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Mar 15 13 6:19 PM

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Something which seems strange to me is why in the UK and the USA (there may be a couple of other countries or territories I am forgetting/unsure about (Myanmar and Liberia?)) we persist with measuring distance in miles. Same could be said for other imperial measurements, although in some cases at least short distances (e.g. sprint races) are in metres a lot of the time. Even still, I really can't see how it's a logical way to make measurements, it sounds like we're still back in the dark ages or something smiley: alien.

I can understand using the words in jest (e.g. 'that's miles away' or 'he's 10 feet tall') but how anyone can seriously know what they're talking about when they say something like '7 miles' is beyond me, unless you are a genius or have had time to figure it out a phrase like that is a sketchy guess at best.

Metres are extremely easy to understand (100cm=1m, 1,000m=1km, etc.), but there is nothing like this in imperial (1 mile = [quoted from Wikipedia] "5,280 feet (1,760 yards, or about 1,609 meters)" smiley: tired). Then apparently there's differences between a 'regular' (international) mile, a nautical mile, and a 'US mile', so it all really just seems like a joke.

Never really questioned it much until a few years ago, but it seems to be one of those things that makes less sense the more you think about it. What's everyone's opinion on this?
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#1 [url]

Mar 15 13 7:52 PM

Isn't it for historical reasons, in particular not wanting to go along with anything French?
Mathematically it makes more sense to use base 60 as it has more factors - cf 60 secs = 1 minute, 60 mins = 1 hour.

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#2 [url]

Mar 15 13 9:41 PM

Time is a different matter, I don't count metric clocks as part of what I was saying above, and I don't know how much coverage it has worldwide so can't really comment (I know from Eurosport adverts that their schedule runs on a regular 24-hour clock, particularly important considering the channel is based in the ever-pioneering country of France smiley: wink).

The Wikipedia page for 'metric system' credits an Englishman with the original idea in the 17th century, but I can see the French thing being a big reason in some people's minds considering it was exclusively theirs for the first 19 years at least, it's just that pretty much everywhere else has taken it up as well for years, no anti-Frenchness should get in the way of common sense by now...

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TheRoonBa

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#3 [url]

Mar 15 13 11:14 PM

I always have to convert when I hear of something in kilometres, so I can understand it better. If it's the measurement you use in school, it's not hard to understand. It took me a while to get used to Degrees Celsius for temperatures as I always thought of temperature in Fahrenheit. I still don't know my height in metres and centimetres, and I always read my weight in Stones and Pounds (again, I need to convert mentally to understand a weight given to me in kg).

Also, as Neil pointed out, factors are important (for subdivisions).
For example, 100 has 9 factors - 100, 50, 25, 20, 10, 5, 4, 2 and 1.
144 (12 x 12 - we always counted up to the twelve times table in school) has 14 (144, 72, 48, 36, 24, 18, 12, 9, 8, 6, 4, 3, 2 and 1), including 7 of the 9 one-digit numbers compared to only 4 one-digit numbers for 100.

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#4 [url]

Mar 18 13 6:15 PM

I can understand that to an extent (the 'school' argument that is), it's the reason these measurements are still used (even if it's supposed to be a little more metric than in previous decades). I've always had my weight given to me in stone as well, so it's not like it 'doesn't work' (comparing each weight in stone is still going to give a relative result), but hearing it in kg makes for easier reference smiley: nerd. Opposite to you, though, I've always seen temperature in celsius and height in cm (I know I'm 5ft-something but can't remember in detail), so it's a strange situation to be in in England at least, can't speak much for Scotland.

As far as I can remember from school, the only distance-related things we ever learned were with rulers (dual-sided cm/inch) and metre wheels. It's the being caught in the middle (metres in schools, imperial on roads) that confuses me.

For the numbers argument, I also learned up to 12 x 12 in school, but even with less factors than 144, 100 has the ones which are 'easiest' whichever way you look at it. If I was comparing the weight of two items (one item listed in pounds & grams, the other in stone & kg), it's obvious which method would be simpler to convert from even if you are inexperienced with grams. Same goes for any other imperial measurements (except clocks), that's why I'm not sure why we stick with miles, etc.

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#5 [url]

Mar 18 13 8:16 PM

100 seems easiest because we use base 10 as a number system, historically because we have 10 fingers. Base 12 would be easier for general "ready reckoner" calculations or estimates. Scientifically (or computationally) base 2^n is probably the winner.
I think the difference in your ages is more relevant than the England-Scotland difference, but I could be wrong.

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#6 [url]

Mar 18 13 9:11 PM

nfm24 wrote:
I think the difference in your ages is more relevant than the England-Scotland difference, but I could be wrong.

"Within a few generations it won't be a problem", is what I'm hearing ;) .

Don't worry as much about us anymore world smiley: wink, now you just need to start work on the metric system's biggest challenge - the Americans smiley: eyes.

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TheRoonBa

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#7 [url]

Mar 19 13 2:04 AM

I think 144 has easier factors, if there is such a thing. 1,2,3,4? Nothing particularly complex about those numbers.

Also, I think you mean "ounces/grams and pounds/kg". Most jam still comes in 1 pound jars (454g approx.)  Although, probably jam is seen as quite an 'old' thing to be concerned about smiley: grin

Most people are just not very good at mental arithmetic. It's as if it is now cool to say "Oh, I'm hopeless with numbers, hahaha". Within a few generations, nobody will be able to count to 12.

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#9 [url]

Mar 19 13 10:09 PM

nfm24 wrote:
Knowing stuff is unfashionable, as is showing any effort or enthusiasm.

Whereas being on a reality TV show... the world we live in smiley: mad. This is an American example, but if you've even heard of the name 'Honey Boo Boo', you can add to your feeling of disappointment in society with the fact that it is broadcast on a network called TLC (The Learning Channel, commence eye-rolling smiley: eyes or worse smiley: madsmiley: madsmiley: madsmiley: mad).

My biggest gripe, though, is when people know literally next to nothing about geography and countries of the world. I can understand to an extent people having limited knowledge of a subject they aren't interested in, but I have seriously heard some shocking guesses/answers over the years.



Back on topic again, there is nothing complex about the factors of 144, but 100 is still the easiest (even when you divide by certain non-factors (e.g. 3, 6, 9, 11) you can establish an answer instantly). I can mentally convert km-miles roughly (x1.6 or 0.6), it's just wasted effort compared to people from other countries who don't need to do this (unless they are over here.... I get it now, this is all some sort of anti-immigration measure isn't it? smiley: wink    I'd rescind all arguments, but if that was the plan it hasn't been working well over the years has it?).

The factors issue for dividing miles is also important, I cannot stress this enough but from my original post, but 1km=1,000m; 1 mile = 5,280ft, 1,760yd, or 'about 1,609m'. Working with those figures isn't something you can do on the spot unless you're a supercomputer.

For the people that want to measure in imperial for themselves, I have no problem with it (many other 'old' units are kept alive in this way), just in official means (e.g. road signs), this is a case where we (the British Isles, you know what I mean) should really just apply common sense and do what everyone else is doing, same goes for the others (USA, etc.).

PS: ounces > pounds, pounds > stone - same principle smiley: wink.

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