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Metrication matters - Number 90 - 2010-11-10

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

Dear Subscriber,

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

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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

You have to wonder why some nations choose to do their metrication upgrade over extended time frames that can exceed 200 years, when their metrication goals could be achieved so simply and so quickly. The choice of metric conversion as the preferred method for their metrication process is one reason for this prolonged struggle.

With hindsight and a little historical research, it is easy to see that metric conversion has never produced a smooth metrication transition, and it has never produced a fast result. See the "Metric Conversion" web page at /metric_conversion.html where we quote the great American journalist, H. L. Mencken, who could have been talking about metric conversion as an approach to metrication, when he wrote:

... for every complex problem there is a solution that is clear, simple and wrong.
Metric conversion in the USA is not producing any meaningful results at present, and, I think, that it is reasonable to suppose that metric conversion will not be successful for the USA for a long time in to the future.

See the short article, "Approaches to metrication" that you will find at /docs/ApproachesToMetrication.pdf to consider the four main approaches to metrication.

2 Feedback - notes and comments from readers

I would like to thank Jim Palfreyman and Michael Worstall who pointed out an error in Metrication matters 89 where I described the clock speed of my computer with too many zeroes. As I am a strong supporter of the process of continuous improvement, I have repaired this error and posted the revised newsletter at /mm-newsletter-2010-10.html

Randy Bancroft P.E. wrote to tell me that he has produced a monologue on his experiences with the metric system while practising as an engineer. He calls it, "The Mismeasures of a Country". I really enjoyed reading it. Mike Joy at the Metric Only Store (www.metriconlystore.com ) also recommends it. You can get an electronic copy for a small fee from: http://metriconlystore.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=7_13&zenid=a882f4b9a3d71e0431a9cb69ffd875ae

3 Oddities - measurements from around the world

John P. Kotter and his co-author Lorne Whitehead identify only four basic attack strategies from those who oppose new ideas in any organisation. See how you feel about these as you consider your metrication programs. Here are Kotter and Whitehead's four basic attack strategies:

  • Fear Mongering
  • Death by Delay
  • Confusion
  • Ridicule and Character Assassination

You can find more about Kotter and Whitehead's book, "Buy in" in Quotations below. If you wish, you could buy a copy of "Buy in" through my web page at /ChangeProcess.html

4 Tips - pointers and methods to make your measurements easier

The online medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology has reported that walking 15 kilometres a week is the optimum distance for 'neurological exercise'' to help prevent dementia. Dr Kirk Erickson, who led the study, said:

''Our results should encourage well-designed trials of physical exercise in older adults as a promising approach for preventing dementia and Alzheimer's disease,''
To put 15 kilometres into perspective:

  • A casual walk might be about 80 metres per minute or a bit under 5 kilometres per hour.
  • Military or band marching is timed at 90 metres per minute or 5.4 kilometres per hour
  • A brisk walk is about 100 metres per minute or 6 kilometres per hour.

You might break your walk into five daily walks (allowing for rain and weekends) of 3 kilometres. So allow 40 minutes a day for a casual walk; 35 minutes a day at a marching rate; or 30 minutes a day for a brisk walk. See the article at http://www.theage.com.au/world/walking-protects-the-brain-20101014-16lqi.html for more details.

5 Signs of the times

Jim Frysinger from Tennessee alerted everyone on the USMA mail list to an article on the Fox News web site where they begin:

Some college football players are carrying a few grams of extra gear this season, and it could save their lives – yours, too.

The In Case of Emergency Dot (or ICEDOT) is a small red disc that snaps onto a person’s shirt. The incredibly low-tech plastic chip grants access to an incredibly high-tech world of info, through a unique eight-digit number that medics can activate and receive a patient’s complete, current health information in seconds.

Jim remarked: It's kind of nice seeing grams being used in news media for something besides drugs.

You can see the full article at: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/09/16/ice-dot-save-football-players-life/?test=faces and you can join the USMA maillist at http://lamar.colostate.edu/~hillger/listserv.htm

6 Quotations

In notes to promote his new book, John P Kotter writes:

So, you believe in a good idea. You're convinced it is needed badly, and needed now. But, you can't make it happen on your own. You need support in order to implement it and make things better. You or your allies present the plan. You present it well. Then, along with thoughtful issues being raised, come the confounding questions, inane comments, and verbal bullets—either directly at you or, even worse, behind your back. It matters not that the idea is needed, insightful, innovative, and logical. It matters not if the issues involved are extremely important to a business, an individual, or even a nation. The proposal is still shot down, or accepted but without sufficient support to achieve all of its true benefits, or slowly dies a sad death. What do you do?
Having any squirms of recognition in your promotion of the metric system? I strongly recommend Kotter's book, "Buy in", for your consideration. Go to http://www.kotterinternational.com/ResourceItemView.aspx?MediaID=133

7 Q&A - readers' questions and answers


What is the best way to measure and report large amounts of water?


There are two ways of doing this while still faithfully using units of the metric system. One way is to measure volumes of water up to 999 litres as litres, and then to change to cubic metres because 1000 litres = 1 cubic metre.

A second approach is to measure volumes of water up to 999 litres as litres, and then to change to kilolitres metres because 1000 litres = 1 kilolitre. This is the way we do it in Australia and it has the added benefit that we can use then megalitres, gigalitres, and so on for very large amounts of water. Here is an example:

The Niagara Falls on the Canada/USA border are one kilometre wide, 50 metres high, and, on average, water falls 20 metres over the edge onto the rocks at 10 000 000 000 000 000 litres per hour. This is more easily remembered as ten teralitres per hour (10 TL/h).

8 Rule of thumb

If you want to discuss your dinner in terms of how much carbon dioxide it will release into the world atmosphere, these figures might help:

Type of food Emissions (kg CO2/kg food}

Beef 31
Lamb 25
Pork 5
Seafood 4
Poultry 2
Kangaroo 2
Vegetables 0.5

9 History

At Oxford University when Charles Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carroll of Alice in Wonderland fame) was a student, a 'Finals Paper' in mathematics from the 1850s contained this question from the book, Lewis Carroll in Numberland by Robin Wilson:

Compare the advantages of a decimal and of a duodecimal system of notation in reference to (1) commerce, (2) pure arithmetic; and shew by duodecimals that the area of a room whose length is 29 feet 7 1/2 inches, and breadth is 33 feet 9 1/4 inches, is 704 feet 30 3/8 inches.

10 Hidden metric

This item appeared in "DriveOn: a conversation about our cars and trucks" at: http://content.usatoday.com/communities/driveon/post/2010/10/dodge-ditches-silly-metric-system-on-challenger-srt8-392/1

They wrote:

Today we're saluting Chrysler's Dodge for doing the obvious – bringing back a cubic-inch measurement for a famous engine instead of today's silly metric measurement.
I commented:
As you know this car has some 10 000 parts that on average require 10 measurements so altogether there are 100 000 measurements in this car and all of them are metric.
An automotive engineer, John M. Steele, also commented on this article on the USMA maillist by writing:
Chrysler ... wouldn't allow inches in their engineering system, but inch-pound units would be abundant (usually as dual figures, to cover Canada too) in their marketing literature. I am confident that if you could examine their engineering drawings, the bore and stroke are in millimeters. I would note (with amusement) that the base engine for this vehicle is a 3.6 L V6.
Later John added:
We should be careful to distinguish between Dodge, and some metric-hating, idiot journalist, fiercely obeying the AP Style Guide (there is no such thing as metric, eradicate it).

The Dodge site only gives displacement in liters for all the engines in the Challenger lineup: http://www.dodge.com/en/2010/challenger/performance/engine

John also mentioned some of his other thoughts on the quality of journalism, particularly those who fight so stupidly to preserve old pre-metric measuring words. John was not kind!

Finally, I added from another source:

"Hidden metric" is probably much more widespread in the USA than any of us can possibly know! See /docs/ApproachesToMetrication.pdf

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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