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ljbrs
2002-Apr-10, 11:57 PM
One of the great things about *Bad Astronomy* is somewhat subtle. Bad Astronomer uses METRIC notation throughout *Bad Astronomy* (followed by English notation within parentheses)! Bravo!

I believe that American students get short-changed when they are taught science with *English* notation rather than *metric*. I understand that *metric* is supposed to be the method advocated in the United States, but where do you ever see it used (other than on speedometers in tiny letters which are so small they cannot be read without a magnifier. The English units, naturally, are big and bold on speedometers.

On standardized tests, American students are down at a level with students in undeveloped countries when it comes to mathematics and science. I blame it all on the preferential use of English over metric in American schools.

Phil: Thank you for making Metric dominant in your wonderful book. Perhaps others might take the hint.

If your lectures are at all like your writing in this book, your students are very lucky. Very lucky. All future science teachers should come into contact with your book.

ljbrs /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_wink.gif

The Bad Astronomer
2002-Apr-11, 02:39 PM
Oh, that was on purpose, believe me. There is one section where I use "standard" units before metric, but now I don't remember where. It's because miles were more convenient, since I was referencing some common knowledge "fact" usually quoted in miles.

I prefer metric, though I still think in miles. It's impossible to use metric in daily life still, but I try to squeeze it in when I can. In interviews, I always try to use both.

ljbrs
2002-Apr-11, 11:23 PM
I finished the book today. I was planning to go slowly, but I simply could not stop reading it. It is so beautifully written and full of great information. It is so much fun to read. You really know how to explain astronomy. Your students are very, very lucky.

I particularly liked things like the place where you explained about driving in rain and being unable to see the light from your headlights in front of you while at the same time being able to see a flood of light in back of you. I have often witnessed that but did not think it through well enough. There are loads of places like that in your book with many insights into causes.

So there was somebody who did not like the part about UFOs. I enjoyed that very much myself. I always remember when I was three years old and first saw the night sky. I wanted to know what everything was. My physicist father talked about *infinity* (as to the distances in the universe, which was the idea at the time) and blew my mind. Of course, ideas in astronomy change a lot. You are right about people always remembering things which fascinate them that they do not understand and about which they wonder. I was lucky to have my father there to explain it. I can remember clearly where everybody was. My younger brother was on a blanket next to my mother (and would have been running around if he had not been just recently born). My older brother was busily occupied with viewing. My father was standing next to me. It was one of the most vivid memories that I have ever had and I have always remembered it.

There are so many interesting places in your book. You have written many variations on the ideas that one does not usually find in ordinary books on the subject of astronomy. I think that my skeptics group will love it, too. That next meeting is on Monday night and I will show it around. Then I will show it around (again) at my next astronomy club meeting on the third Friday next week. And I will buy another copy because this copy is already dog-eared and full of notations.

Now, get to work on your next book. Right now. (Cracking whip...)

ljbrs /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif

Kaptain K
2002-Apr-12, 09:38 AM
...astronomy club meeting on the third Friday next week
It could be worse. Next week could have three Mondays. /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif

Duane534
2002-Nov-15, 10:05 AM
I like English measurements. It's not that I wasn't taught Metric or I don't know how to convert. I just like them the way they are.

Mainframes
2002-Nov-16, 02:08 PM
The irony in all of this is that here in england we dont use 'english' units. We switched to metric a fair while ago. Trying to do engineering thermodynamics using an american textbook that uses 'english' units is a nightmare.

Oh and btw they are called imperial units not english......

Not meant as a rant but may well have turned into one!

ToSeek
2002-Nov-16, 03:32 PM
On 2002-11-16 09:08, Mainframes wrote:
The irony in all of this is that here in england we dont use 'english' units. We switched to metric a fair while ago. Trying to do engineering thermodynamics using an american textbook that uses 'english' units is a nightmare.

Oh and btw they are called imperial units not english......



Actually there are some differences between English and Imperial units (http://www.bartleby.com/65/en/Englsh-u.html), most notably with the gallon, which is much larger in Imperial units. Evidently, the "English" system of measurements is used only in the US and in any case is based on the metric system (that is, the values are defined based on the metric system).

GrapesOfWrath
2002-Nov-17, 02:31 PM
The world will have the english system to kick around as long as there is soccer. I mean, football. The goals are 8 yards wide, 8 feet high--or their metric "equivalent." /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif

ToSeek
2002-Nov-17, 03:08 PM
On 2002-11-17 09:31, GrapesOfWrath wrote:
The world will have the english system to kick around as long as there is soccer. I mean, football. The goals are 8 yards wide, 8 feet high--or their metric "equivalent." /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif


That's 7.32 and 2.44 meters, officially.

GrapesOfWrath
2002-Nov-17, 04:01 PM
The official rules (http://www.fifa2.com/scripts/runisa.dll?S7:gp::67173+refs/laws) still include the imperial units as well. It was only a few years ago that they changed to mention metric first.

Perhaps the biggest impediment to the changeover in the USA is the popularity of American football? Ten meters would be, what, about one yard longer than ten yards?

ToSeek
2002-Nov-18, 02:22 PM
On 2002-11-17 11:01, GrapesOfWrath wrote:
The official rules (http://www.fifa2.com/scripts/runisa.dll?S7:gp::67173+refs/laws) still include the imperial units as well. It was only a few years ago that they changed to mention metric first.

Perhaps the biggest impediment to the changeover in the USA is the popularity of American football? Ten meters would be, what, about one yard longer than ten yards?


Yes. Nine meters would be a better approximation than ten, though that would have problems, too:

"Davis gets the ball. He breaks through the line. He's in the clear. He's at the 27, the 22-1/2, the 18, the 13-1/2, the 9, the 4-1/2. He scores!"

David Hall
2002-Nov-18, 02:32 PM
I had a friend in college who suggested that the best way to get the US to convert to the metric system would be to convert all the football fields to metric.

Zathras
2002-Nov-18, 04:08 PM
But even if we decide on metric, there still could be controversy. Should we use cgs or SI?

GrapesOfWrath
2002-Nov-18, 04:30 PM
On 2002-11-18 11:08, Zathras wrote:
But even if we decide on metric, there still could be controversy. Should we use cgs or SI?

I don't think that there would be any controversy at all. We would, after all, be changing over so to match the rest of the world, right?

Zathras
2002-Nov-18, 04:38 PM
Yeah, but in science, half the people use cgs and half use SI. Just dovetailing from the rest of the conversation.

Peter B
2002-Nov-27, 07:28 AM
*says nothing, but looks down smugly from the contented world of metric as a bunch of Americans try to come to terms with it...*

/phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif

Donnie B.
2002-Nov-27, 02:48 PM
Don't be too smug. This board is loaded with scientists and engineers, and we use "metric" every day.

If you want to help convert us heathen, why not set up a fund to pay for switching over all our road signs, real estate records, and measuring cups? /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif

nebularain
2002-Dec-02, 10:56 PM
OK, this is amusing . . .

http://www.cnn.com/2002/SHOWBIZ/books/12/02/alder.measure/index.html

It says the metric system is an error!

GrapesOfWrath
2002-Dec-02, 11:29 PM
On 2002-12-02 17:56, nebularain wrote:
It says the metric system is an error!
The error, that link says, was known in the 19th century.

It quotes the author: "That fiction, however, would have enormous consequences," Alder says. "If the metric system is today used by 95 percent of the people of the world, it is in no small measure due to the 'grand fiction' that the meter was based on nature. ... It would hardly have been adopted everywhere if the French had simply 'made it up.' In that sense the expedition proved to be essential to the 'selling' of the metric system, as well as for all the scientific discoveries it unexpectedly produced."

In other words, the author is trying to say that the big draw of the metric system is that the meter is one 40,000,000 of the Earth's circumference. That's h**ey. The big advantage to the metric system is it's use of the decimal system.

Senor Molinero
2002-Dec-03, 03:05 AM
In Australia, we switched to metric in 1972 and have never looked back.

David Hall
2002-Dec-03, 03:09 AM
I agree with Grapes. In addition, he claims that because the Earth is not perfectly round, and that they had to take an average measurement for the meter, that it was an arbitrary rather than an Earth-based measurement. /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_confused.gif What makes it arbitrary? They measured the Earth. They based the meter on their measurements. The averaging was necessary to make it a uniform measurement. Sounds pretty scientific to me. Besides, haven't all metric units been further refined since then to match more exacting nature-based phenomena?

As for his "hidden error" that the article fails to clarify--well, that may have been an initial negative point, but was that enough to cast a pall over the entire system? Once again, it's something that could be hammered out of the equation later as more accurate methods of surveying were developed. The beautiful simplicity and uniformity of the system itself is enough to overlook a few minor errors here and there.

To imply that the metric system would never have been accepted if it were known to be inaccurate may be true, to an extent. I don't think the brains of the day would have wanted to use something that was known to be off. But it's a far stretch to say that it never would have caught on at all. Might it not instead have driven them harder to clean up those errors rather than drop the system entirely?

This book seems to be nothing more than tilting at windmills. A lot of to-do over nothing.

JS Princeton
2002-Dec-04, 07:55 AM
Science is progressing toward SI. It's only the stubborn old-time astronomers and a few electricity/magnetism folk that still use cgs. Everyone else in the scientific community uses SI. Over time, I think you'll see less and less of cgs.

Though, I was always upset that the base unit in SI was the kilogram. I mean, how can a base unit have a prefix? That's just wrong, in my mind. Oh well, mks it is and mks they'll get.... we're such arbitrary creatures we are.

There is an advantage to knowing the English system of measurement. You can really confuse your friends from other countries. They have no idea what a "quart" is or how heavy a "pound" is. I had the advantage of growing up in the American school system where both sets of units were taught. I actually have a feeling for how big a meter is, how heavy a gram is, and how much you can fit in a liter which I think may not be the case with people who came just before me in the schools.

We are progressing, it just takes a while. Maybe we should just forget all the nonsense and convert ourselves into planck units. Of course, we'd be talking in huge orders of magnitude with all our measurements, but think of the wonderful new prefixes we'd use in our speech. "Honey, you were supposed to be home a petadot ago!"

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: JS Princeton on 2002-12-04 02:57 ]</font>

GrapesOfWrath
2002-Dec-04, 11:27 AM
On 2002-12-04 02:55, JS Princeton wrote:
We are progressing, it just takes a while. Maybe we should just forget all the nonsense and convert ourselves into planck units.
There was a movement thirty years ago, started by a group at the University of Colorado, that advocated using non-dimensional units. You could tell by the exponents whether you were talking about distance or time or mass or volume.

Wiley
2002-Dec-05, 06:36 PM
On 2002-12-04 06:27, GrapesOfWrath wrote:


On 2002-12-04 02:55, JS Princeton wrote:
We are progressing, it just takes a while. Maybe we should just forget all the nonsense and convert ourselves into planck units.
There was a movement thirty years ago, started by a group at the University of Colorado, that advocated using non-dimensional units. You could tell by the exponents whether you were talking about distance or time or mass or volume.


If they were from the University of Colorado, perhaps they were feeding you a load of buffalo ...

GrapesOfWrath
2002-Dec-07, 12:47 PM
Heh! No, they even published a small book, but I couldn't find it online. If you want a piece of their mascot, here (http://mentock.home.mindspring.com/metric.htm). /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif

JS Princeton
2002-Dec-07, 10:13 PM
Base 60? That's ridiculous. I can't think of anything that comes in 60s. Except for minutes, seconds, and degrees... and those are completely arbitrary. If base ten is clumsy, how does multiplying your base by 2 and then by 3 make it any better? And they dismiss binary out-of-hand for what reason? I can think of a lot of things that come in pairs.

GrapesOfWrath
2002-Dec-08, 12:14 AM
On 2002-12-07 17:13, JS Princeton wrote:
I can't think of anything that comes in 60s. Except for minutes, seconds, and degrees...And there's hours, minutes, seconds, too.

Wiley
2002-Dec-09, 12:44 AM
I may be doing too much computer programming these days, but I'm gonna have to vote for binary. It's as simple as buttoning your shoe. What do y'all think? Yes or no?

David Hall
2002-Dec-09, 08:20 AM
On 2002-12-08 19:44, Wiley wrote:

What do y'all think? Yes or no?


Maybe. /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif

GrapesOfWrath
2002-Dec-09, 11:34 AM
I'm stuck between "maybe" and "no"

Wiley
2002-Dec-09, 08:40 PM
If y'all want to include "maybe", we're gonna need to move to trinary. /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif

Donnie B.
2002-Dec-09, 10:10 PM
No, just a 2-bit field.

ljbrs
2002-Dec-12, 02:12 AM
I had almost forgotten about this thread that I started. Great posts, folks! I still think that SI units are the way to go. If somebody does not want to learn SI units, he or she (she or he?) should stay far away from the sciences.

===================


I like English measurements. It's not that I wasn't taught Metric or I don't know how to convert. I just like them the way they are.

Of course, English measurements are kind of cute (quaint), but they do not have much scientific utility.

ljbrs /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_frown.gif /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_frown.gif

ToSeek
2002-Dec-12, 02:33 AM
On 2002-12-08 19:44, Wiley wrote:
I may be doing too much computer programming these days, but I'm gonna have to vote for binary. It's as simple as buttoning your shoe. What do y'all think? Yes or no?


How about octal as a compromise?

Senor Molinero
2002-Dec-18, 06:33 AM
I always enjoyed doing the double conversion for the price of gold from $US/USoz to local currency per kilogram.
God bless the USA.

Kaptain K
2002-Dec-18, 11:24 AM
On 2002-12-18 01:33, Senor Molinero wrote:
I always enjoyed doing the double conversion for the price of gold from $US/USoz to local currency per kilogram.
God bless the USA.

Yeahbut!

Gold is not priced in $US/USoz. It is priced in $US/troy oz.

SeanF
2002-Dec-18, 02:28 PM
On 2002-12-18 06:24, Kaptain K wrote:


On 2002-12-18 01:33, Senor Molinero wrote:
I always enjoyed doing the double conversion for the price of gold from $US/USoz to local currency per kilogram.
God bless the USA.

Yeahbut!

Gold is not priced in $US/USoz. It is priced in $US/troy oz.



Yep! Hence the correct answer to "What weighs more, a pound of gold or a pound of feathers?" is, in fact, the pound of feathers . . . /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif

David Hall
2002-Dec-18, 02:53 PM
But I'd rather have the pound of gold. You can keep the feathers. /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif

GrapesOfWrath
2002-Dec-18, 03:16 PM
On 2002-12-18 09:28, SeanF wrote:
Hence the correct answer to "What weighs more, a pound of gold or a pound of feathers?" is, in fact, the pound of feathers
Yahbut, an ounce (http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=troy%20weight) of gold is heavier than an ounce (http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=avoirdupois%20weight) of feathers...

Senor Molinero
2002-Dec-18, 11:20 PM
TROY OUNCES. Consarn it!! Any wonder I'm broke. Another conspiracy.

Kizarvexis
2002-Dec-24, 03:04 AM
On 2002-04-11 10:39, The Bad Astronomer wrote:
I prefer metric, though I still think in miles. It's impossible to use metric in daily life still, but I try to squeeze it in when I can. In interviews, I always try to use both.


I agree that in the US it is hard to use metric, since almost everything is either in standard US measurement only or in both systems, but the metric in small print. I do have a quirk though. I estimate distance in meters, since that is how I was taught in the U.S. Army Infantry. /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif In everything else, I use the US system.

Kizarvexis
I also use the 24 hour clock and this annoys my wife. /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif The kids are learning the 24 hour clock though. /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif

Rodina
2002-Dec-24, 04:03 AM
On 2002-12-18 10:16, GrapesOfWrath wrote:


On 2002-12-18 09:28, SeanF wrote:
Hence the correct answer to "What weighs more, a pound of gold or a pound of feathers?" is, in fact, the pound of feathers
Yahbut, an ounce (http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=troy%20weight) of gold is heavier than an ounce (http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=avoirdupois%20weight) of feathers...


How about that - a troy pound = 1.215 standard pounds.

By the way, all of you measurement nuts should get yourselves a copy of "Measure for Measure" by Young and Glover, a handy little pocket book which covers standard, English and all kinds of measurements from antiquity. If you want to know that there are 0.158 scruples in a carat, this is where you find it.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/188979600X/qid=1040702919/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/103-5891044-4432619?v=glance&s=books

cable
2002-Dec-24, 08:15 AM
on airplanes, it's "english", xcept russians who use metric.
and that may explain why soooo many accidents with russian planes: pilots got confused.
unless it's reliablity ? /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif

GrapesOfWrath
2002-Dec-24, 10:20 AM
On 2002-12-23 23:03, Rodina wrote:How about that - a troy pound = 1.215 standard pounds.
No, a standard pound = 1.215 troy pounds.

And a standard ounce = .9115 troy ounce.

Chuck
2002-Dec-24, 03:30 PM
The Metric System can be useful. I use it when I want to be annoying. Like when someone asks me how tall I am or how much I weigh when it's really none of their business.

xriso
2002-Dec-29, 08:37 AM
About the bases... I wonder what's so great about base 60? I personally like to write my numbers with one symbol per digit. As he was saying, people like to divide things into halves, thirds, quarters. So why not take the least common multiple of 2,3,4? It's 12 (2*2*3), only 2 more symbols needed. I myself wouldn't mind doing away with a 5 factor, if it meant having base 12 rather than 60.

GrapesOfWrath
2002-Dec-29, 03:50 PM
But divisions into five have been the basis of our number system for so long...it'd be a shame to quit now. Just my two cents.

Donnie B.
2003-Jan-01, 03:04 AM
You can use base 60 and still have only one symbol per digit. You just need to memorize a whole lot of numerals. But it would still be a lot simpler than, say, Chinese writing, which has several thousand characters in common use.

Of course, those of us who write real software (in Assembly) know that the only truly useful number system is hexadecimal.

Senor Molinero
2003-Jan-02, 12:18 AM
There are 10 types of people in this world.
Those who understand binary, and those who don't.

Autarch
2003-Mar-14, 08:28 PM
On 2002-12-08 19:44, Wiley wrote:
I may be doing too much computer programming these days, but I'm gonna have to vote for binary. It's as simple as buttoning your shoe. What do y'all think? Yes or no?



Some even advocate balanced ternary.../phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif

frenat
2003-Mar-15, 05:35 AM
on airplanes, it's "english", xcept russians who use metric.
Yeah airplanes use english units excepts the airspeed is in knots and not mph and distance is in nautical miles and standard miles depending on where you look. Of course some planes also measure airspeed with a mach meter as well.

poorleno
2003-Apr-19, 12:55 AM
Well, born and raised metric user, i don't even know first thing about all other systems! Imagine... 2 km to the train station, 10 kilos worth of books... Ach... Life is sweet.

Ok, back to the metric debate. I can't believe how illiterate some of you are! (for not pointing this out!) Meter is NOT one ten millionth the distance from equator to the North Pole! It has been redefined! Three times!

Ok, so after the definition you know, meter was made the distance between marked lines on a rod, made of platinum-iridium alloy. Of course nobody liked that, and it was again redefined in terms of the wavelengths of red light from a krypton isotope. But that didn't hold either. Sometime in the 80s meter was once again redefined into something even better - a distance light travels 1/299792458 of a second!

So the lesson is - metric system IS (SI!) the best, so start unlearning your birth given gogawooga! :D

Chuck
2003-Apr-19, 04:48 AM
But that didn't hold either. Sometime in the 80s meter was once again redefined into something even better - a distance light travels 1/299792458 of a second!Doesn't this mean that the length of the metre changes every time we measure the speed of light more accurately?

kilopi
2003-Apr-19, 04:11 PM
Ok, back to the metric debate. I can't believe how illiterate some of you are! (for not pointing this out!) Meter is NOT one ten millionth the distance from equator to the North Pole! It has been redefined! Three times!
Perhaps you missed this post (http://www.badastronomy.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?p=44225#44225), or even one of mine (http://www.badastronomy.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?p=44192#44192)?

Or were those the posts you were talking about?

Kaptain K
2003-Apr-19, 05:41 PM
Well, born and raised metric user, i don't even know first thing about all other systems! Imagine... 2 km to the train station, 10 kilos worth of books... Ach... Life is sweet...

...So the lesson is - metric system IS (SI!) the best, so start unlearning your birth given gogawooga!
And Europeans complain that Americans are arrogantly ignorant? :roll:
How does knowing one system (SI) exclusively make one superior to one who knows another (avoirdupois) exclusively? :-?
I pride myself in being fairly fluent in both. 8)

poorleno
2003-Apr-19, 06:00 PM
kilopy - i sure missed a sentence in one, saying that it was redefined, but still it was unclear.

Kaptain K - Who said ANYTHING about me being superior to any of you guys? I just might be, but thatís not the point. That's my self-esteem. =)
I was just pointing out how WIERD SI system is for you, and how infinitely more weird the imperial system is for me. Stop being a jerk, read between the lines! :)

And chuck - Hm... What a stupid thing to say about my precious meter :) Well actually it just might... But I don't think it'll make much big of a deal anyway. :)

kilopi
2003-Apr-20, 12:01 AM
kilopy - i sure missed a sentence in one, saying that it was redefined, but still it was unclear.
Kinda ironic though, since you accused us all of illiteracy, then ain't it? :)

The original meter seems to be the length of a pendulum that took one second to swing. Then they noticed that it was almost one ten millionth of the quarter-circumference, and decided that measuring it would make a nice publicity boondoggle for the new system. Had they kept the seconds-pendulum definition, the acceleration of gravity would have been exactly pi squared meters per second per second. I would have liked that.

poorleno
2003-Apr-20, 12:34 PM
kilopy - i sure missed a sentence in one, saying that it was redefined, but still it was unclear.
Kinda ironic though, since you accused us all of illiteracy, then ain't it? :)


No it ain't :)

pi^2, eh.. Ň_Ň

Alex W.
2003-Dec-06, 06:50 PM
For the record, that's Imperial units, not English units. They've been taught as standard in UK schools for ages and are legally required in shops in the EU, including the UK. Which is good, they're easier to figure out.

Of course, I still measure my weight and height in pounds, stones, feet and inches.

ljbrs
2003-Dec-14, 02:22 AM
I think that if one is going to be a scientist in today's world, one needs to use the units (SI) which are used in science. The students in the United States (my country) are at the level of the undeveloped countries when it comes to math and science, (Or so I have read somewhat recently in one of my various science publications -- SCIENCE or NATURE or PHYSICS TODAY, etc.) or in the many journals in the Science and Engineering Library (of my alma mater). Why waste one's time on terms never to be used in science? Then again, if one is going to become a historian of outdated and unwieldy mathematical, scientific, and engineering terms, one might want to reconsider. I, myself, would not want to be handicapped by such useless knowledge.

ljbrs :roll:

Chuck
2003-Dec-14, 03:22 AM
When the galactic overlords take over and enslave us they'll make us use what they use. It seems pointless to learn something new that we won't be using much longer.

Even if the aliens take their time getting here, eventually we'll all have computer chips implanted in our brains that will automatically do all conversions and computations for us. Then it won't matter which system anyone uses.

Alex W.
2003-Dec-15, 01:11 AM
Galactic Overlords probably won't use decimal, will they?

It'll have a base equal to the number of fingers they have. ;)

Unless there's an evolutionary advantage to having exactly three fingers.

Assuming they have fingers.

:o

AstroSmurf
2003-Dec-15, 11:30 AM
Assuming they have the same number of fingers all the time. :o 8-[

Alex W.
2003-Dec-16, 09:31 PM
Galactic Overlords probably won't use decimal, will they?

It'll have a base equal to the number of fingers they have. ;)

Unless there's an evolutionary advantage to having exactly three fingers.

Assuming they have fingers.

:o

Uh-oh, revealed too much there...

beck0311
2003-Dec-25, 05:10 AM
I think that if one is going to be a scientist in today's world, one needs to use the units (SI) which are used in science. The students in the United States (my country) are at the level of the undeveloped countries when it comes to math and science, (Or so I have read somewhat recently in one of my various science publications -- SCIENCE or NATURE or PHYSICS TODAY, etc.) or in the many journals in the Science and Engineering Library (of my alma mater). Why waste one's time on terms never to be used in science? Then again, if one is going to become a historian of outdated and unwieldy mathematical, scientific, and engineering terms, one might want to reconsider. I, myself, would not want to be handicapped by such useless knowledge.

ljbrs :roll:

I am an aerospace engineer and in aeronautics we use the "english" system exclusively. I learned the metric system in grade school along side the standard units. I spent six years in the US Marine Corps where I got used to thinking about distances in kilometers. When I got out I went to school and started studying engineering. At first this meant taking basic science courses like physics where the professors often waxed philosophically about the uselessness of the english system. I always found the arguments a little elitist and rhetorical. Once I got into more advanced courses in engineering, I learned that I had to be fluent in both the english system and SI. I didn't find either system to be "unwieldy". I have never in my life felt "handicapped" by any knowledge. I would, however, feel handicapped if I ignored the english system and found myself working in the american aerospace industry and had no idea what an inch or foot-pound was.


Of course some planes also measure airspeed with a mach meter as well.

Sorry, but I have to address this pet peeve of mine. Mach number is a dimensionless parameter that is the ratio of the aircraft's speed to the speed of sound (which is variable based upon the medium and local temperature). Mach number is an extremely important parameter that must be monitered on many aircraft, but a Mach meter is not used to extrapolate airspeed.

Jobe
2004-Jan-15, 05:16 AM
I think the main point is the advantages of everyone using the same system are many. Therefore the best thing to do is for those still using the outdated system to convert to the new one. It's going to happen sooner or later, so how about making it sooner :P

beck0311
2004-Jan-15, 05:45 AM
I think the main point is the advantages of everyone using the same system are many. Therefore the best thing to do is for those still using the outdated system to convert to the new one. It's going to happen sooner or later, so how about making it sooner :P

While I agree that it will happen eventually, I have to point out that, unfortunately, a total conversion is an extremely expensive proposition. If the US government mandated that all industries phase out the standard system it would cost those companies big time. Now, in the long run, the companies would, no doubt, save money but large up front costs are hard to justify. Politicians are loath to support legislation that would cost their potential campaign contributors, especially if the law in question has no tangible benefit.

One of the OP points that I strenuously disagree with is the assertion that US students perform poorly on standardized science tests because we use the standard (for lack of a better term) system. There is absolutely no evidence to support this assertion. A person can learn physics, chemistry, biology or any other science just as well using the standard system as a "more fortunate" student who has been brought up using the SI system.

Spacewriter
2004-Jan-23, 02:28 PM
Among other things, I write and produce planetarium shows, and I always try to use metric units (or relative sizes like "three times the size of Earth") in the programs. You'd think that since metric is part of the language of science, nobody'd have a problem with this, but there have been clients who have complained about all those "kilometers and things." Nonetheless, I continue to use metric when possible.

beck0311
2004-Jan-24, 03:31 AM
Among other things, I write and produce planetarium shows, and I always try to use metric units (or relative sizes like "three times the size of Earth") in the programs. You'd think that since metric is part of the language of science, nobody'd have a problem with this, but there have been clients who have complained about all those "kilometers and things." Nonetheless, I continue to use metric when possible.

This bothers me a little. First I openly acknowledge that the SI system is somewhat easier to use that the "standard" system. But if you are writing planetarium shows for the general American public, then why would you insist on using SI units? Why not just write them in Latin? Using relative sizes would obviously be best, but you have to face the fact that even if they have a passing familiarity with the SI system they are much more likely to have an intuitive feel for "standard" system. To the average American 3ft 4in conjurs up an actual distance, while a meter is an abstraction that he/she will recognize, but it won't have any physical meaning. However, if you write planetarium shows exclusively for the scientifically literate then I suppose that it makes sense to only use the SI system.

I guess that the reason I keep coming back to the thread is that I sense an underlying current that if a person uses the standard system in regular life they must be stupid. I realize that this is not what is being said, but it seems like that is the atitude. Possesing a knowledge of any particular measurement system simply does not bestow any special status.

Spacewriter
2004-Jan-26, 10:17 PM
[quote=Spacewriter]Among other things, I write and produce planetarium shows, and I always try to use metric units (or relative sizes like "three times the size of Earth") in the programs. You'd think that since metric is part of the language of science, nobody'd have a problem with this, but there have been clients who have complained about all those "kilometers and things." Nonetheless, I continue to use metric when possible.

I had this elegant reply all typed in a couple of hours ago and when I went to press "submit" it all disappeared and I got a database error for the board. So, here goes again.




This bothers me a little. First I openly acknowledge that the SI system is somewhat easier to use that the "standard" system. But if you are writing planetarium shows for the general American public, then why would you insist on using SI units? Why not just write them in Latin? Using relative sizes would obviously be best, but you have to face the fact that even if they have a passing familiarity with the SI system they are much more likely to have an intuitive feel for "standard" system.



And as I made clear, I try to use relative measures whenever possible. If people are coming to a planetarium show or reading an astronomy book, they should not be surprised to be greeted with the language of science, which includes metric units. In astronomy, though, I'm usually working in light-years, parsecs, etc., so it's not a big problem.

It's a question of using the right language for a given situation. You don't go to your mechanic and say, "My thingamajiggie on the end of the whosis is whanging." Well, you CAN do that, but your mechanic is likely to scratch his/her/its head and say, "huh?" No, you actually make an effort to figure out where the noise is coming from so you can say, "Whenver I drive this fast, this noise comes out the rear end by the tailpipe."

When I go to the doctor, I don't say, "Gee Doc, my dingie is hurting." I say, "My elbow hurts" or "I think I pulled a muscle here... " and point to the offending part. It gives us a basis for communication.

So, why should we expect scientists to change the units in which they work when they communicate with a subset of humanity that is still working in other units? Most of us in books or articles will cheerfully put up both units when we're saying that the Earth is 238,000 miles (380,000 km) from the Moon.

That doesn't work too well in a show and I abandoned that double usage a long time ago. In a narration, we only have so much time to get the ideas across (some shows cover a lot of ground in about 30 minutes) and the simpler one can make the language, the better. So, I might say "The Sun is 150 million kilometers from the Earth" or even better, I might say, "The light from the Sun takes about 9 minutes to get here." It's less PRECISE perhaps, but it also avoids using units that the audience might not know.




To the average American 3ft 4in conjurs up an actual distance, while a meter is an abstraction that he/she will recognize, but it won't have any physical meaning. However, if you write planetarium shows exclusively for the scientifically literate then I suppose that it makes sense to only use the SI system.



I write them for people who come to the planetarium. Most of them show up expecting to learn something about science. This also means we teach and learn the language of science -- much as we're doing with the Mars missions right now. I can think of many science terms that have entered the mainstream vocabulary from science and nobody bats an eye about it. So, why should units be different?

(Hell, how many of us use "Trek" terms, even? And they're not (arguably) strictly science terms.)



I guess that the reason I keep coming back to the thread is that I sense an underlying current that if a person uses the standard system in regular life they must be stupid. I realize that this is not what is being said, but it seems like that is the atitude. Possesing a knowledge of any particular measurement system simply does not bestow any special status.

Nor did I claim any such special status. There isn't any status to knowing the different units, just as there is no special status for those who can speak several languages or can run fast, or juggle or whatever. These are skills and the more skills one has, the one more is able to perceive and understand the universe.

beck0311
2004-Jan-31, 04:07 AM
It's a question of using the right language for a given situation. You don't go to your mechanic and say, "My thingamajiggie on the end of the whosis is whanging." Well, you CAN do that, but your mechanic is likely to scratch his/her/its head and say, "huh?" No, you actually make an effort to figure out where the noise is coming from so you can say, "Whenver I drive this fast, this noise comes out the rear end by the tailpipe."

When I go to the doctor, I don't say, "Gee Doc, my dingie is hurting." I say, "My elbow hurts" or "I think I pulled a muscle here... " and point to the offending part. It gives us a basis for communication.

This is a borderline strawman argument. Using feet as aposed to meters is hardly the same as refering to your elbow as a "dingie".



I write them for people who come to the planetarium. Most of them show up expecting to learn something about science. This also means we teach and learn the language of science -- much as we're doing with the Mars missions right now. I can think of many science terms that have entered the mainstream vocabulary from science and nobody bats an eye about it. So, why should units be different?

(Hell, how many of us use "Trek" terms, even? And they're not (arguably) strictly science terms.)


I tend to disagree that SI units are necessarily the "language of science", but I could be wrong since I am only an engineer. Things like energy, entropy, acceleration and power are the language of science, but the particular units that they are expressed in are simply a method for discussing the relative magnitude of these concepts.

Don't get me wrong. I am not accusing you of anything, and I certainly appreciate the work you do, I have been known to frequent a planetarium show now and then, and generally enjoy them regardless of the units that they use :) .




I guess that the reason I keep coming back to the thread is that I sense an underlying current that if a person uses the standard system in regular life they must be stupid. I realize that this is not what is being said, but it seems like that is the atitude. Possesing a knowledge of any particular measurement system simply does not bestow any special status.

Nor did I claim any such special status. There isn't any status to knowing the different units, just as there is no special status for those who can speak several languages or can run fast, or juggle or whatever. These are skills and the more skills one has, the one more is able to perceive and understand the universe.

I wasn't referring to you I was referring to the general attitude that is on this thread. You will have to forgive me. As I have mentioned, I work in aeronautical engineering which os one of those rare technology areas that still uses the standard system, and is quite likely to do so for the remainder of my career.

Spacewriter
2004-Jan-31, 03:36 PM
This is a borderline strawman argument. Using feet as aposed to meters is hardly the same as refering to your elbow as a "dingie".



It was an analogy about language, not a direct comparison to units.




I tend to disagree that SI units are necessarily the "language of science", but I could be wrong since I am only an engineer. Things like energy, entropy, acceleration and power are the language of science, but the particular units that they are expressed in are simply a method for discussing the relative magnitude of these concepts.


I minored in telecommunications engineering in grad school and there's a whole HASH of units in that field! ;)




Don't get me wrong. I am not accusing you of anything, and I certainly appreciate the work you do, I have been known to frequent a planetarium show now and then, and generally enjoy them regardless of the units that they use :) .




I guess that the reason I keep coming back to the thread is that I sense an underlying current that if a person uses the standard system in regular life they must be stupid. I realize that this is not what is being said, but it seems like that is the atitude. Possesing a knowledge of any particular measurement system simply does not bestow any special status.

Nor did I claim any such special status. There isn't any status to knowing the different units, just as there is no special status for those who can speak several languages or can run fast, or juggle or whatever. These are skills and the more skills one has, the one more is able to perceive and understand the universe.

I wasn't referring to you I was referring to the general attitude that is on this thread. You will have to forgive me. As I have mentioned, I work in aeronautical engineering which os one of those rare technology areas that still uses the standard system, and is quite likely to do so for the remainder of my career.

Ah. I would imagine that you understood full well the problems engendered in the failed Mars Polar Lander mission then. That was a case of mismatch of units between standard and metric...

For the record, I too, have run into the attitude you refer to from those who somehow think metric is more superior... I've never seen one to be superior, but I do recognize some human need to find ways to feel superior... myself, I've always admired multilingual people... ;)

beck0311
2004-Jan-31, 05:36 PM
Ah. I would imagine that you understood full well the problems engendered in the failed Mars Polar Lander mission then. That was a case of mismatch of units between standard and metric...

Yeah, this was a rather large embarassment. Most of NASA uses the SI system, but here at Dryden we use the standard system almost exclusively since the aircraft companies we deal with have never wanted to go to the expense of changing over to SI. The interesting thing with the Mars Polar Lander was that during the transit to Mars it kept drifting and needed minor corrections, every time it drifted the correction needed was always related to a factor of about 4.5. The number was bothering engineers, but nobody could really figure out where it came from. It turns out that the number was the conversion pounds and newtons (4.448 N = 1 lb). I am not sure that the problem could be fixed enroute, but as a test engineer I am personally offended by the fact that they didn't discover this problem during the verification and validation process (but then again it was a "faster, better, cheaper" program :roll: )

Bob The Confused
2004-Feb-05, 09:27 AM
Don't be too smug. This board is loaded with scientists and engineers, and we use "metric" every day.

If you want to help convert us heathen, why not set up a fund to pay for switching over all our road signs, real estate records, and measuring cups? &lt;IMG SRC="/phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif">

Don't forget about re-tooling the vast majority of our machine shops and industry.

I can't speak for most of the American schools, but where I went to school, we used metric in our science classes. Most of us objected, but the teachers pointed out that the rest of the world used it and that was just tough.

If you want confusing, though, you should try my job. We have casting stations made in the US that do all of their readings in metric. (i.e. temperature, mass flow controllers and distance movements). So when you go to fix something on the station, what is it? It's a half-inch bolt, and I just grabbed my darn metric wrenches. Then we have the British, Swiss, German and Japanese made equipment, and I've got a half-inch wrench that doesn't quite fit. It gets better. Our machine shop... Yup, you guessed it, inches. I just wish my job could decide on one unit.

"My car gets four rods to the hogs-head and that's the way I likes it." :lol:

Spacewriter
2004-Feb-05, 02:55 PM
Don't be too smug. This board is loaded with scientists and engineers, and we use "metric" every day.

If you want to help convert us heathen, why not set up a fund to pay for switching over all our road signs, real estate records, and measuring cups? &lt;IMG SRC="/phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif">

Don't forget about re-tooling the vast majority of our machine shops and industry.

I can't speak for most of the American schools, but where I went to school, we used metric in our science classes. Most of us objected, but the teachers pointed out that the rest of the world used it and that was just tough.

If you want confusing, though, you should try my job. We have casting stations made in the US that do all of their readings in metric. (i.e. temperature, mass flow controllers and distance movements). So when you go to fix something on the station, what is it? It's a half-inch bolt, and I just grabbed my darn metric wrenches. Then we have the British, Swiss, German and Japanese made equipment, and I've got a half-inch wrench that doesn't quite fit. It gets better. Our machine shop... Yup, you guessed it, inches. I just wish my job could decide on one unit.

"My car gets four rods to the hogs-head and that's the way I likes it." :lol:

Your sig reminds me of the classic physics assignment to re-work a problem in non-standard units (in order learn unit conversion). The favorite was velocity in terms of furlongs per fortnight.

Bob The Confused
2004-Feb-05, 05:51 PM
It's the Simpsons. Grandpa Simpson is complaining about the metric system and he shouts that out.

mickal555
2004-May-30, 09:35 AM
Stop complaining just change the meter (or whatever you want to call it) so that light travels exactly 300 000 km a second and be done with it :lol: :D
ps love the simpsons
pps its the stonecuters that keep the metric system down
ppps and the "martions [type O] under wraps"

Ut
2004-May-30, 04:01 PM
Stop complaining just change the meter (or whatever you want to call it) so that light travels exactly 300 000 km a second and be done with it :lol: :D

But that would ruin the ultra-geekyness of knowing that c = 299,792,458 m/s!


And just to throw my own two cents in...
I was born after Canada switched to metric, but not so long after that my father hadn't stopped refering to everything in miles, pounds, feeds, ounces, quarts, gallons, etc, etc. I measure my height in feet, and my weight in pounds. I buy my pop by the litre (or 355 ml)...unless I'm buying from a fast food joint, in which case I buy by the ounce...and distances in centi/kilometres...unless I'm looking at something over a foot in length, but under 50... And most bizarrely of all, I'm not very good at converting between the unit systems. I don't know what an ounce is, or what a mile is. Off the top of my head, I don't know my height in metres, and can only estimate my weight in kilograms.

Fun times.

Joe87
2004-May-31, 12:06 AM
Your sig reminds me of the classic physics assignment to re-work a problem in non-standard units (in order learn unit conversion). The favorite was velocity in terms of furlongs per fortnight.


Ah yes, the old furlong-firkin-fortnight system of engineering undergrad fame. My car gets 1440 furlongs per firkin. This system has the advantage that firkin can be used as an adjective as well as a unit of volume. :lol:

Spacewriter
2004-Jun-01, 05:14 PM
Ah yes. I've often measured Microsoft programs performance in firkins.

;)

JustAGuy
2004-Jun-01, 06:08 PM
I was born after Canada switched to metric, but not so long after that my father hadn't stopped refering to everything in miles, pounds, feeds, ounces, quarts, gallons, etc, etc. I measure my height in feet, and my weight in pounds. I buy my pop by the litre (or 355 ml)...unless I'm buying from a fast food joint, in which case I buy by the ounce...and distances in centi/kilometres...unless I'm looking at something over a foot in length, but under 50... And most bizarrely of all, I'm not very good at converting between the unit systems. I don't know what an ounce is, or what a mile is. Off the top of my head, I don't know my height in metres, and can only estimate my weight in kilograms.

Fun times.

Same here. And the funny thing is I use the same units for the same things as you, all the way on the other side of the continent.

I also measure air temperture in C, water temperature in F, distance over land in km, distance over water in miles, height in metres, depth in fathoms, meat by ounce, drinks by ml (except liquor, which is pints or oz for beer and wine and ml for spirits).

Dating someone younger than me has revealed that a more recent generation is free from this unit-hell. Thus, I've made a decent effort to learn conversion, but I still get funny looks every time I bring up Imperial units.

Via Caltha
2004-Jun-11, 09:57 AM
According to this (http://www.ukmetrication.com/educating.htm), even Americans understand SI better than Imperial.

jnik
2005-Feb-19, 08:25 PM
Ah yes, the old furlong-firkin-fortnight system of engineering undergrad fame. My car gets 1440 furlongs per firkin.
What's the unit of mass?

Grey
2005-Feb-19, 10:52 PM
Ah yes, the old furlong-firkin-fortnight system of engineering undergrad fame. My car gets 1440 furlongs per firkin.

What's the unit of mass?
It's usually taken to be a firkin of water (around 34 kg), and also just called a firkin, with the confusion of whether you're talking about a volume or a mass resolved through context.

publiusr
2005-Mar-02, 07:22 PM
We lost a Mars probe over this...

Gullible Jones
2005-Mar-02, 11:14 PM
I prefer the metric system to the English system... Come on, would you rather have centimeters, meters, and kilometers (scaled by factors of multiples of 10) or inches, feet, and miles (scaled in a fashion that makes no sense!)? Grams, kilograms, and tonnes (again, multiples of 10) or ounces, pounds, and tons (more numerical nonsense)?

A Thousand Pardons
2005-Mar-03, 08:10 AM
maybe we should have a poll. ;)

Eroica
2005-Mar-03, 08:17 AM
We lost a Mars probe over this...
No, we didn't! (http://www.jamesoberg.com/mars/loss.html)

publiusr
2005-Mar-03, 09:19 PM
I heard that there was a fist fight over the loss of one of the two defunct probes.

Woolie Wool
2005-Apr-18, 06:13 PM
Don't be too smug. This board is loaded with scientists and engineers, and we use "metric" every day.

If you want to help convert us heathen, why not set up a fund to pay for switching over all our road signs, real estate records, and measuring cups? &lt;IMG SRC="/phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif">
The last time we tried the signs, we had to give up after everyone blew holes in them. "English units or death!" seems to be the general opinion of the US public.

I think SI should be the only system used in scientific endeavors. Internet sites are the worst. At least half of them still use calories for scientific heat measurement even though nobody uses calories anymore!

A Thousand Pardons
2005-Apr-18, 06:42 PM
At least half of them still use calories for scientific heat measurement even though nobody uses calories anymore!
Yogi Berra, right? :)