Back on the Air

I’m back, well on air at any rate, never really was away sadly.It occurred to me that I haven’t said much about what I actually do for a living. This is deliberate, as I have read too many horror stories about people being sacked for mouthing off in their blogs. So keeping it vague I am a civil engineer (in training) and I was out these last few weeks digging holes.

When I say digging holes I of course don’t mean myself personally. I had people to do that, I just had to look in them and describe what I saw (Mud) and take a photo (Of Mud). All peppered by discussions on how deep the holes should actually be. While this was compounded by the specification having 3 different figures it also wasn’t helped by older supervisors arguing in inches while I’m arguing in millimetres, and this leads me in a roundabout way to my point.

In short, why the hells do we still use imperial measurements. I’ve never heard a convincing argument beyond “Its what we’re used to” well newsflash old timer, in school since at least the early 80s imperial hasn’t been taught, there is an entire generation, now in their late 20s/early 30s who have been taught metric and have to learn imperial when old fools who refuse to move on won’t change.

An argument someone once tried to make was that all the imperial measurements were based on real things, that why people liked them, a foot was the length of a foot for example, well, who’d foot, my Size 11 or my mum’s size 4? An inch is a thumb width, again whose thumb, my pudgy digit or my beloved’s elegant slender thumb? And some are worse, chains, for example, are 22yards, as this was the standard length of surveyors chains, an antique piece of surveying equipment used before someone came up with the revolutionary idea of cloth tape with numbers at regular intervals.

SO, imperial uses vague measurements based on such things as the length of someone’s foot (We still don’t know who this foot belongs to) the temperature of the inside of a cow and the length of an obsolete piece of equipment. These also make for some interesting calculation if they need to be added to anything like a spreadsheet for calculation and tabulation. 1760 yards to the mile. Nice easy figure there, so much less confusing than 1000 millimetres to a metre, or indeed 1000 millilitres to a litre, gods forbid we work everything in base 10 for easy calculation.

And it’s not just this standard calculation based in easy to work with 10s that helps the metric system. Oh no, While some measurements are based on odd things (the metre is based on the distance travelled by light in an absolute vacuum during 1/299,792,458 of a second) ok not something I can measure in my living room but its not something that changes person to person. The original basis however were to use basic relationships between volumes of water, weights of water and the size of meridians. So for example a metric tonne of water is equal to 1000 litres or 1 cubic metre of water. 1 kilogram is the same weight as 1 litre of water.So why hasn’t the world adapted to this wonder system. America claims it too confusing. Proving that no one there has actually considered it seeing as its more intuitive and logical than the old imperial system (and what the hell is a quart anyway)

The UK is arguably worse, in that we have a bunch of sentimental oldsters combined with some rabid petty little Englanders who insist that our entire culture and way of life would be destroyed if you couldn’t buy oranges by the pound and that the metric system is “Soulless” well, That’s fair, we should indeed stick with a complex and confusing system because it has “Soul” as for the first point, our culture is far more about personal behaviour, attitudes etc than whether we use pounds or Kilograms, or pay in Euros, Pounds or Trigantic Ningis.

Lets ditch the misplaced sentimentality and adopt the metric system, them most it will cost is changing road signs.


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