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# Why do we mix units of measurement in the UK? watch

1. When most people give their height and weight it'll be x ft y inches and x stone y pounds. Yet in other things we'll strictly use metres and kilos. Where has this mixing come from?

I think we should just use Metres and kilos.

Ps x and y represent numbers, before some sarcy c*** comments.
2. Despite the fact that metric system is, without any doubt, better than imperial the latter one is still in use.
Main reason for that is either stupidity, or total indifference, or habit (AKA tradition) of people using it. Ah, there is also "an argument" of "this is our system, EU cannot tell us what we should use"

metric FTW!
3. (Original post by simon_g)
Despite the fact that metric system is, without any doubt, better than imperial the latter one is still in use.
Main reason for that is either stupidity, or total indifference, or habit (AKA tradition) of people using it. Ah, there is also "an argument" of "this is our system, EU cannot tell us what we should use"

metric FTW!
Yeah, it's 100 fold better, but even I fall privy to giving my height in feet and inches. As you said, tradition is very tough to overcome.
4. (Original post by The Wavefunction)
When most people give their height and weight it'll be x ft y inches and x stone y pounds. Yet in other things we'll strictly use metres and kilos. Where has this mixing come from?

I think we should just use Metres and kilos.

Ps x and y represent numbers, before some sarcy c*** comments.
I think the metric system is used in science and mathematics, when you're likely to need to do some calculations with your figures. It's much easier to convert between different units or define relationships between them when using the metric system.

The imperial system is used in day to day life, where people are more accustomed to those because they've historically been using them for decades. For example, we all know that the speed limit on British motorways is 70 miles per hour. But if suddenly one day, all the signs, car speedometers, and people's intuition for their own speed suddenly had to change to the metric SI units (metres per second), it would cause a great deal of confusion. If people started seeing roads where the speed limit was 30 metres per second, most of us wouldn't really have as much of an idea as to how fast that is.
5. (Original post by tazarooni89)
I think the metric system is used in science and mathematics, when you're likely to need to do some calculations with your figures. It's much easier to convert between different units or define relationships between them when using the metric system.

The imperial system is used in day to day life, where people are more accustomed to those because they've historically been using them for decades. For example, we all know that the speed limit on British motorways is 70 miles per hour. But if suddenly one day, all the signs, car speedometers, and people's intuition for their own speed suddenly had to change to the metric SI units (metres per second), it would cause a great deal of confusion. If people started seeing roads where the speed limit was 30 metres per second, most of us wouldn't really have as much of an idea as to how fast that is.
Even in countries where the metric system is used, nobody uses metres per second. They're sensible enough to use kilometres per hour and if there was ever a change to these things in this country (unlikely), I'd imagine we'd do the same. Metres per second is ludicrous for road use, primarily because people would find the second too small a unit to keep track of -- nor would they be willing to do the appropriate arithmetic to work out that 30 m/s is really just 108 km/h. If anything, forcing them to do that arithmetic alone would give them another reason, aside from the misplaced patriotism, to oppose metrification.
6. (Original post by Hydeman)
Even in countries where the metric system is used, nobody uses metres per second. They're sensible enough to use kilometres per hour and if there was ever a change to these things in this country (unlikely), I'd imagine we'd do the same. Metres per second is ludicrous for road use, primarily because people would find the second too small a unit to keep track of -- nor would they be willing to do the appropriate arithmetic to work out that 30 m/s is really just 108 km/h. If anything, forcing them to do that arithmetic alone would give them another reason, aside from the misplaced patriotism, to oppose metrification.
It's one of the more extreme examples, but I think it helps illustrate the difficulty of switching from one unit to another, when people are used to the old units. And especially when there's no particular need to switch, since the figures are being used as a rough idea of a quantity, rather than being used in any calculations.

Kilometres per hour would make more sense than metre per second, I agree. Having said that, one could argue that our units for measuring time don't make much sense either. Why divide a day into 24 hours, then 60 minutes, then 60 seconds, when powers of 10 could be used instead?
7. (Original post by tazarooni89)
I think the metric system is used in science and mathematics, when you're likely to need to do some calculations with your figures. It's much easier to convert between different units or define relationships between them when using the metric system.
I'm sorry, but converting between inches, feet, yards and miles is not by any means easier or simpler than converting between centimetres/metres/kilometres
nor is converting from ounces (even liquid ones- wtf?)- especially when equally named units means different sizes in UK and US (like: galon or ounce - they differ). While metric units are the same everywhere.

(Original post by tazarooni89)
The imperial system is used in day to day life, where people are more accustomed to those because they've historically been using them for decades. For example, we all know that the speed limit on British motorways is 70 miles per hour. But if suddenly one day, all the signs, car speedometers, and people's intuition for their own speed suddenly had to change to the metric SI units (metres per second), it would cause a great deal of confusion. If people started seeing roads where the speed limit was 30 metres per second, most of us wouldn't really have as much of an idea as to how fast that is.
as it was written before- nobody would use metres per second, but kilometres.
and it wouldn't have to be a radical thing: vast majority of cars/motorbikes already have dual-displays, let enforce them and then in few years change from miles into something civilized.
8. (Original post by simon_g)
I'm sorry, but converting between inches, feet, yards and miles is not by any means easier or simpler than converting between centimetres/metres/kilometres
nor is converting from ounces (even liquid ones- wtf?)- especially when equally named units means different sizes in UK and US (like: galon or ounce - they differ). While metric units are the same everywhere.
I didn't say it was
I said you're more likely to use metric units in science and mathematics, since you will come across situations where you need to convert between units. It's easier to do that with metric units.
9. I use pounds and ounces when cooking as my mum taught me to cook that way.

I think it's because we think in imperial.

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10. (Original post by tazarooni89)
It's one of the more extreme examples, but I think it helps illustrate the difficulty of switching from one unit to another, when people are used to the old units. And especially when there's no particular need to switch, since the figures are being used as a rough idea of a quantity, rather than being used in any calculations.

Kilometres per hour would make more sense than metre per second, I agree. Having said that, one could argue that our units for measuring time don't make much sense either. Why divide a day into 24 hours, then 60 minutes, then 60 seconds, when powers of 10 could be used instead?
For the day, at least, it's because 24 hours is approximately the length of one Earth day -- that is, the time that it takes for one complete rotation. There's no particular reason why we use that and not some arbitrary number like 30 hours in a day or something like that, as far as I know. It just seems 'natural' I suppose, to have the number of hours in a day correspond to day and night as it applies to Earth.

You have a point with the hours and minutes thing -- it might just be because of tradition or it might be because the number that you get from working upwards from the second in powers of 10 doesn't give a very nice number for the length of a day. So if we did away with the minute and the hour and in their place used kiloseconds (103) and megaseconds (106), you'd have, in place of 23 hours and 56 minutes in a day (it's only rounded to 24 for convenience in using hours), 0.08616 megaseconds in a day. Which, I think you'll agree, is not as nice as 24 hours.

I'm more or less happy to let people use the units they use but I don't particularly agree with their reasons for opposing metrification (e.g. 'It's European!', 'Tradition!' et cetera).
11. (Original post by Hydeman)
For the day, at least, it's because 24 hours is approximately the length of one Earth day -- that is, the time that it takes for one complete rotation. There's no particular reason why we use that and not some arbitrary number like 30 hours in a day or something like that, as far as I know. It just seems 'natural' I suppose, to have the number of hours in a day correspond to day and night as it applies to Earth.

You have a point with the hours and minutes things -- it might just be because of tradition or it might be because the number that you get from working upwards from the second in powers of 10 doesn't give a very nice number for the length of a day. So if we did away with the minute and the hour and in their place used kiloseconds (103) and megaseconds (106), you'd have, in place of 23 hours and 56 minutes in a day (it's only rounded to 24 for convenience in using hours), 0.08616 megaseconds in a day. Which, I think you'll agree, is not as nice as 24 hours.
Well yes, it makes sense to match the time for an earth rotation with the unit for a "day". But I mean afterwards, rather than dividing a day into 24 hours, we could divide it into 10 hours, each of which are 100 minutes, each of which are 100 seconds or something along those lines (and of course not with those names).

Rather than starting off with a pre-defined "second" as we currently do (I think it's defined as the half life of some Caesium isotope) and then working up to match it with the length of a day, we could instead start by defining the day to be the precise time for an earth rotation, and subsequently divide it into powers of 10.

I think that would make sense, and make for easier calculations but we just don't do it because we're not really used to it.

I'm more or less happy to let people use the units they use but I don't particularly agree with their reasons for opposing metrification (e.g. 'It's European!', 'Tradition!' et cetera).
Personally I wouldn't oppose the metric system, I think it's clearly a superior system. But I do understand the point of view of people who still use Imperial units at the same time, when it's not so much due to being anti-Europe but more a case of "I quote measurements in these units because I'm used to them," just as we do with minutes and seconds etc.
12. (Original post by tazarooni89)
Well yes, it makes sense to match the time for an earth rotation with the unit for a "day". But I mean afterwards, rather than dividing a day into 24 hours, we could divide it into 10 hours, each of which are 100 minutes, each of which are 100 seconds or something along those lines (and of course not with those names).

Rather than starting off with a pre-defined "second" as we currently do (I think it's defined as the half life of some Caesium isotope) and then working up to match it with the length of a day, we could instead start by defining the day to be the precise time for an earth rotation, and subsequently divide it into powers of 10.

I think that would make sense, and make for easier calculations but we just don't do it because we're not really used to it.
Working downwards from a day definitely sounds like a better way of doing it. However, I should say that redefining the second has more implications that you'd think -- the SI system of measurement is very interconnected so it's difficult to define a lot of the units without reference to other units. Given that the second is obviously one of the more commonly used ones in these definitions, even the people who're normally in favour of metrification would oppose that, purely because it's not worth the hassle of throwing away hundreds of years of work on making a coherent measurement system just to remove the arbitrariness of some of it. In other words: it's more cost-effective to leave it as it is than try to change it.

Personally I wouldn't oppose the metric system, I think it's clearly a superior system. But I do understand the point of view of people who still use Imperial units at the same time, when it's not so much due to being anti-Europe but more a case of "I quote measurements in these units because I'm used to them," just as we do with minutes and seconds etc.
Yes, but it's somewhat frustrating that people don't ever want it to change. Try to propose a gradual shift towards the metric system by teaching the next generation to use the metric system (there would be one awkward, intermediate generation who would have to deal with both) and see the looks you get. People treat it like a way of life that they absolutely must pass down to future generations, ensuring that we remain stuck with this moribund system.
13. (Original post by Hydeman)
Working downwards from a day definitely sounds like a better way of doing it. However, I should say that redefining the second has more implications that you'd think -- the SI system of measurement is very interconnected so it's difficult to define a lot of the units without reference to other units. Given that the second is obviously one of the more commonly used ones in these definitions, even the people who're normally in favour of metrification would oppose that, purely because it's not worth the hassle of throwing away hundreds of years of work on making a coherent measurement system just to remove the arbitrariness of some of it. In other words: it's more cost-effective to leave it as it is than try to change it.
Well yes, redefining the second has implications in terms of the interdependencies of units. But then surely changing from using feet to using metres would have had the same implications (length is also a very commonly used unit in physics)

For example, the earth's gravitational field strength used to be something like 32 feet per second squared, and now it's 9.8 metres per second squared. I would envisage that using different time units in the metric system would basically have the same sorts of implications, in that the numerical values of lots of physical constants would change, the value of some other units (e.g. 1 Newton) would change.

But changing any unit from imperial to metric would have had the same implications as well, I don't really see why we would make an exception for time units.

Yes, but it's somewhat frustrating that people don't ever want it to change. Try to propose a gradual shift towards the metric system by teaching the next generation to use the metric system (there would be one awkward, intermediate generation who would have to deal with both) and see the looks you get. People treat it like a way of life that they absolutely must pass down to future generations, ensuring that we remain stuck with this moribund system.
I know the type of person you're referring to, who tends to be elderly, resistant to changes from how things were "in my day", and couldn't bear to think that imperial units won't be used one day. Personally I'm not someone who thinks the imperial system is a must-have, just that it's very difficult to obliterate it in one fell swoop. There are still many situations in which people are more used to it, and have a better idea of what you're talking about if you use imperial units. So I wouldn't really agree with anyone who suggests that we must stop using them all immediately.

I use the metric system myself in all situations other than when I'm driving/travelling, in which case I'm more likely to use miles than kilometres. Given that schools teach science pretty much entirely in metric units now, I think the gradual shift towards the metric system is already underway, which is probably a good thing.
14. (Original post by tazarooni89)
Well yes, redefining the second has implications in terms of the interdependencies of units. But then surely changing from using feet to using metres would have had the same implications (length is also a very commonly used unit in physics)

For example, the earth's gravitational field strength used to be something like 32 feet per second squared, and now it's 9.8 metres per second squared. I would envisage that using different time units in the metric system would basically have the same sorts of implications, in that the numerical values of lots of physical constants would change, the value of some other units (e.g. 1 Newton) would change.

But changing any unit from imperial to metric would have had the same implications as well, I don't really see why we would make an exception for time units.
I don't think the two are equivalent. Most people still measure length in imperial units outside of a scientific context -- how many people have you seen express their height in metres and not feet and inches? It's also a case of feet to metres being a simple change from one established system to another established system, so that, while the general populace wouldn't be too acquainted with the metric system, it wasn't a totally new thing. The change you're proposing to days would be new to everyone and would therefore have greater potential for confusion initially.

Also, redefining a unit isn't quite the same as changing from one system of units to another. The latter is a lot less messy because you're changing between systems instead of changing one of the systems itself. Hope that makes sense. :3

(That said, I'm still in favour of changing it. )

I know the type of person you're referring to, who tends to be elderly, resistant to changes from how things were "in my day", and couldn't bear to think that imperial units won't be used one day. Personally I'm not someone who thinks the imperial system is a must-have, just that it's very difficult to obliterate it in one fell swoop. There are still many situations in which people are more used to it, and have a better idea of what you're talking about if you use imperial units. So I wouldn't really agree with anyone who suggests that we must stop using them all immediately.

I use the metric system myself in all situations other than when I'm driving/travelling, in which case I'm more likely to use miles than kilometres. Given that schools teach science pretty much entirely in metric units now, I think the gradual shift towards the metric system is already underway, which is probably a good thing.
Yeah, but the thing is this: most people forget all the science they learn in school. Science lessons may be all-metric now, but even most of my scientist friends still measure height in feet and inches, mass in stones and so on. They only use the metric system when they're actually doing science, not in everyday life. So we're basically stuck until we make some far-reaching changes, which don't necessarily have to be all in one go but still need to be made at some point. This is like a leaky roof -- it has to be fixed sometime so we might as well do it now.
15. (Original post by Hydeman)
I don't think the two are equivalent. Most people still measure length in imperial units outside of a scientific context -- how many people have you seen express their height in metres and not feet and inches?
I suppose I'm a weirdo, because I say I'm 1.72m
I literally only use imperial measurements when travelling, where I'm more comfortable with miles rather than kilometres.

It's also a case of feet to metres being a simple change from one established system to another established system, so that, while the general populace wouldn't be too acquainted with the metric system, it wasn't a totally new thing. The change you're proposing to days would be new to everyone and would therefore have greater potential for confusion initially.

Also, redefining a unit isn't quite the same as changing from one system of units to another. The latter is a lot less messy because you're changing between systems instead of changing one of the systems themselves. Hope that makes sense. :3

(That said, I'm still in favour of changing it. )
I suppose I'm not really proposing a change to days, hours, minutes and seconds. More like the introduction of a new unit. Forgive the stupid sounding names, but I'm really talking about Days, Deci-days, Centi-days, Milli-days etc.

It's not really re-defining a unit as such. Maybe it's too late now, but I'm sort of thinking that, when the metric system was invented in the first place, why couldn't they have decimalised units of time as well?

Yeah, but the thing is this: most people forget all the science they learn in school. Science lessons may be all-metric now, but even most of my scientist friends still measure height in feet and inches, mass in stones and so on. They only use the metric system when they're actually doing science, not in everyday life. So we're basically stuck until we make some far-reaching changes, which don't necessarily have to be all in one go but still need to be made at some point. This is like a leaky roof -- it has to be fixed sometime so we might as well do it now.
I don't personally identify with this. I myself use metric units for almost everything because that's what I was taught in science lessons, and I have never really learnt about other units. But I do know what you mean, some people who were my classmates still use imperial units in their daily lives.

Perhaps it's because milk is still sold in pints, fruit and veg are still often sold in pounds, road signs still have miles on them etc. We're holding onto imperial units more firmly than we need to.
16. I think it's partly tradition, and also because for some people the metric system is seen as 'foreign'.

I hope we can keep the pint, at least for beer, as 500ml is less!
17. (Original post by tazarooni89)
I suppose I'm a weirdo, because I say I'm 1.72m
I literally only use imperial measurements when travelling, where I'm more comfortable with miles rather than kilometres.
If you were a weirdo for doing that, I'd be a weirdo too because I use mainly metric units as well. (although 1.75m -- ha! ). Miles and kilometres are sort of equivalent for me. I'm comfortable with both and, where I can, I use kilometres.

I suppose I'm not really proposing a change to days, hours, minutes and seconds. More like the introduction of a new unit. Forgive the stupid sounding names, but I'm really talking about Days, Deci-days, Centi-days, Milli-days etc.

It's not really re-defining a unit as such. Maybe it's too late now, but I'm sort of thinking that, when the metric system was invented in the first place, why couldn't they have decimalised units of time as well?
Convenience, probably. The metric system wasn't invented, as such. It came into being gradually as the need for a non-ludicrous measurement system started to be seen as important. They're still playing around with it, in fact. I think it was two or so years ago that they were talking about redefining the kilogram because, until then, it had just been a random bar in Paris relative to which everything else was measured and they wanted to redefine it in terms of other quantities like force, distance and speed (don't quote me though).

We're holding onto imperial units more firmly than we need to.
Agreed.

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