I had to sit with this one for a while before I replied, lest my tone
be scornful. Hence, let me preface my reply with the statement that
I’ll defend your right to believe as you will but, as an engineer
[BSME & BSCS], I’m truly pleased that your belief is among the
To Patty from Alabama, Ron from California and all and sundry
worshippers of the True Metric Faith: Andy from England is right.
Metric is NOT an intuitive measurement system.
Tell that to millions of engineers, scientists, etc., that use it
every day and would rather slit their wrists than be forced to use
the English system.
(Take heart Andy, if the Brits haven't killed off the Welsh and
Irish despite a thousand years of attempt they won't have any better
luck with the remaining measurement traditionalists.) Aside from
the fact that we, most of us that is, have ten fingers and toes,
there is no redeming value for the use of a decimal system.
You mean, aside from the fact that our entire numbering system is
In my opinion the rational ones of us who insist on other >
measurement systems have nothing for which to be ashamed. I don't
recall anyone saying that people who use the English measurement
system (a misnomer since we Americans are one of the few remaining
nations to use it) should be “ashamed.”
Ten is only divisible by two integers, two and five and forms
fractions otherwise. On the other hand twelve is evenly divisible
by two, three, four and six, with an inch being customarily divided
into half, quarter, eight et cetera.
If we follow this line of reasoning, then a natural improvement of
the system would be to use 60ths [divisible by 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6] or,
better yet, 420ths [divisible by 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7] or …
The human mind works to divide things into halves, et cetera
and not to calculate decimals and then try to remember the
exponential qualities. So while we may easily remember 3/8 of
something we forget and make mistakes when we have to calculate
0.375 of something. Place holding becomes a major problem so when we
calculate 4/3*pi*xxxmm^ cubed we have no intuitive concept to tell
us what is the proper magnitude of answers in cm^cubed, just a
string of zeros and a decimal point somewhere in the middle..
Out of curiosity, how do you perform calculations using pi without
using its decimal approximation or without decimals in your results?
How would you go about getting a usable figure for 3/7ths of a foot?
While expressing the result as 36/7ths inches is unquestionably
precise, it’s also far from intuitive or usable.
Does anyone ever wonder why computer calculations sometimes
don't work both ways doing metric/decimal calculations? This is
because the computer's "mind" is patterned in a fashion after ours,
recalling things as a series of binary decisions. Any decimal number
is merely an approximation. This is recognized by assembly language
programmers who commonly use hexadecimal (base 16) to code. (It also
takes a significantly longer time for the computer to perform
Binary code is not “patterned in a fashion after ours.” It’s
dictated by the fact that digital gates have only two states: on and
off. There’s also a reason why assembly is one of the least favorite
programming languages except in cases where the code needs to be as
compact as possible … it’s a pain in the $%^#^$, and anything but
We need to mention but not dwell on the fact that when the
eighteenth century French were popularizing the Metric system (also
trying to stamp out other vestiges of tradition, killing people and
burning the history books) they miscalculated the basic length of
the meter basing it on a flawed estimate of the diameter of the
earth. Trying to correct things modern worshippers have
recalculated the damned thing, basing it on an odd number of
wavelengths of a specific frequency of light. Which of course has
nothing whatsoever to do with intuitive measurement, natural
measurement nor measurement with easily remembered fractions.
Defining measurements in terms of physical constants has nothing to
do with it being intuitive, it has to do with precision,
standardization and reproducibility.
On the other hand the nautical mile, which was based on a
specific fraction of that diameter, happens to fit perfectly with
trigonometric calculations of distance traveled on the surface of
the globe. We all should know the derivation of the grain, the caret
and the pennyweight, so I won't belabor them.
Why should we all “know the derivation of the grain, the caret and
the pennyweight”? I’d venture to say that, if you randomly polled
1000 people here in the US, even being charitable, less than 5% would
be able to accurately define the terms much less derive them. Those
measurements are simply not commonly used anymore except by a very few
industries. Likewise, the start of this thread was based on the
concept that, since most of the world uses Metric, our use of the
English system interferes with clear communication with the rest of
As Kipling once said "There are nine and sixty ways of
constructing tribal lays and every single one of them is right." So
I will continue doing my calculations using the RIGHT system for the
purpose and ignore the ravings of the people who would have us all
stamp out everything in neat little Metric cookie cutter sameness.
In spite of my poking at the points of your argument, I rejoice in
our differences and, as I said earlier, will defend your right to
believe as you wish. I’m glad that it works for you.