|Pretty good essay, but tainted by your sarcasm|
Message #42 Posted by Karl Schneider on 18 July 2004, 1:56 a.m.,
in response to message #41 by Walter B
That was a reasonably intelligent short essay, that was unfortunately tainted with some gratuituous ad hominem sarcasm. To wit:
of course you may measure liquors and other stuff for your everyday (! ;) ) use ...
but you will agree a conversion factor of 2.00000000000000 is easy to apply even after several ounces of liquor.
To drop old units you have learned in childhood does not give you warm feelings, certainly. ... For the transition period, you may use your traditional units, but (sorry!) these will die with you because of extra complexity without an equivalent benefit. And - since you are the exception - it will become easier for the whole world thereafter.
Closing, I hope I didn't insult anybody by naming facts.
Well, it seems that, ostensibly, I am an obstinate, singular relic of a bygone era who drinks booze on a daily basis! ;-)
Seriously, it wasn't the so-called "facts" that bothered me...
Regarding the "liquor", I am sure that there are many consumer products that are sold in the US in portions of one fluid ounce, or several. That was the most commonplace example I could think of, though. I certainly did not imply that I, myself, was a daily user. Enough about that.
Let me now repeat several statements I made in a subsequent post that was available at the time you replied to a previous post of mine on this topic. I don't believe that you read these statements before sending your essay:
"For the record, I am quite familiar and comfortable with SI and the metric system, having three Science degrees. SI is the official measurement system for science -- even in the US -- and I wish that it had been adopted universally in the US for engineering as well. It's certainly a more sensible system for calculations and computations."
"My point was that, for everyday usage without calculations, English units are often easier to use. Most of the terms are short and monosyllabic -- e.g, inch, foot, yard, mile, pint, quart, pound -- and are usually right-sized for the purpose, which is not always the case with metric units."
What remains attractive to many Americans, I think, is the shortness of the terms and the sensible sizing of the units in the English system. For those specific purposes, that is just as much a convenience in the 21st Century as in the 16th.
In fact, there are very many English units of measurement, all named by a short, one- or two-syllable term, and scaled for a specific practical everyday use. The problem, of course, is remebering the conversion factors and doing the required math! But, when no conversions are required, that's not an issue in those cases.
In my "12 ounce = 355 milliliter beverage" example, "ounce" is easier to say than "milliliter", and 12 of something is easier to visualize than 355 of something. Sure, they're both just numbers, as "Mister Dot" pointed out, but the magnitude of those numbers is also important.
During my two years in Germany, I saw 0.3, 0.4, and 0.5 liters listed on reasturant menus as beverage sizes. I also saw "centiliters" listed on beverage cans, presumably to provide better-scaled numbers. However, centiliter is not an SI unit.
So, for measuring a standard-sized beverage in metric, we have the option of a rather large number, a fractional number, or a "quasi-standard" unit.
There are other non-SI metric units that are sized more conveniently for common use -- centimeter, cubic centimeter (cc), hectare, dekagram (perhaps?)
In closing: Again, I'm not strongly advocating the English system, just pointing out its limited attributes and why, in part, the US is reluctant to simply discard it.
-- Karl S.
Edited: 18 July 2004, 2:12 a.m.