# Americans, what's so great about the Imperial System?

#### shootthebandit

##### New member
Victim of Progress said:
I'm also in the camp, who says metric is better. I like my weight and height to be exact, and not a weird mess of feet and inches. Also, another gripe I have with the US is your urge to use Fahrenheit instead of Celsius. May I ask, why?

In Celsius, water freezes below zero and boils at exactly 100 degrees. In Fahrenheit water freezes at 32 and boils at 212. So much more convenient, isn't it? *Sigh*
Not quite this in dependant on pressure but im just being pedantic. If you climb everest it boils considerably less than 100ºc due to pressure.

Why do we insist on using celsius? Why not use kelvin, 0 kelvin is the lowest temperature physically possible. Kelvin is the same scale as celsius so all you do is add 273 to the celcius value to get the kelvin value

Fahrenheit is ok for generally day to day weather etc except the time i was talking to american tourists on a UK train and told them we our highest temperature is around 25 degrees. And she looked at me as if i was insane. But for calculations id stick to celsius and kelvin

#### Bonham79

##### New member
Cause the Imperial has an A in it. Do you know what else has an A in it? 'Murica!

#### rasputin0009

##### New member
Growing up in Canada as the son of a machinist, I learned both systems and their conversions extremely early. Then I became a engineer, and now I use both systems day to day.

It's especially weird in Canada since our close proximity to the US and our attempt at metrication in the 70's. We use kilometres for vehicle speed limits, but our land grid system is broken up into miles (due to it being over 120 years old). Our weather channels measure precipitation in centimetres, but we commonly refer to it in inches person-to-person. Probably due to American sports, we still use weight (lbs.) instead of mass (kg) and use feet/inches to describe a person. Fahrenheit is completely ridiculous, so that doesn't get used at all.

Oddly, Imperial is actually useful in some aspects. Say, measuring anything less than 20 feet, I prefer using feet to approximate. Larger than that, and I quickly switch to metres. Inches are great for small things, too, since you're already thinking in fractions, it's quicker to find a fraction of a fraction than a fraction of a decimal.

#### rasputin0009

##### New member
shootthebandit said:
Why do we insist on using celsius? Why not use kelvin, 0 kelvin is the lowest temperature physically possible. Kelvin is the same scale as celsius so all you do is add 273 to the celcius value to get the kelvin value
For day-today use, it's easier to assume standard atmospheric pressure at mean sea level and have water's freezing point at 0 and water's boiling point at 100 than use Kelvin. Since the majority of humans live close to sea level, Celsius is an accurate scale to assume.

#### drthmik

##### New member
On a related note, I also have no idea why we use Fahrenheit over Celsius. Freezing=0ºC and boiling=100ºC (for water). That is so easy. Why would you choose to say freezing=32ºF and boiling=212ºF instead? Again, the problem is primarily that I know what 80ºF feels like because that's the measurement system everyone around me uses, but I have to go look it up to know that that's the equivalent of ~27ºC.
you like many assume that they CHOSE 32ºF as the freezing point of water
they didn't
they chose 0ºF as the freezing point of SEA water
at 0ºF a sea captain had to start worrying about ice forming on his ship's hull and icebergs in the water

talideon said:
drthmik said:
"The metre is the length of the path travelled by light in vacuum during a time interval of 1 / 299,792,458 of a second."

... Wait that's not divisible by 10

And since meters were developed by the french after the french revolution you can't say that the meter is BASED on the speed of light
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_metre
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speed_of_light

and light travels 1 foot in 1 nanosecond
That's only a rough approximation to use as a rule of thumb though.

drthmik said:
so what?
You carve up the distance light travels into a certain number of chunks
We cave it up into a different number of chunks
that is the definition of arbitrary
Eh... it's less arbitrary than that. In fact, the definition of the metre has always been an attempt to find a non-arbitrary measurement based off of natural constants.

The real original proposal for the metre came from John Wilkins in the mid-1600s, and was defined as the length of a pendulum with a half-period of one second. The only truly arbitrary thing (at the time) there is the length of a second. However, it was found that due to gravity varying slightly over the surface of the Earth, that wasn't ultimately workable, so after the French Revolution, it was defined as 1/10,000,000th the distance from the North Pole to the Equator along the meridian line passing through Paris. This was pretty damned close to Wilkins' original proposal and had the benefit of being more absolute. However, we later found that measurement to be less stable and more mathematically complex than would be convenient, so other standards were used, until we settled on using the speed of light, which is, best as we can tell, a fundamental constant.

And thus it turns out that the only thing that makes a metre arbitrary is the length of a second, and I'm OK with that.
ar·bi·trar·y
&#712;ärbi&#716;trer&#275;/

1.
based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system.

Why the length of a pendulum swing?
Answer: Some guy in the 1600s thought it would be a good length

Why 1/10,000,000th the distance from the North Pole to the Equator along the meridian line passing through Paris?
why not London or New York?
Why not the circumference of the earth at the 22nd parallel? Or at the equator?
Why not 1/100,000,000th or 1/50,000,000?
Answer: Some guy though it would be a good length

Why the length of the path travelled by light in vacuum during a time interval of 1 / 299,792,458 of a second?
Why not 1/300,000,000 of a second?
or even 1/299,792,450 of a second?

WHY!?!

W H Y ! ? !

I'll tell you why
Some
guy
thought
it
would
be
a
good
length

And a lot of other people agreed
if they had not the meter would have vanished having never seen the light of day

You would say that he (and they) had good reasons to do it the way they did
well guess what

some guy thought a foot would be a good length
his reason was that there were too many different lengths and it was too ARBITRARY so he standardized it so that when one person said foot everyone knew what he meant
and map making
and Law
and construction
and many other things

Standardized Measurements are not universal truths no matter how you come up with them
they are practical language and culture
they exist to service understanding
and changing them all for no better reason than a bunch of guys in lab coats(who use the other system ANYWAY) find it EASIER is not a reason to confuse the language of a people for decades

#### the doom cannon

##### New member
With regard to equations: Many equations used in engineering are not dimensionally consistent, meaning that the units in the input do not equal the units in the output. This is taken care of by using some constant obtained empirically, and is different for metric and imperial units. Because of these empirical constants, knowing how your units interact with each other becomes pointless. You have to input specific units for your equation to obtain a solution because of these constants, so while understanding how all your units interact is awesome (and something I would highly encourage), it is not necessary.
You are absolutely correct that pounds can refer to a mass or a force. However, pounds, when used in engineering, exclusively means force. A pound mass is almost never used in practice because most of the time you will be working with things on the surface of the earth, where gravity is about 32.2 feet per second per second. It's nice being able to eliminate the need to calculate force.
Here's the thing. When I weigh something in pounds, I am measuring a force. When I weigh something in kilograms, I am actually dividing a measured force by acceleration due to gravity. When working on the surface of the Earth, it is faster to stay with forces. The arbitrariness of the imperial system aside, I think it is easier to use in practice than metric. Specifically fractions.

##### New member
Maze1125 said:
You only imagine it's easier because it's got the same name as the unit of mass
Actually, it does not. The pound is exclusively a unit of force. The unit of mass within the imperial system is the slug.

#### shootthebandit

##### New member
rasputin0009 said:
shootthebandit said:
Why do we insist on using celsius? Why not use kelvin, 0 kelvin is the lowest temperature physically possible. Kelvin is the same scale as celsius so all you do is add 273 to the celcius value to get the kelvin value
For day-today use, it's easier to assume standard atmospheric pressure at mean sea level and have water's freezing point at 0 and water's boiling point at 100 than use Kelvin. Since the majority of humans live close to sea level, Celsius is an accurate scale to assume.
I was just being needlessly pedantic. For all intents and purposes kelvin is celsius as its the same scale anyway. Id also say for day to day weather and cooking farhenhiet is just as effective provided you are familiar with it and i think thats the whole point of this thread. We use what is most familiar until we get into a scientific or engineering enviroment (especially if you go down to very small tolerances) where imperial just becomes downright confusing, makes calculations much harder, involves complicated fractions rather than simple decimals and just adds needless effort trying to work the shit out. With metric being base 10, values are so easy to work out

Captcha: apple. kind of apt since we were discussing the newton

#### Kinitawowi

##### New member
moseythepirate said:
Something you imperial-bashers need to understand is that the imperial system is not arbitrary.

Where the metric system was designed to be easy to make calculations with in a base 10 numeral system, imperial measures were designed to reflect common use and be easy to estimate without precision measurements...mostly because many of them were designed thousands of years ago, before we had precision instruments. The foot, for instance, has probably been used for as long as people have had feet.

As for temperature, whereas Centigrade was calibrated to the freezing and boiling points of water, Fahrenheit was calibrated to the freezing point of water and average human body heat. In other words, the temperature is calibrated to 2 useful temperatures, making is a handy estimate of comfortable temperature range.

It isn't like you can't do science in Imperial units. It's just that the you need conversion coefficients, which are annoying, but not difficult. Besides, American scientists and engineers work in metric anyway. It's just the common folk that use imperial, so why worry?
This guy got it right on the very first page.

Some of the old measurements, like grains and barleycorns and such, were used because that was the size of a thing. Imperial measurements became popular because, at the time of their development, they were, for want of a better word, "man-sized" units. Three barleycorns make an inch, which was about the size of a man's thumb. A foot is about the size of a man's foot. The biblical cubit (one and a half feet by most modern definitions) was the length from elbow to fingertip. Study your body right now; how long is a centimetre? Most of these developments came long before the development of the metric system and the recognition of its uses; we're looking at over two thousand years of cultural redevelopment here, and it isn't going to happen overnight.

Us Brits have largely switched over to the metric system now, although a couple of anomalies remain; our road system still relies on miles because the cost of changing every distance and speed displaying road sign in the country has been contemplated and deemed to be astronomical - especially relative to the actual benefit gained from such a switch (not much) - and pubs still serve pints because you don't fuck with the beer.

#### shootthebandit

##### New member
the doom cannon said:
With regard to equations: Many equations used in engineering are not dimensionally consistent, meaning that the units in the input do not equal the units in the output. This is taken care of by using some constant obtained empirically, and is different for metric and imperial units. Because of these empirical constants, knowing how your units interact with each other becomes pointless. You have to input specific units for your equation to obtain a solution because of these constants, so while understanding how all your units interact is awesome (and something I would highly encourage), it is not necessary.
You are absolutely correct that pounds can refer to a mass or a force. However, pounds, when used in engineering, exclusively means force. A pound mass is almost never used in practice because most of the time you will be working with things on the surface of the earth, where gravity is about 32.2 feet per second per second. It's nice being able to eliminate the need to calculate force.
Here's the thing. When I weigh something in pounds, I am measuring a force. When I weigh something in kilograms, I am actually dividing a measured force by acceleration due to gravity. When working on the surface of the Earth, it is faster to stay with forces. The arbitrariness of the imperial system aside, I think it is easier to use in practice than metric. Specifically fractions.
Thats my point. Using pounds as a unit of force how would you then calculate the mass or acceleration that force is acting upon?

Lets use an aircraft as an example and say its under ideal conditions and in level flight (lift and weight cancel each other out). After subtracting the drag from the thrust i get a total of 100N of forward force (just a random figure) i then know the aircraft is 1000kgs (again random) its easy for me to say that its accelerating at 0.1 ms^-2. However if you measure thrust in pounds how can you calculate the acceleration?

#### drisky

##### New member
We use it for everything. Paper, road signs and their placement, food packaging and recipes, sports rules, building materials and a lot more. Its more then just what Americans a used to, its ingrained into the society. Its not something thats really worth switching. So the answer has been said several times, its not great or better, its just there.

#### Agayek

##### Ravenous Gormandizer
Amaror said:
First of all. I know this i probably going to be a pretty difficult discussion. Everyone here has grown up with one or the other measurement system, so nobody can be really objective about this.

Ok, then let's get this started. I read up a bit on the Imperial System and i just can't find any great benefits to it.
Let's start with the obvious advantage of the metric system, as that it is not only the international standard, but also the System of SCIENCE (Which kinda is an instant win right there).
It's easy to calculate with and is just perfect for Mathmatics, Physics and so on.
I heard from some people that the imperial system is easier to use in day to day life, but i can't see why.
It's obviously better in day to day life, if you have grown up with it and used it your entire life.
But if we look at both systems and how we would use them in day to day life, i still think the metric system to be far superiour.
First of all, you just have to learn 3 units of measurement. Meter, gramm and litre. Any larger or smaller units you might need, you just use the appropriate word before it. kilo for a thousand, mega for a million and so on.
In the imperial system you got yards, feet, miles, pinch, pounds, tons and so on, and so on.
It's just way more to memorize, for practically no benefit in day to day life.
Short version is that it's what we grew up with and it's not worth the time and money for the society to make a concerted effort to change it.

I'd like it if we did, but we'd then have to go and replace every single one of our street signs, rejigger all of our spedometers, etc, etc. It's just not worth the hassle when we're already familiar and comfortable with it all.

#### Phrozenflame500

##### New member
drthmik said:
Standardized Measurements are not universal truths no matter how you come up with them
they are practical language and culture
they exist to service understanding
and changing them all for no better reason than a bunch of guys in lab coats(who use the other system ANYWAY) find it EASIER is not a reason to confuse the language of a people for decades
I've noticed this on going argument, and I'd like to point out that the reason Metric is not "arbitrary" as we mean it because people didn't make up the lengths. All number systems are inherently "arbitrary" due them all being human constructs.

We mean that all metric calculations use base 10: 10 millimeters to a centimeter, 10 centimeters to a decimeter, 10 decimeters to a meter, 10 meters to a decameter, etc. Of course we generally only use millimeters, centimeters, meters and kilometers in everyday life.

Contrast that to the imperial system which changes bases depending on the unit: 12 inches to a foot, 3 feet to a yard, 1760 yards to a mile, etc.

This is what we mean by "arbitrary". It's less a structured measuring system than randomly picked distances with the conversions thought of after the fact. Using the Imperial system won't likely be going away due to established infrastructure written in it, but the Metric system is objectively better in almost every possible way.

#### FalloutJack

##### Bah weep grah nah neep ninny bom
Well, you see...the Imperium offered these sweet powersuits and bolters, plus frigging awesome chainswords and...

Oh, you mean THAT discussion.

*Shrug*

Born and raised on it, like speaking english or any number of other things in the area I'm in. It comes naturally.

#### Callate

##### New member
Maze1125 said:
Callate said:
A wider range makes for a more accurate description.
Okay, this whole accuracy argument is total bollocks.
If you want accuracy, that's what decimals are for. They go as arbitrarily accurate as you want.
Alternatively, if you don't want to use decimals, then you clearly don't care about accuracy that much.

Either way, accuracy isn't a reasonable excuse to use imperial. You'd be far better of saying "I use imperial because I like it." That, at least, is a valid opinion.
But half the point of using a metric system is not needing to use decimals. It's being able to go from meter to kilometer or all the way down to nanometer, if necessary, without ever having to break down to a decimal point. That holds for every metric unit- except Celsius, where absolutely no one uses the prefixes.

Someone who tells you that it's going to be in the seventies in Fahrenheit has given you more information than someone who tells you that it's going to be in the thirties in Celsius. Within round numbers, someone who tells you it's currently 72 degrees has given you more information than someone who tells you it's 22 Celsius. If efficiency in communication is the point, Fahrenheit wins; if exactness is the goal, every time decimals are broken out it raises the question how many decimal places are being rounded off.

To put it still another way- if you're looking for shoes that fit, would you rather go to a shoe store that offers small, medium, and large, or sizes one through fourteen?

#### Something Amyss

##### Aswyng and Amyss
Dirge Eterna said:
Some things are sold in Metric units like Soda is usually sold as a 2-liter while a 16oz bottle would be a pint. It can be confusing. Most people don't want to bother switching over.
I would honestly think this is one of the things that makes it easy to convert. Most beverages are labeled in both oz and ml. Foods are often weighed in grams. Hell, the common water bottle is tellingly 16.9 oz. It sounds like a rather arbitrary number, except it's 500 ml (well, just about).

#### the doom cannon

##### New member
shootthebandit said:
Lets use an aircraft as an example and say its under ideal conditions and in level flight (lift and weight cancel each other out). After subtracting the drag from the thrust i get a total of 100N of forward force (just a random figure) i then know the aircraft is 1000kgs (again random) its easy for me to say that its accelerating at 0.1 ms^-2. However if you measure thrust in pounds how can you calculate the acceleration?
You have the thrust force in pounds, you have the mass of your plane(from its weight in pounds divided by acceleration due to gravity), you can get acceleration. This is why i said its easier to use imperial in practice. The average person won't have to go and calculate the acceleration of a plane. The average person will, however, have to deal with lengths and speed. Imperial units can easily be divided into halves, thirds, fourths, eighths, and sixteenths. a fourth being a half of a half, an eighth being a half of that, and a sixteenth a half of an eighth. I find it much easier to be able to divide things like this as opposed to dividing things into halves, fifths, tenths, hundredths.
Back to the more technical stuff. I think I was a bit too close-minded in my assertion that force is better to work with over mass. Your example shows that when dealing with moving objects, mass is easier to work with. But in my studies (structural engineering) we don't deal with moving objects. Everything is (essentially) stationary, and so we don't have to deal with how much things accelerate on a regular basis.

#### Something Amyss

##### Aswyng and Amyss
FalloutJack said:
Well, you see...the Imperium offered these sweet powersuits and bolters, plus frigging awesome chainswords and...

Oh, you mean THAT discussion.

*Shrug*

Born and raised on it, like speaking english or any number of other things in the area I'm in. It comes naturally.
If Imperial measure came with powersuits and the like, I'd be way more into it.

#### Superlative

##### New member
Zachary Amaranth said:
FalloutJack said:
Well, you see...the Imperium offered these sweet powersuits and bolters, plus frigging awesome chainswords and...

Oh, you mean THAT discussion.

*Shrug*

Born and raised on it, like speaking english or any number of other things in the area I'm in. It comes naturally.
If Imperial measure came with powersuits and the like, I'd be way more into it.
What, you never got yours? Mine came with an anti-mater cannon and a cappuccino machine.

#### Signa

##### Noisy Lurker
Legacy
If I had to guess beyond the "because we grew up with it" reason, it's because we were all taught the metric system in school, fully understood its base-10 mechanics, and then found the quantities completely unusable for day-to-day situations. Everyone I know will reference millimeters because inches is too large of an incremental measurement, but no one likes kilometers because it's too short for long distances to be meaningful. I'm sure weight can go either way, but volume is quite a bit stronger for imperial.

Now if you're in sciences of any sort, I don't even know why you'd want to take imperial into account. But sciences aren't day-to-day uses, they are very precise and complex measurements that have to take all factors into account.