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Krak
07-07-2005, 11:49 PM
Who's the smart-ass who decided that our units of measurement should stay different from that of the rest of the world? Why use units that seem completely arbitrary? For example, who decided that a foot is 12 inches and that a mile is 5280 of those feet? Aren't those numbers a little arbitrary? Who decided to measure weight in pounds, which is made up of 16 ounces, and that 2000 pounds shall be called 1 ton? Again, the numbers seem arbitrary.

As humans, we've learned to count in base 10. We have 10 fingers. We're usually best at counting and representing numbers in powers of 10s. The metric system uses multiples of 10 to work. A kilogram is 1000 grames. Kilo means 1000, 1000 is a power of 10, so there you go. They didn't pick some arbitrary number like 16275 or something stupid like that.

Our tempetature scale is retarded too. 32° is freezing and 212° is boiling? Don't be a smart-ass. Just use 0° and 100°. And whoever thought up Kelvin as a temperature scale was a real smart-ass too. "It's like Celcius, but you add 273°! And when you have 0° Kelvin, it's Absolute Zero." Don't be a smart-ass. That'd be like me inventing a temperature unit called Krak. It's like Farenheit, but you subtract 212. When it reaches 0, the temperature is boiling. That'd make me a real smart-ass.

So my question is: if the rest of the world uses the metric system, and it ultimately makes more sense for us to measure things in terms of 10s, then why do you continue to use our stupid system of inches, miles, pounds, ounces, tons, etc.?

prog-bman
07-08-2005, 01:26 AM
Because we are american.

Jeremy G
07-08-2005, 01:57 AM
Yes, we adopted the Kelvin system because we wanted to entertain the smart-ass.

God, what kind of dumb statement is that? Its a valid and more practical scale of all of them. At the coldest temperature possible you have 0. As in 0 heat. See the sense in that? If not just shut up any ways.

No wait, shut up anyways, regardless

Brian
07-08-2005, 04:27 AM
Change takes time, especially in such a conservative country.

Govtcheez
07-08-2005, 04:36 AM
You're pretty upset for a pretty stupid reason.

nickname_changed
07-08-2005, 04:39 AM
We use base 10 because we have 10 fingers. That's the only reason, and I'm sure you'd all agree we'd be more efficient using base 20 if we didn't have to wear shoes all the time.

Now, people of ancient times weren't stupid and probably had good reasons for picking 12 inches as the length of foot. This leads to only one sane solution: humans of the past had 12 fingers and this is why a foot was 12 inches. Possibly, some inbre^H^H^H US politicians still have 12 fingers, and thus the decision to stick to base 12.

arjunajay
07-08-2005, 04:58 AM
One story goes that one NASA space mission failed simply because the scientists from diff. countries used diff. systems of units...
The no:s 12 and such arbitray no:s depend on the size of feet and fingers of diff. kings and queens who invented them...

Ken Fitlike
07-08-2005, 05:26 AM
Our tempetature scale is retarded too. 32° is freezing and 212° is boiling? Don't be a smart-ass. Just use 0° and 100°. And whoever thought up Kelvin as a temperature scale was a real smart-ass too. "It's like Celcius, but you add 273°! And when you have 0° Kelvin, it's Absolute Zero." Don't be a smart-ass. That'd be like me inventing a temperature unit called Krak. It's like Farenheit, but you subtract 212. When it reaches 0, the temperature is boiling. That'd make me a real smart-ass.If you plot temperature v's pressure for an ideal gas (which doesn't exist ;) ) and extrapolate back, the T-axis intercept gives the theoretical measure of 'absolute zero' in celsius (-273.15). The only arbitrary quantity is the definition of a 'Kelvin' which is taken to be the same as 1 degree Celsius for pretty much the same reasons that the metric system is preferable to using farenwidths and cubits - it's a lot simpler to work with.

Explanation now in new, improved picture flavour. (http://www.ph.rhbnc.ac.uk/schools/ZeroT/Zero_Box1.html)

Salem
07-08-2005, 07:28 AM
> Why use units that seem completely arbitrary?
Perhaps through study, they would seem less arbitrary.

12 is very common in ancient number systems
- 12 signs of the zodiac
- 12 months in a year
- 12 hours in a day (ok, twice)
- 12 inches in a foot
Why 12?
Well it has many more divisors than 10 for example (1,2,3,4,6), which makes it a lot easier to divvy up quantities of stuff into other quantities.

> and that a mile is 5280 of those feet?
That would be the Romans - A mile being a corruption of 'mille' (or something) meaning 1000 (paces of a Roman soldier). Hence by marching at a known rate (say 100 paces a minute), you could easily work out how long it was going to take you to get anywhere.

> that 2000 pounds shall be called 1 ton?
Your silly american tons maybe, but your classical imperial (British) ton is 2240 pounds (20 hundred-weight).
Though I suppose it's pretty close to the Metric tonne of 1000Kg.

> Our tempetature scale is retarded too. 32° is freezing and 212° is boiling?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fahrenheit
All very logical in the time in which it was invented - notions such as absolute zero not being known about.

Govtcheez
07-08-2005, 07:48 AM
> The no:s 12 and such arbitray no:s depend on the size of feet and fingers of diff. kings and queens who invented them...

They based the system of measurement off a system of meaurement, huh? "Your foot is 12 yazzes long, so that will be a foot. Also, yazzes will be called inches!"

> 12 months in a year

That's only been true since Augustus, though. Besides, that only applies if you use our calendar, which many people don't.

Ken Fitlike
07-08-2005, 08:19 AM
All systems of measurement are ultimately arbitrary - a metre, for example, is defined as the length of the path travelled by light in vacuum during a time interval of 1/299 792 458 of a second (http://physics.nist.gov/cuu/Units/meter.html).

The length of a Roman 'pace' is similarly arbitrary and, unfortunately, not even consistent: Longshanksix of Londinium probably has a bigger one than Welosttheolympicbidix of Gaul's, although that didn't seem to bother the Romans.

edit: Anyone know why the Babylonians favoured sexagesimal (base 60)?

Govtcheez
07-08-2005, 08:25 AM
They had 60 fingers?

Ken Fitlike
07-08-2005, 08:26 AM
Good answer that man! :D

Zach L.
07-08-2005, 08:26 AM
Well, the number 12 is as natural as the number 10 in terms of counting. You can count each of your fingers as 1 (and have a base 10); you can count each segment of a finger on one hand (three segments per finger, divided by two joints) using your thumb as a place marker (equivalent to holding up a finger counting the "normal" way), and end up with base twelve; if you combine thise with "normal" counting on the other hand, you get base 60.

Most units were invented for convenience. For example, the nautical mile which is 6076 ft, may seem arbitrary, but it corresponds to the arc length on (an idealized spherical model of) a great circle on the Earth of 1 minute.

Ken Fitlike
07-08-2005, 08:32 AM
>>may seem arbitrary<<

No, it's still arbitrary - what is 1 'minute'?

Zach L.
07-08-2005, 08:47 AM
The minute had its own reason for creation (presumably to do with base 60), but I was talking about the nautical mile. It was a practical unit of measurement. Hence, it is no more arbitrary then, say, the metric system, even with the new, extremely precise definitions.

Govtcheez
07-08-2005, 08:56 AM
>>may seem arbitrary<<

No, it's still arbitrary - what is 1 'minute'?
60 times the half life of a specific isotope of cesium, duh. It makes perfect sense.

Ken Fitlike
07-08-2005, 09:02 AM
No disrespect intended to your good self, Zach, but I didn't say the metre wasn't arbitrary, I said all units of measurement are ultimately arbitrary. So, yes, the nautical mile is no more arbitrary than metric or any other measurement; precision is irrelevant to that discussion, as is the relative practical utility of any unit of measurement to those who use it.

It's tempting, though, to consider units based on a priori mathematical relationships (eg. radians) as non-arbitrary - tempting but still wrong.

Thanks for the base 60 description, BTW. :)

edit: >>60 times the half life of a specific isotope of cesium, duh. It makes perfect sense.<<

The choice of Caesium and a particular isotope of that element demonstrates the arbitrary nature of that one. Duh, indeed.

Zach L.
07-08-2005, 10:01 AM
Hmm... Sorry if I came off defensive there. It wasn't intended.

And, of course, with radians, they are dimensionless anyway. :cool:

no-one
07-08-2005, 10:16 AM
you have it all wrong... the reason we use different bases now than before is because people are gettin dumber... see the babylonians used base 60 cause they were ........ing smart... and its all going down hill we in America use the English system of measurment because nobody knows how smart we are that way... but we know the Europeans are dumb with their base 10 measuements... HA!

and that is also why computers use base two(no matter what technical B.S. you've been told) because they are soooooo dumb.

Govtcheez
07-08-2005, 11:07 AM
The choice of Caesium and a particular isotope of that element demonstrates the arbitrary nature of that one. Duh, indeed.
If you rearrange the first three letters in the correct spelling of cesium, you get "sec", which is of course short for "second".

Ken Fitlike
07-08-2005, 12:05 PM
My move involves wiping off the full-flavoured coffee that sprayed over my monitor when I read your post and, naturally, pointing out that the correct spelling of that particular element as defined (arbitrarily, of course) by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), which the USA is an associate (http://www.iupac.org/organ/nao.html) of, is in fact Caesium, although in deference to the USA's strong condemnation of un-American vowel deployment, the bastardised spelling of cesium has apparently been accepted since 1993, according to wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caesium), anyway.

And, of course, if you rearrange the first three letters of the actual, proper spelling of caesium you get 'ace' which is obviously useful when playing cprog tennis.

Govtcheez
07-08-2005, 03:52 PM
Alas, I have been slain!

BobMcGee123
07-08-2005, 05:00 PM
It would cost a lot of money to upgrade/replace machinery in factories that do not already use the metric system. It wouldn't be worth it. That's just my take on it I don't actually know.

Govtcheez
07-08-2005, 06:53 PM
Well, there was a big push to convert to metric in the 70s. People were just too stubborn to convert.

07-08-2005, 07:13 PM
base 12 was invented by evil merchands who made ppl pay more than they actually would have had to because teh customers weren't able to check their change anyway. and even if they managed to checked it the merchand would have said: "sorry, but you must check your change immediately. now its too late"

edit:
and if i remember correctly, the nasa once lost a space probe because they had 2 teams working on it, and one team was either using miles or gallons while the other team used kilometres or litres.
well, anyway they didnt put enough fuel into that thingy.

i wonder how many companies could have converted for that money :D

BobMcGee123
07-08-2005, 08:00 PM
The probe crashed into MARS. That's awesome. I want to become an engineer just so I can ........ up a multimillion dollar project because I forgot to convert units :) (that would totally be me)

arjunajay
07-08-2005, 08:40 PM
They based the system of measurement off a system of meaurement, huh? "Your foot is 12 yazzes long, so that will be a foot. Also, yazzes will be called inches!"

No silly, What I meant was a foot was re-re-re-defined every time the monarch changed and that they might have forgotten to redefine inches or something; any way the foot of a king is arbitrary, isn't it?

and if i remember correctly, the nasa once lost a space probe because they had 2 teams working on it, and one team was either using miles or gallons while the other team used kilometres or litres.
well, anyway they didnt put enough fuel into that thingy.

DUH...

07-08-2005, 09:06 PM
> 12 months in a year

That's only been true since Augustus, though. Besides, that only applies if you use our calendar, which many people don't.

Ummm, believe it or not, the Romans actually did not invent the time scale, it was the Babylonians, who lived in Babylon. They measured the amount of time between full moons, and thus, the name month. Romans then copied this idea.

Just thought I should let you know. :D

Govtcheez
07-08-2005, 09:29 PM
Ummm, believe it or not, the Romans actually did not invent the time scale, it was the Babylonians, who lived in Babylon. They measured the amount of time between full moons, and thus, the name month. Romans then copied this idea.

Just thought I should let you know. :D
Ummm, believe it or not, your post has very little to do with mine.

Just thought I should let you know :D

The Julian calendar is solar, not lunar.

ober
07-09-2005, 10:46 PM
I know first-hand how stubborn it can be to get someone to convert, however, it is slowly happening. I work for a multi-national company, which (my portion of the company, the lab) is 2/3 European. Engineers spend a lot of time just converting numbers back and forth just to figure out what test results mean.

So, in building a new lab, my software group is going to create all the interface screens entirely in metric. Since the data analysis tool can display the information in metric or english units on the fly, the people that don't want to change won't have to, but we'll force the test techs and the majority of the engineers to the metric system (and the software team as well, I suppose).

major_small
07-09-2005, 10:58 PM
Well, there was a big push to convert to metric in the 70s. People were just too stubborn to convert.I was comming in here to say this.

confuted
07-10-2005, 12:20 PM
What are you people TALKING about? The United States uses only the metric system. All the other units you think you see on road signs and bottles (miles, quarts, etc) are legally definted portions and multiples of metric units. They have been since 1958 (http://lamar.colostate.edu/~hillger/dates.htm). ;)

On a slightly more serious note, if you really want people to convert, why not start using the units yourself? If someone asks about the weather, tell them it's 22 degrees and sunny outside, and while you're at it, tell them the beach is only 15 km away.

xErath
07-10-2005, 04:12 PM
All systems of measurement are ultimately arbitrary - a metre, for example, is defined as the length of the path travelled by light in vacuum during a time interval of 1/299 792 458 of a second (http://physics.nist.gov/cuu/Units/meter.html).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metric_system

The most important unit is that of length: one metre was originally defined to be equal to 1/10 000 000th of the distance from the pole to the equator along the meridian through Paris. (...) Due to the difficulty of actually measuring the length of a meridian quadrant in the 18th century, the first platinum prototype was short by 0.2 millimetres. More recently, the metre was redefined as a certain multiple of a specific radiation wavelength, and currently it is defined as the distance travelled by light in a vacuum in a specific period of time. Attempts to relate an integer multiple of the metre to any meridian have been abandoned.
Which means that the meter actually is 1/10 000 002th of a half meridian. The idea has good. The measurement not. Techonology problems...

Why the US didn't adopt the metric system? When the first settlers arrived at the american country in late 17th,early 18th century Britain and France were not best friends, dispite both trying to build a sea empire. Also France itself at that time has at civil war, which lead to the creation of their Republic. These and more facts didn't conviced Britain to inherit the metric system, so they keep the feet, yard, whatever., which has passed to the American colonies.

A king (which I don't recall it's name), probably british, stretched his arm horizontaly to the side (left, right, who cares?) and stated:"Thy yald shalt be thy distance from thee tip of my nose to thee tip of my middle finger.". :p Yes, this did happen, although not those exact words!

Epo
07-10-2005, 04:44 PM
Maybe back when all those British people were tired of being British people ran away and made up a new country called America (well, after stealing it from other people), they knew they'd made a couple of people angry back home. So, preparing for a war, Americans adopted a new measurement system, incase any battle plans fell into the hands of their Brit cousins. "Their base is 100 yards southeast? What's a yard?! I need some tea and crumpets".

And Farenheit can be explained because they wanted to scare tourists off by making the numbers seem bigger than they actually were (c'mon, big numbers are scary), so people would be afraid of melting if they visited America (or tried to invade it).

The truth is, it was all just to spite the mother country.

major_small
07-10-2005, 05:55 PM
On a slightly more serious note, if you really want people to convert, why not start using the units yourself? If someone asks about the weather, tell them it's 22 degrees and sunny outside, and while you're at it, tell them the beach is only 15 km away.sometimes I do, but then they call me bad words and demand I stop fooling around and give them a 'real' measurement...

C+noob
07-11-2005, 04:19 AM
Because we are american.

by him saying tose comments you just dissed yourself btw Celsius is way better

Govtcheez
07-11-2005, 05:36 AM
by him saying tose comments you just dissed yourself btw Celsius is way better