Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Metric system vs Imperial system

I was chatting with a colleague over lunch the other day and for some reason it drifted to my jogs back home from the office (don't ask me how, it just did).

"So how was your jog?"
"Erm, not too bad. It was only around 5km."
"How much is that in miles?"
(In that split second, I wished I had Google wired to my brain) "Not too sure, just over 3 miles I reckon."
"Oh, so it wasn't so bad then."

Try running that in a thin jogging gear, which is clearly meant for the tropics, and manoeuvring through scores of disgruntled commuters, tons of second hand cigarette smoke that would rendered Kyoto Protocol meaningless, and beer glasses deliberately left behind by joggers-hating pubbers.

I have digressed.


Today's Britain is torn between the practicalities of the Metric system of measurements and the emotional attachment to the Imperial system, which it came up with in 1824. Although the official measurement system adopted by Britain is that of the Metric system, many Britons continue to measure their height in feet and inches, their weight in stones, their purchases at the local grocers in ounces and pounds, and their beer in pints.

Curiously, the Imperial system is officially sanctioned for distances and other related measurements (e.g. speed) - road signs in miles rule Britain's transport system till this day.

After being accustomed to the notion of millimetres, centimetres, decimetres, metres so on and so forth, inches, feet, yards and miles look ridiculous in comparison.

So how many of us can recall off-hand just how many yards are there in a mile? Er, nope, it's not a thousand. Well, that colleague of mine can't either. Now, wouldn't you just wish to have Google wired to your brain?

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Dutchie said...

Yes, the imperial system has been around longer than the metric n I can understand the difficulties people faced when making the transition. America, btw, also uses the imperial system !

Off the top, I know that pilots calculates their fuel in pounds (wt), so does ships with their nautical miles for distance.

When I was in the oilfield, containers were rented in foot n inches, ditto the items associated in this field. For eg, a 1/4 inch bolt or a 45" screen (to sieve the debris), etc. Now I wonder if it's so bec most of it came from the USA ?

Well, that's my 2ct worth ;-p

SheR. said...

Oh my dear friends who are complaining about Imperial measurements, let me tell you it's way better! :P

Ok. For the Food biz, you can't escape it. Everything comes with metric and imperial measurements. (Now that's what I call DOUBLE standards :P) 2l of Cream converts to 4.226 pints. Cakes are measured in inches. Know them well else I can't be a cake decoratore. Can you imagine when someone asks me for a 25cm cake? I fumbled. Sorry.

Ok. Imperial (Royal as they like to call it) system in my opinion is still not as bad as the US system.(Mind you they are not exactly the same. Check the net for exact conversions!!!) Oh that sucks! A stick of butter? A cup of Milk? Gosh. I rather stick to ounces and pounds.

The Cake Decorator who loves Inches :P

Fëanor said...

I'm not sure that the Brits use the imperial system for weights anymore. It's all kg and things (except when they talk about body weight, when they use 'stone'). At least, I haven't seen any grocers who do - I think it's illegal not to use metric. Pounds and ounces are an American thing now. There used to be a joke that when the metric system was adopted, the British Standards Institute (or the equivalent) had a footmat at its main door with the logo 'wipe your metres'.

Martin in Bulgaria said...

I loved the imperial measures int he UK, it had a sense of nationalism about it and made you feel special in a world of metrics being forced upon you. No wonder everyone who is British hated that. The pint of beer just wouldn't be the same. Globalisation is inevitable so now the Brits will have to get used to it. No longer is the UK an 'Imperial' nation but a cosmopolitan nation who has lost their sense of national pride due to this. Imperial measures just don't have any say in that kind of society anymore.

kyh said...

i'm one for the metric system. these feet and inches are driving me nuts! i'm currently undergoing my industrial training in an architecture firm, and boy, do they love the imperial system. and i'm like @.@

Thank goodness they gave me a conversion sheet for reference.

C K said...

Yep, America is the current champion of the Imperial System. Just curious how the Imperial System took root. It must have replaced an even more inefficient system.. or was there even one in the first place?

Curiously, though the Metrics is more efficient than Imperials, come on, even you have to admit that, we are still living in a world that is still very much in tune with the Imperials.

The screen size of TVs, our waistlines... are somehow better measured and thus understood by inches!

Haha, I can totally imagine that, though it took me awhile to catch that. Getting a bit slow these days...

say, are you the one that came up with the sign in the picture? :) But I can understand where you are coming from.

So is the Imperial System the measuring benchmark in the architectural profession? Hmm, because I know for a fact that it's not in Civil Engineering.

Fëanor said...

Wasn't there the case of NASA's lunar explorer that crashed because it was calibrated by engineers in inches whereas they should have used millimetres? Or something?

The Imperial system has one advantage: it is nicely divisible into halves and quarters and eighths and so on. The decimal system only allows tenths (okay, and halves and fifths). Plus the Imperial names are way cooler. Avoirdupois or troy ounces? Pints and gallons? Furlongs and leagues?

kyh said...

It's mostly in metric now, but some architects still prefer using the imperial system as they were educated in that system. :)

C K said...

Yep, that happened while I was in Singapore. I found it rather... amusing then.

Agreed with the names as well. 2"0 thousand leagues under the sea" wouldn't sound the same as "20 thousands kilometres under the sea", would it? :)

BBC ran a program the other day and the presenter was saying the India first came up with the deci system. Come to think of it, isn't it intuitive, for starters, we do have 10 fingers...

Well, it might take some time for the metric system to be entrenched I supposed. It's funny how we are so used with Imperial system on some things (tv screen size for one) and not so for the others...