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metrication matters - Number 51 - 2007-08-10

Metrication matters is an on-line metrication newsletter for those actively involved, and for those with an interest in metrication matters.

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Dear Subscriber,


1 Feedback - notes and comments from readers 2 Editorial 3 Oddities - measurements from around the world 4 Tips - pointers and methods to make your measurements easier. 5 Signs of the times 6 Quotations 7 Q&A - readers' questions and answers 8 Rule of thumb 9 History 10 Hidden metric

1 Feedback

Sally Mitchell wrote:

A mole is a standard metric unit and Mole Day is celebrated each year on 10/23. I was selected as mole of the year 2001-2003 by the National Mole Day foundation. I use mole day as my 'metric day'. This year, we are having a dinner/dance to celebrate chemistry. I bake a metric cake 1000 mm x 1000 mm x 100 mm, cater a big dinner buffet, put on the music, and have chemistry booths.

If you can mention mole day in your next newsletter, I would appreciate it. Let's get people going metric for the children. A metric household places a student in front of the class in chemistry. My own children have grown up in a metric household and now they are the top science students in the school. Go figure????

Thanks again for your newsletter. Sincerely, Sally Mitchell

Go to http://www.moleday.org/ if you want support with your mole day plans for this year.

2 Editorial

Everything you say, everything you do, and everything you write about metrication or the metric system has an effect on the world. Whenever you learn more about metrication for yourself, or to teach a friend, or to educate children you will have a profound effect that rapidly flows to all those around you and then to all parts of the world. Each drop raises the level.

3 Oddities

Jim Frysinger LCAMS, who now lives in Tennessee, passed on this interesting item from an article in USA Today (2006/12/04). Jim's report on the digestion of cow manure to produce methane reads:

Once scrubbed to remove water vapor and carbon dioxide it can be used to fuel natural gas powered cars. The article states that manure from the nation's 8.5 million cows could power up to 1 million cars. That would make the 'average' car's rating work out to 8.5 cowpower.

Jim adds:

This may be an ally in our battle against the use of horsepower. The next time someone brags about the horsepower of their car engine, reply with 'Yes, but how much cowpower does that represent?'

4 Tips

Picture a map of the continental USA. At its widest it is about 4500 kilometres (4.5 megametres) and its maximum North to South length is close to 2500 kilometres (2.5 megametres). You can estimate long distances as fractions of this map.

As a side issue, the continental USA averages about 4 megametres wide by 2 megametres North to South, so it has an area of about 8 square megametres (7.827 620 square megametres to be precise).

As another side issue, the continental USA is approximately the same size as Australia, which is also about 4 Mm by 2 Mm or about 8 square megametres (7.686 849 square megametres to be precise).

5 Signs of the times

Unilever, in the USA, advertised a dollar off any of their Vaseline brand products as long as you buy a tube with more than 200 mL in the container.

6 Quotation

Peter Drucker might have had conversions back to old pre-metric measures in mind when he said:

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.

7 Q&A


Is it better to cook using volume (cups and spoons) or mass (grams and kilograms) measures?


There is no doubt about this among professional chefs – measuring mass on a good set of scales is best – especially for cooking breads and cakes. The question about volume vs mass arises because many of our mothers and grandmothers did not have scales in their kitchens when they wrote down the recipes that they have passed down to us in our old recipe books. What they had readily available was cups and spoons. For further information on this question you can get a copy of 'Metric cooking with confidence' by my wife, Wendy Pomroy, from /articles.html

8 Rule of thumb

Surface area and mass of the Earth

I can't think why you might want to know these facts but the surface area of the whole Earth is a little over 500 square megametres (500 000 000 square kilometres) and the mass of the Earth is about 6 zettagrams. (That's 6000 trillion tonnes if I use trillion to mean one million x one million and I have to add this note because the trillion varies in size in different places around the world.)

9 History

In 1215, the English King John (also known as 'Lackland') was forced by his Barons to sign a document called the Magna Carta, which among other things had a clause that provided for uniform weights and measures. In part the Magna Carta read:

There shall be one measure of wine throughout our whole realm, and one measure of ale and one measure of corn – namely, the London quart; – and one width of dyed and resset and hauberk cloths – namely, two ells below the selvage. And with weights, moreover, it shall be as with measures.

10 Hidden metric

Journalists in the USA routinely alter numerical facts from all other countries because they often feel that it is necessary to convert metric measurements to the customary measures of the USA. Watch out for things like 110 yards or 330 feet for 100 metres, 1100 yards for a kilometre, 2.2 pounds for a kilogram, or 2200 pounds for a tonne.


Pat Naughtin

Geelong Australia

Pat Naughtin is a writer, speaker, editor, and publisher. Pat has written several books and has edited and published many others. For example, Pat has written a chapter of a chemical engineering Encyclopedia, and recently he edited the measurement section for the Australian Government 'Style manual: for writers, editors and printers'. Pat has been recognised by the United States Metric Association as a Lifetime Certified Advanced Metrication Specialist.

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