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We are sure our readers have been enjoying NASA's footage of the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch to the ISS earlier today, but amid the excitement, you may have missed another historic moment for the US space programme. Listen carefully... That's right, at around 1:10, a mission control operative explains: "Altitude 5.3 kilometres, …

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Headmaster

the civilised world of SI

It's been a pleasant 295 Kelvins today.

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DN4
WTF?

Re: the civilised world of SI

It's been a pleasant 71.33 degrees of Fahrenheit today.

Is that tropical heat or blistering cold? Have no idea.

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Coat

Re: the civilised world of SI

I have little idea of what 71.33 degrees Fahrenheit feels like*. It's as alien to me as 71.33 degrees Rankine, Réaumur or Rømer. Kelvin at least has a sensible anchor for 0 degrees, but I can't see any justification for the intervals used. Why is the degree Kelvin a primary unit? Couldn't we define temperature in terms of something like the thermal energy in a Mole of Hydrogen?

*Ok, I know that it's colder than my body at 98.4 F and warmer than the best freezing mixture I could make (0 F).

Coat, in case 71.33 F is chilly.

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Boffin

Re: the civilised world of SI

71.33 F is pleasant room temp, fyi.

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DN4

Re: the civilised world of SI

Well, I got the number by converting 295 K using units(1) so I actually know what temperature 71.33 F means. But without that I'd be quite lost.

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Re: the civilised world of SI

The CO2 global warming scam would have a harder time if people knew the total change in measured mean temperature since before the industrial revolution has been from about 288 to 288.8 .

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Good luck with that

In most of the US, the Metric system is still seen as some kind of commie plot.

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Re: Good luck with that

That's "cheese-scarfing surrender monkey trick".

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Re: Good luck with that

Never mind the jingoism... There's the entrenched tail of legacy systems and social inertia. Not so much that them dang Yuro-peeans use it, but more along the line of "why should I have to re-learn how to measure things? The old system works just fine for me." Add to that the "well have to replace everything issue." There's an entire infrastructure that will need re-working - from our road sinage (and there's a LOT of that!) to machining and tools, down to the very fasteners we use.

That's a huge undertaking, and there frankly isn't much political will for it.

The Metric System (which most of us frankly *can* use quite well, when pressed) will simply have to continue its slow infiltration.

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MrT
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Re: Good luck with that

Small steps - notice they still quoted the downrange as a fraction... ;-)

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Re: Good luck with that

Commie Plot, Curious they think that, seeing as as the French invented it over 100 years before Communism and the French supplied the Statue of Liberty and helped them against the English in the War of Independence. Odd.

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G2
FAIL

Re: Good luck with that

well, to give my point of view, from Eastern Europe, (and maybe for most of the rest of the world) here the US is mostly viewed as a redneck country with the border rednecks willing to almost rape and anal probe you if you dare to visit and WILL kick arrest and deport you even for posting twitter jokes (TSA checkpoints). The USA's new logo for promoting tourism is: "Come and visit the USA, strip for the TSA!"

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Trollface

Re: Good luck with that

Provided "most of us" = "people over 60 with no engineering or scientific background"

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Holmes

Re: Good luck with that

Mage, they've spent the last almost 40 years dismantling what had been one of the finest education systems in human history and replacing it with creationism, gossip, No Child Left Behind, and the Kardashians. (You may quibble about which of the four is more devastating to young intellects.)

As an American, I would be very surprised if there was any large-scale social, political or philosophical leadership coming out of the midsection of the North American continent for some years, if not decades. We're falling into the abyss of our very own Cultural Revolution, and we haven't yet even conceived of a 'bottom', let alone come within a parsec of hitting it. Things will get unfathomably worse before they start getting better, which is one reason why I'm no longer physically there.

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Re: Good luck with that

"In most of the US, the Metric system is still seen as some kind of commie plot."

Or even as ungodly. "If inches and feet were good enough for Jesus, they are good enough for us!"

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Re: Good luck with that

At least it wasn't in twelfths.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Good luck with that

"In most of the US, the Metric system is still seen as some kind of commie plot."

Yet I suppose the very same people don't have a problem with the fact there are 100 cents in a dollar.

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Yag
Coffee/keyboard

"Come and visit the USA, strip for the TSA!"

And here goes my cup of Earl Grey...

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Meh

Re: Good luck with that

In many cases there's no practical purpose for changing anything, it's all cost and zero or minimum benefit. For example why go through the effort of (a) changing every single road speed limit sign in the US from miles to km (b) changing all US-made vehicle speedometers to show km/h, considering there are probably a huge number of US-made cars that have speedos only in mph and not in km/h (c) getting people used to the new system, especially since an old "50" will become a new "80", ie there will be a tendency for people to overspeed considerably if they misinterpret the sign.

The result will be a spike in speed-related accidents for a few years, which will gradually return to baseline (ie no improvement over pre-change that can be attributed to the change). It will be the same for volumes and weights of groceries etc. where there is a huge volume of things to be measured, and the measure only really matters within the US.

The only things that would benefit conversion to SI units are units used internationally, on a relatively small scale, and calculation-intensive metrics that would benefit having things divide neatly into tens and thousands rather than twelfths and sixteenths. So things like the space program, civil aviation, heavy industrial engineering

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Boffin

Jesus ? Do US feet and inches really go back that far ?

I had understood that the English measure used in the US dates from the end of the 13th century, but that John Wayne and «the West was won with/in/by feet and inches» had settled the matter for all time in the good old US of A ! But then again, John Wayne was probably a Jesus avatar - or was it the other way 'round ?...

Henri

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Pint

Re: Good luck with that

What the fuck does TSA mean?

Down here in the South Pacific on dream time I haven't a clue.

Those DamnYankees with their 3 alpha codes

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"even if "six-tenths of a kilometre" still has a ring of old school about it."

Worse than that, they haven't twigged the simplicity of the metric system allows them to just move the decimal point and make that 6 hundred meters.

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Re: "even if "six-tenths of a kilometre" still has a ring of old school about it."

the simplicity of the metric system allows you to show 1/3 of a meter as 0.3333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333... and so on. The metric/decimal system hates those pesky thirds.

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Anonymous Coward

@Bill Neal - Re: "even if "six-tenths of a kilometre" still has a ring of old school about it."

Do you really believe that 1/3 of an inch has less decimals ? Prove it and I'll convert to US system on the spot.

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Re: "even if "six-tenths of a kilometre" still has a ring of old school about it."

Yeah, I was laughing at the same thing... :D

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Re: "even if "six-tenths of a kilometre" still has a ring of old school about it."

The amazing thing is that you can, if needed, still describe a third of a metre as a third of a metre.

Or you can give it as a decimal, then convert to metres / kilometres / centimetres / millimetres / ... by shifting the decimal point around.

By the way, for those in yankeeland fishing for a short way to say "kilometre", everybody I know measures both distance and speed in "kay" (so 60k can be 60km or 60kph, depending on context) and weight in "kilos" or "grams".

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Re: "even if "six-tenths of a kilometre" still has a ring of old school about it."

Not to mention salaries.

Anyway, the US doesn't seem to have any difficulties with using 'K' for memory capacity, as in "Who could ever want more that 640K?" to quote a famous college drop-out.

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Re: "even if "six-tenths of a kilometre" still has a ring of old school about it."

The most common abbreviation for km is Klicks. So they could have referred to the distance as "Point 6 of a klick" downrange..

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PT

Re: "even if "six-tenths of a kilometre" still has a ring of old school about it."

I show a third of a meter as "about a foot", or "thirteen inches" if I need more accuracy.

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Re: "even if "six-tenths of a kilometre" still has a ring of old school about it."

Ah, but is that an Olympic-sized klick?

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Happy

Bah!

I think you'll find that's *meters*.

We don't spell in French here in the land of the free(dom fries).

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Trollface

Re: Bah!

What's the name of that language again? :-p

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bah!

I dunno, it's that bastardized low German / Latin / French / Norse that we inherited from you limies!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bah!

It still has rules, and that is not how you pluralise "limey".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bah!

Considering the screwed-up nature of English grammar, you could spell "limeys" five different ways and still get it right (from one point of view or another).

As long as you're changing to a numbering system that makes sense, why not adopt a phonetic alphabet, too? Unifon, anyone?

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Headmaster

Re: Bah!

Sorry to be a pedant but a tenth of a kilometer is a hectometer

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Thumb Down

Re: Bah!

No, it is spelt METRE. A "meter" is a device for measuring usage such as gas or water.

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Facepalm

Re: Bah!

A metre is a unit of measurement, a meter is a measuring device.

Like the one on my desk that tells me how much of a berk a commentard is, that's just wandered off scale 'cos I forgot to recalibrate it for USAians.

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Re: Bah!

Quote: A metre is a unit of measurement, a meter is a measuring device. Like the one on my desk that tells me how much of a berk a commentard is, that's just wandered off scale 'cos I forgot to recalibrate it for USAians.

See, that's why we need a consistent global unit of measurement!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bah! - phonetics

Phonetics alphabets cannot work due to those so thick they cannot even talk their native language.

Like those who think the "da afe let'r ov de alfabet is hache".

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Facepalm

Re: Bah!

It can be Metre or Meter, the same as Colour is Color or Colour, and all those other words that is spelled differently in different countries. It all depends on the local dialect of english spoken.

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We noticed it when watching...

but then Musk is (originally) South African, and down here don't bother foot-pounds-per-square-inch no more.

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Not likely.

It is fine for NASA, or the private sector, to use metric. Likewise, if it was once, seemingly required that the American or British people had to learn it, that is no longer the case. Computers do the math. Double labels and such are common and easy for consumer purposes. Any progress in moving people to use metric terms in common speech will be entirely incidental, not intentional.

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Thumb Up

Re: Not likely.

Had to learn it? We've been teaching metric units for the last sixty years. We just can't use them because the conservative governments of both main parties don't think there are any votes in it.

I look forward to seeing some meterage of the flight!

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Re: Not likely.

> We just can't use them because the conservative governments of both main parties don't think there are any votes in it.

Rather they know they'd get their sorry arses righteously tanned by an electorate who can't see why they should be pushed around.

If it ain't broken don't fix it.

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Stop

Re: Not likely.

Does the U.S. government require that:

- all our scales read in pounds?

- our food containers are measured in ounces and pounds?

- our drinks are usually measured in ounces, pints, quarts, and gallons?

- our meteorologists report the temperature in Fahrenheit?

- our sports teams measure their fields, courts, and arenas in feet?

- our construction industries primarily refer to feet and inches when specifying material sizes?

(side note: many government construction contracts use metric)

- our sportscasters talk about a linebacker's size in feet and pounds or a baseball pitcher's speed in mph?

AFAIK, the only thing our federal gov't can do is *recommend* that the states label their highways and roadways in kilometers and KPH.

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Devil

Re: Not likely.

The Freemasons are quite fond of the system. There has been evidence to support that the modern yard was even used as a standard for megalithic construction. Old habits will not go away easily.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not likely.

IANAL, but that being said, I was a Political Science major, and I can answer alot of these questions for you.

>Does the U.S. government require that:

>- all our scales read in pounds?

No, but food scales in supermarkets and such are regulated by the individual state governments and as such are generally required to be accurate in pounds as well as in Metric.

>- our food containers are measured in ounces and pounds?

I believe the FDA requires it, as does the USDA, yes, though there are always metric weights on packages too, which I believe is also required.

>- our drinks are usually measured in ounces, pints, quarts, and gallons?

Same with food, the FDA and USDA require that measurements be in both metric and customary.

>- our meteorologists report the temperature in Fahrenheit?

Thats one Ive never understood, because a good number of divisions inside the National Weather Service, like the Space Weather Prediction Center and National Hurricane Center do most of their work in metric units. Celsius kind of sucks.

>- our sports teams measure their fields, courts, and arenas in feet?

No, but some sports governing bodies specify feet, yards, meters, kilometers or miles for their venues. Look at the International Rugby Board's laws for Rugby Union, it specifies that the field should be measured in meters. On the same coin, look at the NBA's rules for basketball, their measurements are in feet.

>- our construction industries primarily refer to feet and inches when specifying material sizes?

Alot of that has to do with building codes, which are a State issue, not Federal.

(side note: many government construction contracts use metric)

^^True, though Ive noticed that some GSA contracts tend to use customary for whatever reason.

- our sportscasters talk about a linebacker's size in feet and pounds or a baseball pitcher's speed in mph?

Well they could talk about sizes and speeds in metric, but not too many people would really understand.

The Feds could change everything over to Metric, it could be done legally, but it would cost much more than it would save and they realized this in 1977.

The better idea is to convert specific Agencies and Administrations, like NASA, that have a scientific, military related, or international mission as well as parts of specific other agencies like FEMA, which for instance still uses Americanized measurements for Radioactive contamination on their radiac sets and such, like the Rad, Roentgen, and Rem. While the very same radiac in use by the Army will measure in Sieverts and Grays.

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Broken

It's broken, trust me. The world is now a place of global trade, and and one billion Chinese and one billion Indians, to say nothing of another few hundred million Europeans, all use metric. The 300 million in the US are hopelessly fighting a loosing, and expensive, war, as US companies cannot easily export or interoperate with global markets. It IS costing the US jobs, and profitability. The fact that no one wants to talk about that politically out of some sense of jingoism doesn't mean it isn't real.

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