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Metrication matters - Number 81 - 2010-02-10

Dear Subscriber,

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

Our goal at Metrication matters is to promote the use of the modern metric system:

For all people, for all measurements, and for all time.

Help a friend – if you know someone who can benefit from this newsletter, please forward this newsletter to them and suggest that they subscribe. If a friend passed on this newsletter to you, please check the details of the free subscription at the end.

You can read all previous issues of the Metrication matters newsletter at /newsletter if you scroll own to the bottom of the page. The Metrication matters main web page is at http://www.metrictionmatters.com.htm

Thanks to everyone who bought, and is using, the 'Metrication Leaders Guide' through the web page at: /MetricationLeadersGuideInfo.html We have been very pleased by the feedback about the positive and rapid metrication results achieved by our readers.

Note, the modern metric system is known as the International System of Units (SI) and it is often referred to simply a 'SI' (pronounced 'ess-eye). If you see the letters SI we are referring to the modern metric system.


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

Tom Wade wrote from Ireland:

Hi Pat,
Thank you for issue 80 of Metrication Matters. As always, I read it with interest, and I believe it is a very useful tool in forwarding the cause of metrication in the English speaking world.
I would like to provide you with some feedback on this issue. Please accept that I offer these in the interest of our common cause in furthering metrication, and not as a criticism of your excellent work.
You wrote:
This year, 2010, is sure to become a major focus for metrication all around the world. This year is regarded as special because it contains the date 2010 October 10 that, using the ISO 8601 date format, can be written 101010 or as 10-10-10.
This is not correct. ISO 8601 mandates 4 digit years, so it should be 2010-10-10. A small point, but it is such a shame that the expensive lessons of Y2K should be forgotten so soon, and the lapse back into 2 digit years has been widespread. Perhaps people mistakenly think that it won't be a problem again in our lifetimes, but this is not correct.
Many interim computer fixes for interpreting 2 digit dates was to assume a 19xx prefix if the year was greater than a certain amount, and 20xx if not. Depending on when the individual application started taking records, this threshold could be as low as 25 (if the oldest record in the system was 1925). Consequently, if two digit years are maintained as far as 2025 such systems could repeat a Y2K style regression close to that year, and for that reason we should never refer to two digit years.
Apologies for digressing from the topic of metric.
Tom Wade
Tom is right of course. I was sloppy in two respects: 10-10-10 is not correct according to ISO 8601, and date formats are not a metrication issue.

J Keith Atkin wrote to let me know about Amazon and his attempt to buy a ruler on-line. Keith wrote:

Hi Pat,
Just thought you'd like to hear about a frustrating experience I had this week.
I went onto the Amazon web site in search of metric-only rulers, and found a nice magnifying ruler ... There was no mention of an additional imperial scale, and there was a clear picture of the thing showing that it had metric scales ... on BOTH sides of the ruler. Consequently I went ahead and ordered a couple of these delightful (so I thought!) objects.
When my package arrived, I found that, instead of the described metric-only features, there was a metric scale on one side and infernal inches on the other! I was not amused.
When I phoned and complained, I was told that Amazon were known to use images of some items that were not quite what they actually were!
I really sympathise with Keith. This week I also spent time trying to find a metre stick marked in millimetres. No luck, anywhere in the world. If anyone can help me, I prefer a white or yellow fibreglass ruler marked clearly in millimetres but with no centimetres and definitely with no inches.

2 Editorial

I am growing uncomfortable with the expression, 'dumbing down' as I think the use of this expression makes proponents of the metric system look too negative when they are discussing old pre-metric measuring words with people who support one or other of the thousands of old sets of measuring words (e.g. British Weights and Measures, English measures, Imperial measures, International feet and inches, U.S. Customary Measures, U.S. Statutory Measures, etc. etc. etc.).

Can anyone suggest a better expression than 'dumbing down' when we refer to the practice of converting metric units into an old measuring word.

My wife, Wendy, suggests that we could try to making the word, obfuscation, popular. Obfuscation means to confuse or to make something obscure, but I'm a little uncomfortable with it as I would prefer a more commonly used word or expression.

3 Oddities

The Lazy Farmer wrote about his rain gauge:

It reads out some decimal system number. At least it doesn't read out in commie numbers. Everyone knows the commies are behind the metric system. Well, also the Nazi's and those degenerate French people. Well, and the rest of the world perhaps... But I still hate it.

If you wish, you could read more of the lazy farmer's diatribe at at http://thedailystrumpet.blogspot.com/2010/02/mondays.html

4 Tips – pointers and methods to make your measurements easier.

Here is another example of metric system simplicity for Mike Joy's collection of simple numbers when you use the metric system.

GOING METRIC Using the metric system makes the math involved in dyeing easy to manage once you are accustomed to it, and not beyond the average person with basic math skills.
The great beauty of the metric system is that 1 mL of water weighs 1 gram, so liquid measure and dry measure can be treated as equal for wool-dyeing purposes. This rule is absolutely key to everything one does when using this method. You can compare the gram weight of dye powder equally to the mL measurement of water when making dyestock, and you can compare the gram weight of the wool equally to the amount of mL in the dyestock, when choosing a value for a color.
For example, I mix 1 gram of dye with 99 mL of water, creating 100 mL of a ‘1 % solution dyestock’. Because 1 mL of water weighs 1 gram, this 1/99 ratio of dye to water is mathematically accurate and easy to measure. I make 1 % dyestock for each primary, and store it all in milk jugs. So remember:
1 gram dye powder + 99 mL water = a 1 % dyestock solution

You can see this article in context at: http://mydiyhometips.com/2010/01/16/hand-dyed-wool-advanced-methods

5 Signs of the times

Wow! Posted without comment: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/337390-rojo-waves-the-white-flagsort-of

Wow, again. Is Time magazine going metric? See: http://gawker.com/272475/time-switches-to-the-metric-system

Carleton MacDonald sent a reference to the USMA maillist that contained this reference referring to United Streetcar manufacturers at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QU1W9EOxBhE Carleton suggested,

'Note the dimensions on the drawings, about 2 min 26 sec in.'

Bill Washburn, from Atlanta, Georgia, reported a setback in road signage when he sent me these two references: http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/htm/2009/appendix/appendixA2.htm and http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/pdf/E9-28322.pdfhttp://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/pdf/E9-28322.pdf

6 Quotation

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948)

7 Q&A


When the metre was surveyed did they choose the line of longitude that 'passed through Paris'?


No. The line chosen for the survey was chosen with two main goals in mind:

1 The line had to be larger than France so that the development of the 'decimal metric system', as it was known then, could be legitimately described as an international venture. The French 'philosophes' had already consulted with international figures such as the British parliamentarian, Sir John Riggs Miller, and the ambassadors to France from the USA, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. See /docs/USAMetricSystemHistory.pdf

2 The line had to be on land for as long as possible and as near as possible to a true North-South line. The longest line available in Europe was from Barcelona in Spain (Latitude 41° 18' N Longitude 2° 06', East) and Dunkerque (Latitude 51.02 N, Longitude 02.20 E). This line passes slightly to the west of Paris (Latitude 48° 51' N Longitude 2° 20' East)

This provided a line more than 1000 kilometres long (Dunkerque to Barcelona is 1081.481 kilometres according to the original survey).

8 Rule of thumb

This is not really a 'Rule of Thumb' but a 'Rule of Finger'.

Measure the width of your longest finger on one of your hands. For me, this is 20 millimetres wide. Then measure the width of your forefinger; for me this is also 20 millimetres. Finally, measure the width of your third (or ring) finger; again for me this is 20 millimetres. With these three fingers I can now reasonably accurately measure small items that might be 20 mm, 40 mm, or 60 mm and I can make pretty good guesses in between these values, especially if I also use the width of my 10 mm little fingernail.

9 History

Some people refer to old measures like there are currently two 'systems': the metric system and the other system. It is as though they believe that the metric system replaced an older system of measurement. From extensive syudy I know that this is simply not true.

I work on the idea that there is the metric system – the only system ever invented and developed – and before the metric system there were thousands of randomly generated and randomly defined old pre-metric measuring words, but there was never any another 'system'.

As an example, try to make some sort of system out of all the old measuring words listed at Hemyock Castle in Devon: http://www.hemyockcastle.co.uk/measure.htm#other where you will note the lack of definition in so many units, and their varying meanings in different locations.

10 Hidden metric

An email arrived to let me know:

I work for the Latin American Headquarters in a Japanese Fortune 500 photocopier manufacturer. We, in Latin America, receive all sales materials from the Americas HQ office.
What happens is that Americans receive the metric specs from Japan and erase them all and publish imperial-only materials. Then we have to reconvert them back to metric and they end up different from the original Japanese metric specs.
I complained a lot about it and the attitude I got from an American director was "we don't use it here". Still I got something. Metric specs started being added beside imperial ones, which is a step forward.
The reporter at http://www.isegoria.net/2010/02/diy-streamliner-motorcycle.htm could not help himself when he changed all but two of the initial metric units to various old pre-metric measuring words. I understood the bit about 1 litre per 100 kilometres, but the rest was too difficult to comprehend.
(Name and address supplied)


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.

Pat is the author of the e-book, Metrication Leaders Guide, that you can obtain from /MetricationLeadersGuideInfo.html

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