Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Here comes the metric system

585 words

2lmc linking to a bit on Fahrenheit degrees making quite seriously the same point about the "100 is hot" thing that Dave also pointed out – in a more tongue-in-cheek and less up-his-arse way, I should add.

Of course they're wrong. If you're not used to Fahrenheit degrees, 100°F means about nothing to you unless someone tells you that it's supposed to be 'rather hot'. And 451°F supposedly is where paper starts burning. Also, reversing their argument, 32°F doesn't sound particularly cold to me – and still there may be snow.

But that's missing the main point about the metric system anyway: It's decimal. You don't have to worry about 20 ounces to a pint – that's imperial fluid ounces of course (modulo a wrong constant courtesy of Google), not US fluid ounces. Of course both pints can be approximated by half a litre – but buying pint will get you a more beer in the UK. The same is true for 16 ounce dry pounds which are roughly half a kilo. Hence so far, things have been pretty sane as they are easy to approximate metrically.

But then there are 12 inch to a foot and 3 feet to a yard, which luckily is almost a metre. But how tall is someone who is 5 foot 11? That's hard mental arithmetic, a hard to do conversion. And shows a 'flaw' of Google's new calculator thingy: Shouldn't it return a feet/inches display on a query like 1,80m in feet? It doesn't it's quite decimal in its display. And while I'm at the topic of annoying non-metric units, let me quote the ever-so-evil 14 pounds to a stone and the worst conversion ever: petrol consumption from miles per gallon to litres per 100km, that's two silly constants and taking an inverse. Why do they use this in the UK anyway? I never saw a petrol station selling gallons of petrol there.

What they got surprisingly right is the inclusion of many different units and tolerance in entering them, accepting as well as metre, metres, meter and meters, say, and also accepting the comma as a decimal separator. I don't want to say that any of these is hard to do – but I have evidenced many web sites that put the burden of finding the correct format on the user rather than figuring it out yourself. This seems to be a strength of Google in general: It is quite good at getting things right, no matter how you enter your query.

A surprising weakness of the new feature is the complete absence of currency exchange rates. While the previous calculator features may be nice, I hardly ever use them. Plus, for those I use more frequently it isn't too hard to remember. Exchange rates, though, are subject to change and there would be a real benefit from using an interactive online service. Sadly, however, my query for £330 in € wasn't successful. Obvious room for improvement.

Hello, I'm actor Troy McLure. You kids might remember from such educational films as Lead Paint: Delicious But Deadly, and Here Comes The Metric System.

Troy McLure, known from the educational show The Simpsons

When 'researching' the link above, I found that there's also a band named Here comes the metric system doing what they adequately describe themselves as alterna-pop. Not overwhelming, but they do sell T-shirts and only one of them gives metric data about himself. I just love that 'internet randomness'.

August 14, 2003, 20:42


Trackback “2003/08/14 10:25” from 2lmc spool:

Tony Parsons on metric

August 14, 2003, 20:44


Comment by Wes Barclay: User icon

Oh, that is so great! I play in the band Here Comes the Metric System. We are based out of Atlanta, Ga.. I’ve never seen someone so upset about measurements before. I really appreciate this guy plugging my band, though. I’m sorry we didn’t impress.

Be well,


November 17, 2003, 21:02

Comment by ssp: User icon

Don’t be disappointed, I just said I wasn’t overwhelmed, which means that I didn’t think your music is bad either.

November 19, 2003, 21:38

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