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Metric versus imperial: Reg readers weigh in

Mostly in kilos: Hobbits and suchlike to be exterminated

Poll Our suggestion earlier this week that El Reg's Special Projects Bureau get with the program(me) and convert entirely to SI Units prompted the traditional lively debate among our beloved commentards.

The consensus seems to be we should indeed kick imperial into touch, with a couple of exceptions, which we'll come to later.

First up, though, is the case for feet to be cut off without further ado. Barely registers weighed in with:

Yes, god yes. Consign these unholy Imperial abominations to the darkest of the depths. Lead the way, and maybe, just maybe, we can drag the rest of the world kicking and screaming out of the mire and into the light.

And while we're at it changing the road signs from miles to km, let's drive on the right hand side of the road too.

Prof Yaffle offered:

It never ceases to amaze me when Radio 4 goes blathering on about ounces, inches, Fahrenheit, bushels, grains or similarly archaic measures. I'm 44 - firmly on the edges of "middle aged fogeyism" - and was brought up with SI right here on these shores, and have never really used anything else beyond the colloqualisms of "it's a few inches", "that's a few feet". Reach for a tape measure, though, and it's metric all the way. And don't get me started on road signs in yards, or my sat nav telling me to turn left in 200 feet... wot?

Dr Paul Taylor suggested a suitable punishment for Radio 4:

Metric martyrs should be made to sit Victorian applied maths exams, with poundals and bushels and British Thermal Units and all the other ridiculous ones that I can't remember. Compulsory resits until they agree to go on telly to say how much easier SI is.

Inevitably, the matter of Americans didn't take long to surface. An anonymous coward favoured metric...

...not only because proper units with a preponderance of base ten are neater and easier to work with, but it would really, really annoy the more eye-bulgy Americans. Win all round.

DrXym agreed, suggesting that if our proposal "annoys the Americans - do it."

Dan Paul, writing from the other side of the Pond, objected:

Lester, is it really necessary to let the American bashing to continue unmoderated?

When I make comments in any forum, I try to make an effort to be reasonably respectful (unless I am personally attacked). Seems like any time anyone posts here with any Americanized spelling, topic, unit of measurement, etc. somebody feels the need to go on the offensive and bash away.

As far as Fahrenheit versus Centigrade/Celcius, I prefer Fahrenheit and all imperial style (Americanized) measurements. I was told by a professor once that what makes a measurement accurate is the number of divisions in the scale

IMHO Screw Metric anything. The original reason for its formal adoption in Europe was to create barriers to trade with the US, just like ISO ratings were. There is no compelling reason to change. Metric serves no better purpose than English/Imperial measurement.

Regarding the bashing of Americans, do please try and behave yourselves. Regarding "Screw Metric anything", it's just this kind of statement which leads the civilised world to believe that Yanks will only give up feet and inches when they're prised from their cold, dead hands.

That's not actually true, as self-declared 'Merkin David Green demonstrated:

I have no idea what we Americans' resistance to the metric system is about. It'd sure make things a helluva lot simpler. I can't believe that even NASA still hasn't made the switch. We're a bunch of c*nts.

An anonymous coward wrote:

My brother-in-law's father is an American physics teacher, he was very clear on the subject when I asked him, he words were along the lines of: "The metric system is the only sensible way forward, any engineering or physics which uses the imperial system is a nightmare. It's just not fit for modern use, we need to change over to metric." I tend to agree.

True patriots such as Dalek Dave certainly don't agree, and see imperial as the last line of defence against the insidious influence of Johnny Frenchie:

We do not live in a metric world.

24 hours a day, seven days a week, we turn 360 degrees and still know what a pint should be.

The metric system was invented by unemployed French coiffures after the revolution, so is obviously crap.

You only know a man when you have walked 1.609 km in his moccasins.

This transmanche conspiracy has already reduced once-proud Blighty to a decimalised shadow of its former self, according to Mr Michael Strelitz:

Imperial only please. They are natural and God given - like £sd. The currency going metric in 1971 resulted in enormous cost and inflation with no tangible benefits. £sd forced kids to learn a bit more arithmetic. Leave SI units to science.

To wrap the case for imperial, we give you Dive Fox, who offered:

Let's stick with Imperial! I'm an Imperial fan at home - my car gets 300 hectares on a single tank of kerosene, and that's how I want it to stay!

Fair enough, but the time has almost come for us to see if you'll get your wish. Before putting the matter to the vote, we'd like you to consider the aforementioned possible exceptions, which might happily live alongside SI Units.

Yesnomaybe suggested:

"I think the metric system makes a lot of sense. Just don't take my pint away, that's all. Every time I go home to visit, I get beer in measly 0.5l portions, and it is quite frankly an inferior way of serving beer."

EddieD proffered:

I'd like you to keep pints for beer, calories for food consumption and inches for measurements of physical attributes, but other than that, give me meters - cubic or otherwise, grams and Joules.

That'd be physical attribute such as inside leg measurements, would it?

johnB also wants his ale in pints, and added another exception proposal:

Let's go for SI units & join the rest of the human race. Honourable exception to be given to aircraft height & beer.

Wrapping this round-up of your input to the debate, we have purist Edmund Green, who's having none of it:

If you're going to bite the bullet and go with SI units then you should go all the way and not have any exceptions - the site title says "Sci/Tech News" so hopefully most of us reading it are familiar enough with units to be able to convert to something else in those more stubborn scenarios that have been mentioned and maybe even encourage others to use the SI units in these cases.

We disagree. The suggestion that beer be served in anything other than pints is so outrageous that the mere thought of it is enough to drive a man to drink. We're also inclined to agree about aircraft altitude. There's something right and proper about "flying at 35,000ft", but maybe not even we at the SPB are ready to go all the way?

We shall see. Before the vote, imperial fans are directed to the words of Concrete Gannet, who said:

I am always amazed in debates about metrication in Britain and the US that nobody looks at what happened in Australia. The sky didn't fall in, people. Really it didn't.

So, let's get to it:

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The hobbit, in addition to its use by JRR Tolkien, was a unit of weight once used in Welsh agriculture as we read here courtesy of the Cheshire Observer and the British Newspaper Archive. - Ed

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