Could anyone explain to me the sense of non-metric measurement systems?

Since I first heard of feet and inches, I’m asking myself, why anyone would use them. No, “Because that’s what we’ve always been using” is not a satisfying answer.

When I went to school I learned the metric system. I instantly liked it. It was a logical, intuitive and elegant.

Of course I’ve had heard of miles, gallons and the like, but when, years later, an exchange student asked me how far it is to the next city, I had a problem. I remembered that 1 mile is about 1,6 kilometers, but what about the rest? It was 5 km, so I said “It’s about 3 miles and… Yeah, about 3 miles.” Giving such an inaccurate answer was as ungerman as it gets.

We all use the decimal numeral system. It’s based on the number 10. That’s what makes it simple. Why don’t you apply the same principle to you units? There’s no need for a base of 3, 4, 6, 12, 42.

I know that there are a lot of Americans who spend their time reenacting civil war battles, so I shouldn’t be surprised that you like to play medieval Europe when measuring distances.

But seriously, don’t you think that it’s time you, Liberia and Myanmar join the rest of the world? We live in a modern world with a global economy. Hop on the boat.


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6 Comments

Comment by beansworth
2007-04-19 19:25:00

We use the measurements that are useful to us. Most people are between 5 and 6 feet tall, so feet and inches are a good measurement. If inches were smaller, we couldn’t distinguish them easily, and if they were larger, they wouldn’t be useful. Celsius degrees are too large, and it’s awkward to fractionalize. Farenheit degrees are about the smallest unit a person can distinguish, so that’s a useful unit.

These measurements evolved from things people could measure with their bodies. A foot is about the length of a man’s foot. An inch is about the length of the last knuckle of a thumb. A yard is one pace.

If any of these units becomes unuseful, they go out of use. No one uses fathoms anymore, because very few people have a need to measure the depth of small bodies of water, and feet will do. No one uses rods or hogsheads or leagues, either.

What’s strange is the artificial imposition of meansurements based on the circumference of the earth and the scientific properties of water.

 
Comment by crash
2007-04-20 05:56:09

In regards to your base-10 argument, I would like to remind you that computers work in base-2. It’s more convenient.

Which I suppose is the center of the reason why people still use the imperial system.

The sheer arrogance that one system of measurement is ‘better’ than another is utter hogwash.

People are used to measuring in units they are familiar with. Most don’t need to do much math. Those that do, generally can handle the fact that their unit isn’t a perfect multiple of 10.

Most of these arguments center around the a juvenile thought. “You don’t do it my way so it must be wrong”.

Bash the Americans for using such a antiquated system. Fools. :-)

The same (flawed) argument is given towards cultures that still use accents in writing.

Why not just use diphthongs to approximate them?

As a german, how would you prefer to spell your language?

Spaetzle or Spätzle?
Muenchen or München?
Weissbier or Weißbier?

In the age of computers, is it really that difficult to keep your traditional spellings?

I think we’re past the point that these standards actually would matter that much to the average person. Most of US engineering is in metric already.

Tchuß :-)

PS: For clarity, I am not American.

 
Comment by brettbum
2007-04-22 06:31:29

You might ask yourself why you are communicating in English?

In the 17th century scientists initiated a new more logical and descriptive language. It does not utilize forms of the verb ‘be’ for example. It has not really taken off despite its logic and practicality.

For that matter two thousand years ago, Chinese scientists invented a more logical and efficient language (Korean). It has survived and grown, but you don’t see it widely deployed across China nor the world for that matter.

People are fickle and definitely do not change from the status quo easily.

 
Comment by TJantunen
2007-04-25 05:47:01

I totally agree with your post. I am from Finland so we use metric system. Inches are unaccurate measurement system in my mind, for example if you say something like 3 and 3/8 inches, how much is that in metric scale?

 
Comment by jdhatl
2007-05-03 10:57:11

When I was growing up they made a big deal about how we were going to go to the metric system. Actually we’re on the dual system, we use both systems equally. The smaller the scale of what needs to be measured, the more likely we will use the traditional system. It is easier to divide a foot into a third than a meter. A lot of construction still gets done using ht eold system, bigger construction projects get bogged down (and NASA projects as well) with confusions when both are used. It works the best for simple woodworking. Measuring tapes and rulers are still mostly traditional with metric in smaller red marks.

 
Comment by Fred
2007-05-04 05:13:27

Ideally, it would make things easier if everyone in the world conformed to a single standard of measurement. The metric system appears to be the most logical.

That said, it’s really depends on what you’ve taught as to what you find easier to use. I was taught to use the metric system and therefore find it a lot easier to understand than the imperial system. My mother, on the other hand, was taught to user the imperial system and has a lot of trouble getting her head around the metric system.

 

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