Thursday, 13 September 2007

Thank you. I'll have a 0.5682 Litre

On September 11th this year, the European Commission gave up waiting for us to renounce Imperial measures. According to the BBC website,

The European Commission has tired of waiting for the UK to give up imperial measurements, and now says it can use some of them for as long it wants.

The pound and the ounce can continue to be used alongside the kilogram and gram, in markets and delicatessens, for an indefinite period.".

Hands up those who think that this is a Good Thing? One, two...three, fifty...Oh, most of you. Why?

OK, quick quiz.

Question 1. How many inches are there in a foot? Feet in a yard? Yards in a chain? Chains in a furlong? Furlongs in a mile?

Question 2. How many ounces in a pound? Pounds in a stone? Stones in a hundredweight? Hundredweight in a ton?

Question 3. How many fluid ounces in a pint? Pints in a quart? Quarts in a gallon?

Question 4. How many millimetres in a centimetre? Centimetres in a decimetre? Decimetres in a metre? Metres in a decametre? Decametres in a kilometre?

Question 5. How many grams in a kilogram? Kilograms in a tonne?

and finally...

Question 6. How many millilitres in a centilitre? Centilitres in a decilitre? Decilitres in a litre?


Q1: 12,3,22,10,8
Q2: 16,14,8,20
Q3: 20,2,4

Q4: 10,10,10,10,100
Q5: 1000,1000
Q6: 10,10,10

Now, all those of you that are nostalgic for pints and inches, which of those tables do you think it would be easiest to learn from?

I am old enough to be brought up learning ounces, feet and tons, but young enough to also be conversant with grammes, metres and tonnes. Anyone younger will struggle with the former and anyone older will consign the latter to the same bin as the Video remote.

A system based on just one number - 10 has surely got to be better than one based on average lengths of thumbs or feet. Guess which unit comes from the Latin 'mille passus' - one thousand steps?

In the same way that if tobacco was to be discovered today, it would be classified as a Class A drug, no-one in their right minds would get away with inventing the Imperial system of measurement today. Everyone would run 1.609 kilometres.

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