Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

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Metric of Customary/Imperial for Everday Use?

Metric
97
87%
Customary/Imperial
14
13%
 
Total votes : 111

Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby phlip » Tue Jul 26, 2011 1:32 am UTC

MHD wrote:I say we abandon all this anthropocentrism and turn to natural units

It's around 80 undecillion Planck lengths from my home to work, and I can ride my bike at around 15 billionths of c, so it usually takes me around 5 quattuordecillion Planck times to ride to work.

Simple!
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby Dream » Wed Jul 27, 2011 3:45 pm UTC

phlip wrote:
MHD wrote:I say we abandon all this anthropocentrism and turn to natural units

It's around 80 undecillion Planck lengths from my home to work, and I can ride my bike at around 15 billionths of c, so it usually takes me around 5 quattuordecillion Planck times to ride to work.

Simple!

Those are suspiciously round numbers. Are you anthropocentrising your journey durations and distances?
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby KestrelLowing » Wed Jul 27, 2011 4:28 pm UTC

Odd_nonposter wrote:Out in the midwestern states, it would be silly to use metric for distances, since everything is divvied into square mile blocks. A 6x6 square of them made up a township, so many townships made up a county, etc. Not that that matters for our crooked state highways, which were based off of Indian trails (which is why I call them "drunken Indian roads"), creek paths, property lines, topography, and whatever little bumfuck town paid to have a big road run through it.


Very true - I know that especially around Detroit (except for the 5 roads that come out of Detroit into the suburbs) everything is a mile grid. That's why I know what a mile actually is. It's just the distance between 13 and 14 Mile. The east-west roads are mile roads, and the north-south roads are often a mile apart as well (the major ones). It's actually an excellent system - if you tell me what mile road and I know the order of the north-south roads, I can easily find where they live and know approximately how long it will take to get there, even if I've never been there before.
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby phlip » Thu Jul 28, 2011 2:17 am UTC

Dream wrote:Those are suspiciously round numbers. Are you anthropocentrising your journey durations and distances?

No, merely rounding them off to represent the low precision of the values. I haven't measured the length of my commute accurate to the nearest planck length, so it would be incorrect to convey that much precision. And the speed and time vary from day to day anyway.

I mean, just the fact that I claimed 5*15=80 should make it clear that I'm rounding, not choosing convenient-for-humans values.
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby Dream » Sun Jul 31, 2011 4:09 pm UTC

phlip wrote:I mean, just the fact that I claimed 5*15=80 should make it clear that I'm rounding, not choosing convenient-for-humans values.

How am I supposed to know how many fingers you were born with? It could be fifteen, for all I know.
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby Adam H » Tue Aug 02, 2011 7:12 pm UTC

What's the question? Is it which system DO I prefer to use for everyday use? Or which WOULD I prefer to use for everyday use. As an unfortunate American, I grew up using imperial units and use imperial units exclusively at my job as well (and mech. engineering SUCKS in imperial units). If I could magically transform our brains so that metric comes naturally to us, then I would prefer to do that. But since that's not realistic, I prefer the system that I actually am comfortable using. I use the metric system like I use the spanish language - haltingly, incorrectly, and constantly translating to english/imperial in my head.

As far as temperatures go, I'm not sure the "0 is really cold and 100 is really hot" argument holds up. First, I hear "30 degrees F below freezing" more often than "0 degrees F", so setting 0 to the freezing point makes a lot of sense. Second, 100 degrees F is not "really hot". IMO, it's about as hot as 45F is cold. I do live in a hot climate though, where 100F with a breeze is about as nice as you can hope for in the summer, so YMMV.

And base ten is the most intuitive base for humans, period.
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby EvanED » Tue Aug 02, 2011 7:43 pm UTC

Adam H wrote:As far as temperatures go, I'm not sure the "0 is really cold and 100 is really hot" argument holds up. First, I hear "30 degrees F below freezing" more often than "0 degrees F", so setting 0 to the freezing point makes a lot of sense. Second, 100 degrees F is not "really hot". IMO, it's about as hot as 45F is cold. I do live in a hot climate though, where 100F with a breeze is about as nice as you can hope for in the summer, so YMMV.

Ugh... remind me to never move there. I'd rather it be 45F than 80, but I'm admittedly somewhat weird. ;-)

The 0-100 scale actually works out pretty accurately for me... 0 and 100 are ballpark equally (un)plesant. That may have something to do with why I like that argument as much as I do.

(I also suspect that your location may have something to do with "30 below freezing" being common... I virtually never hear or use that phrase. I don't know if it's used by TV/radio though. If it's 22 out and you say "what temperature is it", there's no way I'll say "10 below freezing" in preference to "22".)
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby Derek » Tue Aug 02, 2011 9:42 pm UTC

Adam H wrote:As far as temperatures go, I'm not sure the "0 is really cold and 100 is really hot" argument holds up. First, I hear "30 degrees F below freezing" more often than "0 degrees F", so setting 0 to the freezing point makes a lot of sense. Second, 100 degrees F is not "really hot". IMO, it's about as hot as 45F is cold. I do live in a hot climate though, where 100F with a breeze is about as nice as you can hope for in the summer, so YMMV.

I have never heard anyone give fahrenheit temperatures in terms of degrees below freezing. I hear things like "20 below" sometimes (and I'm glad I don't live in those places), but that always refers to below 0. Obviously the 0 to 100 thing is somewhat subjective and depends on where you're from. I believe fahrenheight was invented in northern Europe. Being from North Carolina, I would compare 100 to about 40 in terms of comfort, but that's thinking of them both in terms of "the high today is ___". In terms of the daily temperature range (including the nightly low) I will see throughout the year, it would be about 10 or 15 to 110.

And base ten is the most intuitive base for humans, period.

I strongly disagree. The only reason it seems intuitive is because we have ten fingers and we've been brought up in a base 10 world. But as soon as you get past counting by one's, the fingers argument goes out the door, and if we were brought up with base 12 instead, it would be no harder to learn and we would be better off.
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby Adam H » Wed Aug 03, 2011 9:22 pm UTC

Derek wrote:The only reason it seems intuitive is because we have ten fingers and we've been brought up in a base 10 world.
So we agree then! If you can get the entire world to convert to a base 12 system, I'm sure we'll ALL throw out idiotic metric units.

Derek wrote:I have never heard anyone give fahrenheit temperatures in terms of degrees below freezing.
Mmmm maybe it's a texas thing. Since freezing temperatures are rare, it's a big deal when it gets below freezing, so everyone makes sure to point it out. I'm guessing.

But yes, I assure you that I'm not making it up, I hear "X below freezing" everytime it's below freezing.

EvanED wrote:I'd rather it be 45F than 80, but I'm admittedly somewhat weird.
What do you set your thermostat to? Just curious...
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby EvanED » Wed Aug 03, 2011 9:47 pm UTC

Adam H wrote:
EvanED wrote:I'd rather it be 45F than 80, but I'm admittedly somewhat weird.
What do you set your thermostat to? Just curious...

I live in an apartment.

In the winter, I try to keep my living room at 65 and bedroom probably 60ish. (I'd actually not mind an even cooler bedroom, but that would make the living room too cold.) This is maybe 5 degrees cooler than I'd set it if I didn't worry about energy use.

In the summer I don't use all that much A/C for a few reasons (cost&energy, noise, and the fact that it's not very controllable as a through-the-wall unit), but a room temperature in the low 80s is where I stop being able to fall asleep. If I can open the windows and put a box fan in it, usually it'll be about 5 degrees warmer inside than out, so if it looks like it'll be above about 75 when I'm going to bed, I'll turn on the A/C and try to knock it down to 78-80. It's not powerful enough to get much below that; even 78 takes quite some time if it's in the mid-to-high 80s. For comfort I'll turn it on when my room hits around 90, and then try to keep it in the mid-80s. It'd turn on earlier and go cooler if I didn't live alone and could hang out nearly naked.
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby Iranon » Sun Aug 07, 2011 6:41 pm UTC

There is no difference between everyday and scientific use, artifically creating one is an atrocity on upcoming geeks. Thee cleaner metric system is much preferable unless there's a good reason to deviate from it: Nautical miles are far more convenient for geographical calculations (although this is becoming increasingly irrelevant to most people who use the unit; not sure whether this one is worth deviating from the standard). Overwhelming force of habit isn't a reason to keep using an inferior system, it's a reason to make continued use punishable by wedgie (this goes doubly for anyone who uses the metric system in combination with units like horsepowers).
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby enk » Mon Aug 08, 2011 4:08 pm UTC

Iranon wrote:Overwhelming force of habit isn't a reason to keep using an inferior system, it's a reason to make continued use punishable by wedgie (this goes doubly for anyone who uses the metric system in combination with units like horsepowers).

So you want everyone to switch to the metric system, only they're not allowed to do it gradually?

Yeah, that's gonna work.
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby cjmcjmcjmcjm » Wed Aug 10, 2011 6:32 am UTC

I like my miles and yards and stone and pints (even though they are smaller here than they should be). Why not use metric for important things (engineering, design) and do a quick (precision irrelevant) conversion to US customary units for display?
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby Le1bn1z » Fri Aug 26, 2011 5:33 pm UTC

First, I want to take issue with the OP notion that imperial/american is superior because it was grown from hundreds of years of usage, and so is the product of some sort of "natural selection" which makes it "better."

This is terrible logic.

Zombie Francis Bacon has risen from his grave, and is coming to bitch-slap you.

Other practices which came about through "a natural selection" and have been supported over "newfangled" notions:

Absolute Monarchy
Platonic physics
Medicine based on the four-humours theory
Homeopathy
Trial of Water
Exorcism
The American Congressional System

and many other absurdities.

As for the matter at hand, Imperial is better for a lot of at-hand stuff, like how tall someone is, or how much a person weighs.

For any sort of commercial application, whether you're running a small office or a large trucking fleet, or for anything where you need scalable measurements, metric kicks other systems' asses.

For cooking, I like metric because it's so easy to scale recipes up and down, without doing convoluted fractions involving strange units like "teaspoon" and "pinch."
For distance, the more measurements you need to take, the easier. Meters and kilometers are WAY more applicable than yards, miles and nautical miles, especially when you need to calculate cumulative distance, for example.
For handiman measurements, I like metric for the same reason as for distance.
For weight, metric if its something you may need to scale. And even if it isn't, kilograms are really not that hard to work with (2.2 pounds) and so its as easy to say "I weight 90 kgs" as "I weigh about 200 lbs."

Human height and scale of human dimensions (such as clothing measurements, figuring out how tall you are and planning how big to make a chair), are sometimes easier in feet and inches, as centimeters are too precise to be really usable.

This is the one exception, and even rooms make more sense to me in meters, as, again, its easier to scale.

In short, imperial is better in some very narrowly defined and limited areas, but metric is far more flexible and reasonable to use for almost every application of any complexity.

Which is why its the preferred system for scientists, business leaders and people who are not the Rain Man.
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby Anonymously Famous » Fri Aug 26, 2011 7:26 pm UTC

You obviously have strong feelings about this.

Here is my logic regarding measurement systems:

The distance doesn't change regardless of the system used. Nor do the temperature, mass, force, energy, etc.

The metric system is more consistent, and therefore perhaps more logical, but in the end, it's just a man-made convention for measuring things. If you are more comfortable using the imperial system while baking, good for you. If you buy gas by the liter/re, huzzah! In the end, the world keeps turning at the same rate, no matter how you measure it.
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby Xanthir » Fri Aug 26, 2011 7:51 pm UTC

Anonymously Famous wrote:In the end, the world keeps turning at the same rate, no matter how you measure it.

To be precise, no, the world slows down. And some ways of measuring the earth's spin would have an effect on that. ^_^
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby Derek » Fri Aug 26, 2011 11:48 pm UTC

Le1bn1z wrote:For distance, the more measurements you need to take, the easier. Meters and kilometers are WAY more applicable than yards, miles and nautical miles, especially when you need to calculate cumulative distance, for example.

I'm not following you here. The more measurements you need to take, the easier? And how does this effect metric versus imperial? (One of them needs more measurements? Which one and why?)

so its as easy to say "I weight 90 kgs" as "I weigh about 200 lbs."

"Kilograms" is three syllables, "pounds" is one :P Of course, in countries that use metric, they just say "kilos". "Kilometers" (which is also too long) doesn't have a common abbreviation to my knowledge though.

Unless you're saying that the smaller number compensates for the extra syllables, but I don't think that would work very generally.
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby Anonymously Famous » Fri Aug 26, 2011 11:59 pm UTC

Xanthir wrote:
Anonymously Famous wrote:In the end, the world keeps turning at the same rate, no matter how you measure it.

To be precise, no, the world slows down. And some ways of measuring the earth's spin would have an effect on that. ^_^

I sit corrected.
Derek wrote:I'm not following you here. The more measurements you need to take, the easier? And how does this effect metric versus imperial? (One of them needs more measurements? Which one and why?)

I think that Le1bn1z means that since *meters all come in sets of 10 (milli-, centi-, deci-, -, deca-, etc.), it's easier to put all of the measurements together and convert them to one unit. Though any calculator or computer could add in the number of feet (or inches, or whatever), run some basic math operations, and come up with the larger unit just as quickly. Yes, you can convert units in metric more easily in your head, but as long as you know the conversion factors and a calculator, you can convert in imperial just as easily (whether it makes more sense to or not).
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby marcel » Sun Aug 28, 2011 3:47 pm UTC

Le1bn1z wrote:As for the matter at hand, Imperial is better for a lot of at-hand stuff, like how tall someone is, or how much a person weighs.

Can you explain something to me? Why would the empirical system be in anyway better for these things? There is nothing in the empirical system that makes it easier to use then the metric system in measuring how tall or heavy a person is, so I do not see how imperial is better for in hand stuff.

Le1bn1z wrote:Human height and scale of human dimensions (such as clothing measurements, figuring out how tall you are and planning how big to make a chair), are sometimes easier in feet and inches, as centimeters are too precise to be really usable.

This makes even less sense to me. When using measurements you decide what precision is relevant for your use. However, when using a tape measure, it is completely irrelevant for the precision whether it is in empirical or metric, since they are equally precise,

People in metric countries are capable of making clothes and furniture without having to resort to empirical measurement because their metric measurements are so precise that they are not capable of making fitting clothes or not.

Anonymously Famous wrote:
Derek wrote:I'm not following you here. The more measurements you need to take, the easier? And how does this effect metric versus imperial? (One of them needs more measurements? Which one and why?)

I think that Le1bn1z means that since *meters all come in sets of 10 (milli-, centi-, deci-, -, deca-, etc.), it's easier to put all of the measurements together and convert them to one unit. Though any calculator or computer could add in the number of feet (or inches, or whatever), run some basic math operations, and come up with the larger unit just as quickly. Yes, you can convert units in metric more easily in your head, but as long as you know the conversion factors and a calculator, you can convert in imperial just as easily (whether it makes more sense to or not).

the bolded is a typical error made by people used to empirical.
In the metric system we use only one unt, the metre for length/distance. That means that there is no conversion necessary.
This is why the metric system is easier. the empirical system is using different units for one variable, where the empirical system uses different units for one variable, making conversions necessary in the empirical system, where there are no conversions in the metric system.
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby Derek » Mon Aug 29, 2011 6:21 am UTC

The metric system only uses meter for length no more than imperial measurements only uses the foot. 1000 meters = 1 kilometer and 5280 feet = 1 mile. Either they're both one unit, or both two units.
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby Iranon » Mon Aug 29, 2011 9:40 am UTC

It's just one unit, with standardised prefixes that work the same way for all units. Kilometers are nothing special, they're just so familiar to people using the metric system that people are hesitant to switch to a larger scale even when the numbers become unwieldy. Megameter or gigameter are perfectly acceptable units, but we tend to use km until we switch to something completely different, usually something that only makes sense in astronomy.

Easy ad-hoc scaling and standardisation are very convenient when you need to mix things that don't go together in everyday use. Whether interrelated units (distance -> speed -> acceleration... would be even better if the metric system had more standardisation for time) or simply disparate scales. When you want to know volume of something long and thin like a cable (you're likely interested in weight but need volume first) Inches and miles don't go as well together as centimeter and kilometer.
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby Bijan » Mon Aug 29, 2011 11:03 am UTC

Expanding on the topic of volume: 1 liter is equivalent to a cube of 10cm edge-length. While 1dm³ is not the most intuitive of a volume, I can visualize it just fine. I am not too familiar with imperial units of volume, but 231 cubic inches to the gallon does not seem very easy to visualize.
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby marcel » Mon Aug 29, 2011 12:44 pm UTC

Derek wrote:The metric system only uses meter for length no more than imperial measurements only uses the foot. 1000 meters = 1 kilometer and 5280 feet = 1 mile. Either they're both one unit, or both two units.

The only unit for length in the metric system is meter. kilo, hecto, centi, milli, etc. are only prefixes to the unit meter (or other unit, depending on variable,) using the prefix does not change the unit.
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby Derek » Mon Aug 29, 2011 2:51 pm UTC

I don't accept that argument. By that line of reasoning, kilometer may the same unit as meters, but klicks (military slang for kilometers) are different, because the word isn't formed with the standard prefix. Likewise, kilograms would be the same units as grams, but kilos would be different. Basically, your argument relies on the the form of the word, not just the unit. I don't accept that as legitimate.
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby EvanED » Mon Aug 29, 2011 3:30 pm UTC

I suspect the point is (and I don't know if this is true or not) that people will either say 1.25 meters or 125 centimeters, but are unlikely to say "1 meter, 25 centimeters". This is in contrast to imperial units where "1 foot, 3 inches" is extremely common.
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby Iranon » Mon Aug 29, 2011 4:05 pm UTC

Now take something where you're used to the metric system and replace it with something else.

1 Hertz means one cycle per second, 10 Hertz means 10 cycles per second and so on. The same system is transparent over a wide range - the 60Hz or so of your screen refresh rate are as simple to grasp as the clock speed of your processor in the MHz to GHz range. Does this feel like totally different units too? Again, you just have to learn the prefixes once and you can apply them to everything. Or ask that someone use just one units and a powers of 10 notation.

Now imagine this replaced with a sequence of loosely related units dictated from historical use. Maybe derived from music as this is where we're most likely to encounter some of these frequencies: 26400 'beats' (per minute) to 1 'pitch standard frequency' (440Hz). Possibly with one unit before and one after defined by the boundaries of ordinary hearing range (hey, it's better than the Fahrenheit scale).
For general use, you'd rightly think it to be an unholy mess.

Little speculative ad-hominem: If you never found imperial units restrictive, it probably doesn't occur to you to calculate things for fun. They get in the way shortly after you run out of fingers to count with.

*

Easier analogy I only thought of after writing all this: Imagine being forced to do maths in Roman numerals. Same thing applies, only it's even worse.
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby Bijan » Mon Aug 29, 2011 4:44 pm UTC

Argument for "meter and kilometer are the same unit" (and actually my understanding of unit prefixes): Think of the prefix as an alternative notation for powers of ten (which they are). So 10km=10*10³m=10000m
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby Anonymously Famous » Mon Aug 29, 2011 5:55 pm UTC

marcel wrote:
Anonymously Famous wrote:I think that Le1bn1z means that since *meters all come in sets of 10 (milli-, centi-, deci-, -, deca-, etc.), it's easier to put all of the measurements together and convert them to one unita single notation representing larger chunks of the same quantity. Though any calculator or computer could add in the number of feet (or inches, or whatever), run some basic math operations, and come up with the larger unitnotation representing larger chunks just as quickly. Yes, you can convert unitsnotations in metric more easily in your head, but as long as you know the conversion factors and a calculator, you can convert in imperial just as easily (whether it makes more sense to or not).

the bolded is a typical error made by people used to empirical.
In the metric system we use only one unit, the metre for length/distance. That means that there is no conversion necessary.
This is why the metric system is easier. the empirical system is using different units for one variable, where the empirical system uses different units for one variable, making conversions necessary in the empirical system, where there are no conversions in the metric system.

It was an error in terminology, not in logic. There is conversion, even if it is just moving the decimal place and attaching a standard prefix to the base unit. It's still a different unit. Yes, the imperial system makes less sense. It changes the "base" of the conversion each time. But conversion is conversion.

Bijan wrote:Argument for "meter and kilometer are the same unit" (and actually my understanding of unit prefixes): Think of the prefix as an alternative notation for powers of ten (which they are). So 10km=10*10³m=10000m

And 10 feet = 10 * 12 inches, or 1 foot = 1 * (about)0.3048 meters. Think of "feet" as an alternative notation for "inches," where each foot equals 12 inches. Yes, it makes less sense, but it's equally valid.

My original point is still valid. The quantity is the same no matter what unit you use. Either system can be as precise or imprecise as you wish. It depends on the precision of the measurement, not on the system itself. Yes, the metric system makes more sense and is more intuitive. I never said otherwise. But either system will measure things equally well, no matter how confusing it may be to use.
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby Derek » Mon Aug 29, 2011 6:22 pm UTC

EvanED wrote:I suspect the point is (and I don't know if this is true or not) that people will either say 1.25 meters or 125 centimeters, but are unlikely to say "1 meter, 25 centimeters". This is in contrast to imperial units where "1 foot, 3 inches" is extremely common.

This is certainly true. People don't mix units when using metric.

Now take something where you're used to the metric system and replace it with something else.

1 Hertz means one cycle per second, 10 Hertz means 10 cycles per second and so on. The same system is transparent over a wide range - the 60Hz or so of your screen refresh rate are as simple to grasp as the clock speed of your processor in the MHz to GHz range. Does this feel like totally different units too? Again, you just have to learn the prefixes once and you can apply them to everything. Or ask that someone use just one units and a powers of 10 notation.

I certainly wouldn't call MHz and Hz the same unit. One is one million times the other. As far as I can tell your argument is based only on the names of the units, or possibly an underlying belief that multiplying by powers of 10's doesn't change a unit, but other factors do. Regardless, this is starting to feel more and more like semantics and I don't think it's contributing anything to the discussion.

Now imagine this replaced with a sequence of loosely related units dictated from historical use. Maybe derived from music as this is where we're most likely to encounter some of these frequencies: 26400 'beats' (per minute) to 1 'pitch standard frequency' (440Hz). Possibly with one unit before and one after defined by the boundaries of ordinary hearing range (hey, it's better than the Fahrenheit scale).
For general use, you'd rightly think it to be an unholy mess.

Well as you just pointed out, we already do this all the time in music :P Do you think music notation would be better if all notes were given in hertz? Obviously music notation wouldn't be used to describe screen refresh rates, in the same way that we don't use the same units to describe distances between cities and font sizes.

Easier analogy I only thought of after writing all this: Imagine being forced to do maths in Roman numerals. Same thing applies, only it's even worse.

You think doing math with customary units is worse than doing math in Roman numerals? It's only a matter of using non-10 multiplication factors. I use those all the time anyways.
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby Iranon » Mon Aug 29, 2011 9:41 pm UTC

Derek wrote:I certainly wouldn't call MHz and Hz the same unit. One is one million times the other. As far as I can tell your argument is based only on the names of the units, or possibly an underlying belief that multiplying by powers of 10's doesn't change a unit, but other factors do. Regardless, this is starting to feel more and more like semantics and I don't think it's contributing anything to the discussion.


I'm also not interested in the semantics, I'm interested in elegance and practicality. You can avoid the whole question by using scientific notation. Or engineering notation if you want to make it easier to communicate with someone who uses the usual prefixes.
The point is that sloppy everyday usage already works for fairly different scales, and it's easy to extend that. Powers of 10 are only relevant as far as that's what our number system uses anyway. Of course we could use hexadecimal notation and powers of 16 everywhere, but that'd actually be a pretty big change.

Well as you just pointed out, we already do this all the time in music :P Do you think music notation would be better if all notes were given in hertz? Obviously music notation wouldn't be used to describe screen refresh rates, in the same way that we don't use the same units to describe distances between cities and font sizes.


Well, doing everything in Hertz (or Hertz-derived units if you prefer) would be transparent enough that the transition would be easy. And yes, I do play an instrument... badly.
Using consistent units for speed and pitch may well lead to better music because it makes it easier and more natural for theorists to play around with the concepts.
EDIT: Ok, I was apparently missing your point and only thinking of the tempo. The notes, same as the metric system, use extensible scaling with the optimal base for the job (2 instead of 10 here, as appropriate to our music conventions rather than our number notation).

Interesting that you'd mention font sizes. It makes no sense to me to use a special unit for such a narrow field. I'd prefer consistent and easily convertible units from atoms to galaxies unless serious practical considerations suggest otherwise.
Nautical miles are convenient for navigation with simple instruments, as long as we don't radically reform our ways of dealing with angles and time. For things relevant to computers, using the same base they do has advantages. There are many more obscure ones. Still, nm are falling out of use and a gigabyte actually means a gigabyte these days... so there is already a trend towards standardisation. Interestingly, the systems people hold on to most tightly are the absolutely pointless ones.

You think doing math with customary units is worse than doing math in Roman numerals? It's only a matter of using non-10 multiplication factors. I use those all the time anyways.


That actually came out wrong. Imperial/customary/whatever units are a similar affront to practicality and elegance, but the lesser one.
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby EvanED » Mon Aug 29, 2011 10:02 pm UTC

Derek wrote:Well as you just pointed out, we already do this all the time in music :P Do you think music notation would be better if all notes were given in hertz? Obviously music notation wouldn't be used to describe screen refresh rates, ...

That's a pretty hilarious thought, though. "I can't believe your refresh rate is so low; I get a headache with a CRT that runs at the E♭ 3 octaves below middle C."
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby cjmcjmcjmcjm » Tue Aug 30, 2011 2:04 am UTC

EvanED wrote:
Derek wrote:Well as you just pointed out, we already do this all the time in music :P Do you think music notation would be better if all notes were given in hertz? Obviously music notation wouldn't be used to describe screen refresh rates, ...

That's a pretty hilarious thought, though. "I can't believe your refresh rate is so low; I get a headache with a CRT that runs at the E♭ 3 octaves below middle C."

This reminds me of the time when my friends and I converted the tempos in our band music to beats per standard time unit, one standard time unit being defined as 1/10,000th of an Earth day.

Also, sometimes non-Metric units are used because they make more sense. For example, tempos are (generally) between 30 and 240 bpm. In Hz, that's between 0.5 and 4.0. It is very easy to see that 240 is really fast and 30 is a bit too slow to count at its written value. In Hz, you don't get that sense of scale. Similarly, you wouldn't use BPM to measure pitches or the length of a year. Also, there is no sense in ordering litres of beer. Use pints (specifically, the British pint, not the puny US pints).
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby paulisa » Tue Aug 30, 2011 5:37 am UTC

cjmcjmcjmcjm wrote: Also, there is no sense in ordering litres of beer. Use pints (specifically, the British pint, not the puny US pints).


Of course there is a sense in ordering litres of beer, bavarians do it regularly. Granted, the more usual measure is the half-litre, which is what a can or a bottle usually holds. It is also often possibly to oder a third- or a quarter-litre, depending on your chosen drinking establishment.

I have two reasons to dislike other units than metric. The first is naming. If I don't know where a recipe or something was written, I have no clue what size a "cup", a "quart" or a "fluid ounce" actually are. The last time I tried making lemonade it just said "two quarts" on the pack, and internet-research found several different definitions of "quart", so I had to do it by taste anyway.

Secondly, the custom of american cookbooks to measure dry ingredients by volume instead of mass. That's a setup for failure if I ever saw one because of the variations in density. Also, it's kinda difficult to make anything if you don't have a complete set of "cups", from 1/16th to 2 cups in size. Of course, the teaspoon is also not a standard measurement, but I can understand how it came about because most kitchen scales aren't that accurate. The tablespoon is becoming a rarer unit these days, a development that I approve of.

Also, the mixing-units point was brought up before. A combination of metres and centimetres for someone's height makes sense, a combination of feet and inches doesn't. Why not include yards? Then I wouldn't be x feet y inches, I'd be 1 yard x' feet y' inches. To an outsider, those two options make just as much sense.
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby cjmcjmcjmcjm » Wed Aug 31, 2011 10:41 pm UTC

I make everything by taste anyway, so using metric units wouldn't faze me.
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby modularblues » Fri Sep 02, 2011 2:30 am UTC

Sigh, if only the Metric system were base 60 in some cases. Like length. Or wherever that divisibility by 3 is helpful.
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby Fedechiar » Mon Sep 05, 2011 12:19 pm UTC

Making the metric system base 60 would totally defy the metric system's basic principle - make everything base 10 so it's standard and easy to calculate. Dividing by three metric units isn't so bad anyway...33% of the time the result would be perfect, and 67% there would just be a small rounding error (as you can see here)
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby marcel » Mon Sep 05, 2011 3:12 pm UTC

modularblues wrote:Sigh, if only the Metric system were base 60 in some cases. Like length. Or wherever that divisibility by 3 is helpful.

I really don't understand this one. How is divisibility by 3 specifically helpfull with length?
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby Calski » Mon Sep 05, 2011 5:04 pm UTC

I would say metric in almost all cases. But then I live in sweden and have always been using metric. The only case when I prefer imperial is carpentering and referring to the dimensions of planks. Because I feel it is easier to say "a 2 by 2" instead of "a 45 by 45". As you notice a 2 by 2 isn't 2 by 2 inches but are still called that. So I don't know if that should be considered using imperial or if it is just a name.
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby modularblues » Mon Sep 05, 2011 6:28 pm UTC

marcel wrote:
modularblues wrote:Sigh, if only the Metric system were base 60 in some cases. Like length. Or wherever that divisibility by 3 is helpful.

I really don't understand this one. How is divisibility by 3 specifically helpfull with length?

For making obsessively geometric art. Or Cantor sets and Koch snowflakes. Of course, only applies when done by hand. Oh well, base 60 had its moments. I supposed it would have made more sense if most of us had six fingers on each hand.
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Re: Metric versus US Customary/Imperial for Everyday Use

Postby cjmcjmcjmcjm » Tue Sep 06, 2011 6:29 pm UTC

After cooking something, I do wish I was using mL of milk and g of sugar and pints (British) of beer
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