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Metrication matters - Number 85 - 2010-06-10

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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You can read all previous issues at /newsletter if you scroll own to the bottom of the page. The Metrication matters web page also contains many useful metrication resources – you can get these free resources from: http://www.metrictionmatters.com.htm

Dear Subscriber,


1 Editorial 2 Feedback - notes and comments from readers 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 Editorial

As you know I have a deep professional interest in the process of how people upgrade to the metric system. This inevitable process is called metrication and I have observed that metrication can either be fast (as little as a day) or slow (as much as a few hundred years).

It all depends on the process you choose to make your metrication transition.

To slow down your own metrication process you need to hold certain beliefs and to hold them strongly. Here are four of the main retardants – there are others:

1 The metric system comes from France and is therefore foreign.
See /who-invented-the-metric-system.html and

2 The metric system works best when you use the decimal divisions 10s and 100s and you learn how to slide decimal points back and forth – and you also learn to how to avoid the alternative, which is to choose metric prefixes based on 1000s so you can predominately use whole numbers – only.
See /docs/WholeNumberRule.pdf

3 Metrication can be achieved quickly using centimetres.
See /docs/centimetresORmillimetres.pdf

4 Conversion is a effective path to metrication.
See /metric_conversion.html

2 Feedback


I know that many of you are fans of 'TED Talks'. If you are not, you might like to check them out at: http://www.ted.com where you will see that their central theme is 'Ideas worth spreading'. I am addicted to them and watch them as often as I can; other than the excellent content they provide, I find that they are also very useful for improving presentation skills.

Most TED Talks are recorded at TED Conferences but now there are local TED events all around the world that are named for their venue such as the one I spoke at recently called TEDxMelbourne. You can see my talk at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lshRAPvPZY

I would appreciate your comments on this talk and its content.

My wife responded to the item about Gulliver's travels (in Metrication matters 84) by reminding me that when she went to Hong Kong some years ago, she offered to arrange for custom made shirts for me by the excellent tailors in that city. Wendy then suggested (with a broad smile) that the only measurement I needed to give her was the measure around my thumb (twice around the thumb is once around the wrist; twice around the wrist is once around the neck; etc.) I demurred and sent a well-fitting shirt as a model.

A reader alerted me to recent changes in the short Wikipedia article '<Metrication in Australia'. You will find it at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metrication_in_Australia

3 Oddities

Margaret Thatcher's measurement muddle lives on. When she said, 'We have saved the pint and the mile for Britain', she had no idea of consequences like:

Nic Davison, an accountant and owner of Kuchnia Polska (lit: Polish Kitchen) restaurant in Doncaster, has been served an infringement notice by the Trading Standards Institute, that threatens a court appearance and a 2,000 pounds fine, for using metric instead of imperial measurements. According to the 1988 Weights and Measures (Intoxicating Liquor) Order, serving draught beer and cider in litres is illegal. Interestingly, none of Davison's customers have complained about the fact that he serves Polish beer (delivered from its country of origin) in 0.3 litre and 0.5 litre glasses (also delivered by the same Polish brewer).

Go to http://ourstory.com/thread.html?t=456900 for the full, sad, story that continues the Margaret Thatcher muddle.

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

Read John Kotter's 8 point plan for change in his book, 'Our iceberg is melting' and your approach to change management will never be the same again. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Kotter

5 Signs of the times

I wonder if all of the road signs in the USA still use metric fonts.

In the 1970s road signs in the USA were changed to a font called 'Highway Gothic' and I don't believe that they have been changed since then. Go to http://www.faqs.org/faqs/fonts-faq/part4/ and search for 'Highway Gothic' where it suggests, in a discussion on fonts, that the fonts on road signs in the USA have been specified in metric since the 1970s. Here is an extract:

Highway Gothic is The Font Company's name for their interpretation of the font used on most official road signs in the United States. ... I don't think it has an official name. There is a government publication which shows the fonts (revised in the seventies to make the heights metric); ... I don't think the specs have changed since the seventies.

6 Quotation

When planning and operating your next metrication upgrade:

Keep the sizzle from turning into a fizzle ... John J. Cotter, 'The 20% Solution'

(Note that this is a different John Cotter to the John Kotter mentioned previously!)

7 Q&A


What is 'World Metrology Day'?


On 'World Metrology Day' the Bureau Internationale de Poids et Mesures (BIPM) celebrates the anniversary of the day that the first seventeen nations signed the original Treaty of the metre during the final session of a major international conference held in Paris to discuss standards of measurement. The nations that signed the Treaty of the metre were: Argentina, Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Peru, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden-Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, the USA, and Venezuela.

Greece, the Netherlands, and the UK attended the conference but refrained from signing.

Here is the official statement from the SI Brochure:

Le Bureau international des poids et mesures (BIPM) a été créé par la Convention du Mètre signée à Paris le 20 mai 1875 par dix-sept États, lors de la dernière séance de la Conférence diplomatique du Mètre.

8 Rule of thumb

It takes about 1.4 seconds for an average driver to perceive danger and then to respond by beginning to brake their car. At a normal speed limit in town – 60 km/h – the car travels at about 17 metres per second so the car and driver travel about 25 metres before the brakes can be applied.

On the open road outside towns, the normal speed limit is 100 km/h so the car travels at about 28 metres per second; in this case the car and driver travel about 42 metres before the brakes can be applied.

9 History

In 1906, William Hallock PhD, Professor of Physics at Columbia University and Herbert T. Wade, Editor for Physics and Applied Science, 'The New International Encyclopaedia' apparently noticed that the metric system was of 'general interest at the present time'. To support this 'general interest' they wrote a 332 page book called, 'Outlines of the evolution of weights and measures and the metric system'. In the introduction they wrote:

Inasmuch as the introduction of the Metric System into the United States and Great Britain is a topic of more or less general interest at the present time, it has seemed that a work designed both for the student of science and for the general reader, in which this system is discussed in its relation to other systems of weights and measures past and present, would fill a certain need.

It would seem that this was yet another attempt to adopt simple and honest measures in the USA was in the air in 1906. This was just another attempt at improving measurement in the USA. Previous attempts to upgrade the USA to better – more honest – measuring methods had been tried in: 1790, 1791, 1792, 1821, 1847, 1861, 1865, 1866, 1872, 1875, 1889, 1893, 1894, 1895, and 1902. After 1906 further attempts were made in: 1916, 1918, 1937, 1957, 1959, 1963, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1975, and 1980.

See /docs/MetricationTimeline.pdf for details of these attempts in the USA to upgrade to the metric system, but be aware that this is a rather long document (searching for USA might help).

10 Hidden metric

In their 2004 book, 'Rocket Science', Alfred J. Zaehringer and Steve Whitfield go to no end of trouble to make sure that metric units are not mentioned. This includes listing the dimensions of Russian rockets and European rockets in feet and inches. In this 21st century it is an odd approach to science!

P.S. 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.

Here is an example from St. Lucia in the Caribean:

Dear Pat

First let me congratulate you on the wonderful wealth of information in “Metrication Leaders Guide”. I have been able to find valuable information on metrication in it. My country SAINT LUCIA in the West Indies, is going metric and I am the Coordinator of the St. Lucia Metrication Secretariat. ...

Thank you for sharing that wealth of information that you gathered over your years of experience dealing with metrication. Your book is invaluable!

Judy Rene


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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