilingual-sound-system-Gonzales-Lotto-14743-view-article.html

Just a little something on being exposed to two languages as a benefit. Personally I think the base 10/base 12 etc has the same benefit for minds and probably the younger the better. However flexibility of mind can be an over-rated asset.

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Stimpy

You daydream about the metric system. That’s a new one on me :-)

Why continue to complicate things like this? Why patronise the public by constantly weeding out metric measurements and replacing them with rough imperial equivalents when the original measurements are perfectly logical?

I agree, they should convert to imperial and ’round up/down’ to a sensible number. No-one needs it so complicatedly silly. It happens the other way too. There’s a carpark near me that shows an imperial height then in metric rounded to the exact millimetre. Would anyone seriously read that bit?

It’s fine for ex-pats learning your metricated stuff and ‘talking it’. It annoys me in Spain where ‘settled Brits’ make no attempt to learn a bit of Spanish.
Rest assured I know many ex-pats too who return here now-and-again. When they’re back they quickly re-adapt. It’s just part of the ‘merging in’ process. I am talking about young people though, not specifically retired people. There biggest moan is of another conversion. The AU$/UK£ rate.

Do they truly ‘laugh’ at words that describe lengths and heights, distances, that sort of thing? Really? Do they laugh at American sizes too? Or French accents?
Incidentally – you might find that many Australian goods are still in imperial. You’d be surprised.
I’m glad you retain a fondness of the country you left to go to the other side of the world – you still have a ‘patriotic edge.

There is no need to worry about any decline (there isn’t one) as a world leader etc. Apart from the Empire being retired we now have other ‘high output’ countries. This includes China who are a huge economic power now. India will probably follow along with some ‘ex-communist’ countries. I’m aware that Australia make suncreams – do they make anything else? I believe it’s a service economy (finance, insurance, that sort of thing) which does not matter at all. The only other thing that bothers me is ‘who is Australian’. There seams to be an over site of the real one’s – aborigines. They probably had their own measure system as their culture is very rich and unique.

I don’t understand the Theme park thing, sorry.

Finally – are you really ‘ashamed’ of imperial usage in the UK due to metrication ‘bad handling’ (it’s actually a personal choice thing, but that’s fine) – every day? Seriously – every day?
My mind is full of wanting to go to Barbados for a big holiday, my little-one growing half-an-inch per day, my grandparents, job, cash in the bank, that sort of thing. Ok, this metric thing is fun but it does not envelope ‘every day’ of my existence. Too many other good things really.

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Malcolm R

A month ago I emailed the Dept for Education to see what the latest was on the proposal to teach Imperial measurements in schools. I have just received the following reply from the National Curriculum Review Division. If it raises any questions they have given me a correspondence number if i need to reply. Not much meat on these bones.

“Thank you for your email concerning the inclusion of imperial measures in the new draft primary programmes of study. Our reforms aim to ensure that pupils are more confident in working with all measures, including conversions between common imperial and metric units using materials in practical contexts, where appropriate. There is also an expectation that pupils should be confident in conversions between miles and kilometres. Miles and pints are still units of measure in use today and therefore it would seem absolutely right that pupils should be familiar and confident with their use. The allocation of specific teaching time to different topics is a matter for individual schools to make.”

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Martin Vlietstra

This is a long-winded way of saying “Nothing is changing”.

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Stimpy

I had an exact copy of that email letter-for-letter except mine ends with

“….However, as you mention in your email, metric measurements are also clearly vital so the new national curriculum will continue to emphasise metric units ”

It looks like the main text is pro-forma and there’s a ‘personalised’ ending to it.

Yes- despite my views on this forum, and a preference for imperial units, I still believe it important to teach metric units. It is the basis for science.

I’m not anti-metric, but I choose to prefer imperial in most things. I just happen to enjoy listening to people telling me I am wrong to have a preference.

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Peter Hargreaves

I have just got back from a weeks holiday in Yorkshire where I was involved in a festival of engineering event held at the Tees Barrage. The idea behind this event was to promote and encourage youngsters to go into engineering as a career. I was involved myself in the heritage side doing some lectures on the history of various North-East firms that helped to make this the industrial heartland of England. Talking to a large number of retired engineers who are know octogenarians, they inform me sadly that this is all too little too late. Had we taken engineering more seriously as a career opportunity twenty years ago, then those nearing retirement would have had the energy to get involved. But the notion that we lost out because of our system of measurement or suffered because we weren’t fully metric is just nonsense I’m afraid. When I discussed this with retired engineers I was met with a look of surprise and laughter. The reasons for our decline are many and varied, but measurements are not one of them.

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Stimpy

The notion of imperial ‘holding us back’ or ‘costing us’ or a factor with unemployment has always been a desperate argument with no way of proving or substantiating the claim (or in-infact counter claiming it). One of the largest economies in the world has no problems.

There used to be a ‘metrication expert’ (how the hell do you get that title?) who originally helped a metrication effort abroad before becoming so submerged in the issue that it clouded his judgement and caused him to make wild and weird theories. Unfortunately a terminal disease means he is not ‘with us anymore’ (I might have thought his views were nonsense and ridiculous but any loss of life is tragic, regardless of argument/view point.

He suggested that the USA economy had lost a trillion dollars a year by not using words like ‘metre’ and ‘gramme’ and so on. The ‘laughing stock of the world’ argument is equally silly (believe me, there is no Brazilian individual who is currently ‘ROTFL’ due to the word ‘pint’).

Psychiatrists refer to the problem as ‘awfulising’.

As an aside – many husband/wife or family arguments lead to awfulising.

I find it fascinating that some individuals practise this oddity when referring to measurement words.

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Peter Hargreaves

Author: Peter Hargreaves
Comment: Martin Vlietstra
This is a long-winded way of saying “Nothing is changing”.

I am probably better placed to comment on this, than most people who contribute to this site with regard to the school curriculum, as I have two children aged seven and five at primary school. I can tell you that children at the moment learn absolutely nothing about imperial measurements. According to the school history books both Brunel and Stephenson used metric. The schools world atlas books are all in metric with no mention of miles. Their rulers are one-sided showing only centimetres. They have no idea what a mile, foot or inch is!
This current situation must be very confusing for them. At this age growing up outside the school gates they hear and see an imperial world. Because when for instance reading bedtime stories children’s authors tend to use imperial measurements. Raold Dahl refers to his giants as 24 feet tall, flat Stanley is one inch thick and Winnie the Pooh lives in 100-acre wood. In their leisure time, we will measure their bicycle frame and wheel sizes in inches and their tyre pressures using PSI. Hungry children enjoy pizzas and burgers bought in inches and pounds. When playing sport such as football and golf, it will be all measured in yards, feet and inches. Their Hornby train set will be scaled using a mixture of both metric and imperial. Fishing rods in feet, and fish caught and weighed in pounds and ounces.
All the government is doing is to address the current situation where these children will grow up confused and ignorant about imperial measures. But the most important thing to do is to teach children how to get the best out of each measuring system. Using the right tool for the job. So in response to your statement Martin “things have changed”. But as Malcolm mentioned earlier, an understanding – not a promotion.

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Stimpy

I have a four year old.

I can tell you that walking into a book shop will show you that curriculum based books mention imperial rather frequently.

I remember a question about a train and a cyclist and how far they had travelled if they both set off at the same time (speeds were shown in mph).

Some answers showed decimalised miles where – surprisingly (to me) – some answers showed miles and yards.

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Malcolm R

Which clearly is not a convert – from their motoring website:

“Fuel economy calculator

How efficient is your car? Here’s how to check your mpg”

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Martin

It’s all part of the rich tapestry of life! I do business in North America where, generally speaking, both Imperial (and the other Imperial) and Metric are alive and well and getting along together. I also do business in Europe and the FSU where there are a surprising number of functioning relics of the pre-Metric past . . . many ‘standard’ sizes, for instance of sawn wood, are in bizarre numbers of millimetres which translate immediately into inches. Similarly 4′ x 8′ ply and particle board are readily available and rolls of insulating material come in handy 2′ widths. Pipes of course are all really in inches expressed in millimetres and their threads, bless them, are BSP . . . Whitworth would have been proud!

There are, of course, good reasons why people have an emotional attachment to Imperial, there is something more human about measures that scale easily to the, well . . . human body. Speaking for myself I have never found a satisfactory glass size to substitute for the pint.

And don’t get me on time and distance. Hexagesimal not decimal is the thing for all of the former and large measures of the latter. My children, two small and two medium, have no problem understanding two different systems. We even ‘proved’ the relevance of the acre by measuring the actual area of ground tilled by one man and his horse in one day in Eastern Europe where they still plough by horsepower. I was the measure and my pace is a yard not a metre as my old Sergeant Major’s pace stick would prove. The ploughman’s day’s work was almost exactly one acre though, no doubt, city folk would express it as point something or other of a Hectare.

There is no reason why people should not be educated in both systems as, after all, many of the most creative scientists and engineers have worked in both and most of the absolutist arguments on both ‘sides’ are rubbish. And now I really must go as the wind outside is gusting at 70 mph and the temperature is falling toward 32F . . . (Oh yes, many of us still think in Fahrenheit and I, for one, don’t see why I should have unwanted change foisted upon me!)

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