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Our Friend, The Meter 1672

Posted by timothy
from the you-mean-people-like-nasa dept.
dbirchall writes "Upon hearing that SpaceShipOne reached 100km today, I did some hasty math based on the altitude in feet sttated by Scaled Composites in their press release, and was surprised to come up with a number under 100,000 meters. Fortunately, a friend pointed out that my inches-to-meters conversion was flawed. Some quick Googling determined that lots of people still have no idea how many inches are in a meter, even after some folks have had big problems because of conversion errors."
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Our Friend, The Meter

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  • Why should I care? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tangent3 (449222) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @02:04AM (#9503715)
    Why should I care how many inches are there in a metre (meter for some of you people). Everywhere I go today everything I see is in metric. Whoever uses inches anywa.... oh. *those* people. *sigh*
  • On in the US (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gnuman99 (746007) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @02:04AM (#9503717)
    This problem appears to occur only in the US. Even the British adopted the meter, and they invented the imperial units!

    Maybe it's the time for the US to join the metric world. At least we wouldn't loose that Mars probe!

  • Just Remember 2.54 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SnowZero (92219) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @02:07AM (#9503737)
    1 inch = 2.54 centimeters

    It's fairly easy to remember, and everything else regarding length conversions can be derived from it. It also happens to be the official definition of the inch, since NIST uses metric internally.
  • Re:On in the US (Score:5, Insightful)

    by popeydotcom (114724) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @02:09AM (#9503760) Homepage
    A lot of us brits, even those taught the metric system at work, still talk in feet and inches. Our road signs (like US ones) are all in Miles, and I don't see that changing any time soon. We buy beer and milk in pints and mostly weigh in stones and pounds and not kilos. Speed over water and air is still measured in knots, and our road speed limits are in miles per hour.

    So whilst we have "adopted" the metric system we still use the "old" measurements day-to-day.
  • Re:On in the US (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wookyhoo (700289) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @02:13AM (#9503796) Homepage
    The number of people who get that wrong. *sigh*

    Next slashdot story:

    "English: Lose or Loose? Lose the 'o'! Yes, let it loose!"

    erm, or something :|
  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ArsSineArtificio (150115) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @02:20AM (#9503848) Homepage
    What is the rational given in the USA for not using metric?

    No compelling reason to change. Same reason why we don't use 220 volts as wall current.

  • Not really. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @02:34AM (#9503932)
    It's just that everyone knows the standard/imperial/whateveritscalled units already. They're familiar and they work and we understand what it means when someone says it's 85 degrees in New York today. Switching over means everybody has to learn what everything means, intuitively, all over again. That's a long process that nobody wants to go through.

    For you metric-using folks, think of it this way: you still use weird old fashioned seconds/minutes/hours. You know that 4:45 is almost 5 o'clock and your commute will take 20 minutes. Without thinking about it you know that you'll be home eating your microwaved dinner in 50 minutes, a little less than an hour, and you can leave that candy bar in your desk drawer for tomorrow.

    Now suppose some aliens came down and gave us metric time units. 100 centihors in an hor, 10 hors in a day. Oh, and keep in mind that's a galactic standard day, which is actually 1.3 earth days. Now you have to start using these units. What time is your appointment? Oh, it's at 4:87. How long does it take to get to there from here? About 25 centihors. What?

    It's practically meaningless, because you haven't developed a frame of reference. You'd have to convert it mentally until you got familiar enough with the new units to just 'know' what 4:87 means, and nobody voluntarily wants to bother.
  • by Inoshiro (71693) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @02:35AM (#9503941) Homepage
    Do you really think that our mind is naturally suited to 3s and 4s? Are you closed to the idea that it could be a much more complex source of interactions in your life that trained your mind to work that way?

    Did you ever think that if you grew up in a metric environment, you'd have as much of a troubled time thinking in imperial? The website you linked to didn't think that. After all, naturally you'd be more adept at doing 3 and 3 times stuff in your head if you'd been doing it for all your unit conversion in your life! I've been doing metric in my head, as Canada is not silly like the brits (a brit whose site you link to) who don't sell things by the litre, or measure by the kilometre, or use kilograms as their unit of mass. British people are metric in name only: underneath, the sickening heart of ugly imperial units beats away.

    Converting non-metric units in my head is hard, and I usually end up likening it to the ratio out of 10 because that's how I grew up. 5/16ths? Thas' really close to 4/16ths, which is 1/4th which is a weensy bit more than 0.25, so this must be smaller than the 1/2th one which is really 0.50. I don't convert the 16ths and 2ths to a base denominator, I convert them in terms of a 0 to 1.

    The kooky site you link to is all about how counting in base-12 is the way to go [orbix.co.uk]. I mean, you can take a step back to the way Germanic tribes did it, but I think base-10 is the way to go. Metric's just an outgrowth of it. Imperial units were an outgrowth of kooky base-12 that was used by Germanic tribes -- it's why English uses eleven and twelve instead of oneteen and twoteen. Japanese people don't have this problem -- the go ju-ich, ju-ni, ju-san. Their problem is about 4s and 7s and 9s. Yon or shi? Shi means death! Shichi or nana? Nana is usually used for numbers only. Ku or kyu? .. etc. It's all socially constructed. Those numbers aren't inherently evil or more useful for one purpose or another, it's totally social pressure. Ditto for your ability to work with 3s and 4s in your head. Good on you, but it's hardly a firm basis for such a wide-ranging generalization.
  • by Eivind (15695) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @02:44AM (#9504000) Homepage
    Silly. One minor point is true; all other being equal, it's an advantage to work with numbers that have many small factors. "12" for example is nice in being dividible by 2,3,4 and 6 where our familiar 10 is only dividible by 2 and 5.

    This advantage is real, but it's in no way enough to even begin to compensate for all the other advantages of metric.

    I could give a long list of advantages, but instead I'll say this;

    To accelerate 1kg by 1m/s you need a force of 1N. If you push with a force of 1N over a distance of 1m you've used 1joule. If you did this in 1s then your power is 1watt. If you prefer to have an electric motor doing this work for you, it can produce this 1watt by drawing, for example, 1A at 1V. For 1A to flow at a volate of 1V, this means your motor will have an internal resistance equal to 1ohm

    Now you repeat that, in imperial units.

  • by Tarantolato (760537) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @02:50AM (#9504023) Journal
    To accelerate 1kg by 1m/s you need a force of 1N. If you push with a force of 1N over a distance of 1m you've used 1joule. If you did this in 1s then your power is 1watt. If you prefer to have an electric motor doing this work for you, it can produce this 1watt by drawing, for example, 1A at 1V. For 1A to flow at a volate of 1V, this means your motor will have an internal resistance equal to 1ohm

    Right. Which shows that for science and engineering, metric is the way to go. Jumping from that to saying we need to fuck up our road system and grocery stores is a bit of a leap, though.
  • by kiwaiti (95197) <kiwaiti@@@gmx...de> on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @03:07AM (#9504125) Homepage
    no, you should really remember 2.54, since it's defined that way, so your calculation won't start with a built-in rounding error

    Kiwaiti

  • by oleimann (790730) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @03:09AM (#9504140)

    Just because we don't want to, doesn't mean we can't.

    We wouldn't have come this far if we weren't a lazy people - that particular trait is the cause of most of our (household) inventions and technological progress.

    Having a single, global frame of reference for technical units, which also happens to calculate easily, makes technical development not only faster, but also improves international cooperation.

    Sticking to one's own system is just another extra point for one's will for isolationism.

  • by dbirchall (191839) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @03:09AM (#9504146) Journal
    I'm sure there are people on Slashdot for whom I might someday do some work.

    I think I can put a spin on this, though, like so:

    "Why yes, I did learn in 2004 that I had been operating with an incorrect conversion factor for going from inches to meters. At that time I researched the extent of use of such incorrect factors, made public my findings, and of course corrected my own notes so as to avoid error in any further calculations.

    "By the way, Mr. $BOSSNAME, I notice that $COMPANY's web site currently states that a meter is $INCORRECTNUM inches..."

    Shouldn't be a problem at all, you see? And if that doesn't work, I can always say, "Look, at least I've realized I was wrong and found the right answer, unlike these teachers, professors, rocket scientists, engineers..." :)

  • by 1u3hr (530656) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @03:17AM (#9504198)
    I think I can put a spin on this, though, like so:

    Good for you. (No sarcasm intended.) But in my personal experience, admitting errors never evokes respect (no matter what your Sunday School teacher might have told you) and pointing out mistakes your boss has made is a mark against you, the more so if it's of the "potatoe" style obvious-to-a-schoolchild one.

  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tarantolato (760537) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @03:18AM (#9504204) Journal
    To me, metric is much, much easier to work with since everything is in powers of 10. And it's a lot easier to keep track of what a milli-, centi-, deca- and kilometre is, compared to 1/32s, inches, yards and miles.

    Metric is better for large-magnitude and small-magnitude measurements, also for converting between magnitudes (lop off or add 0's). Imperial, however, is better for medium-magnitude measurements and conversions that stay within one level of magnitude. Which is why I used meters and liters for physics homework, but I will always use miles on the highway and gallons in the kitchen.

    This has nothing to do with culture. Mathematically, the funny multiples that Imperial measures work in makes it easy to divide without remainders. Likewise, using base-10 for number and measures makes it easy to scale up and down. The idea that the government should force us to choose one or the other for all uses is insane and illiberal.
  • by rooijan (746599) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @03:21AM (#9504222) Homepage
    You seem to assume that everyone else's windows come in imperial measurements and we all spend our time converting to metric to do difficult sums just for the hell of it. In a metric country, like South Africa, our windows come in nice round metric numbers (138cm is a common one), like all our other measurements.

    Obviously you would find it difficult to use metric if all the products you are using are made with imperial measurements that are "nice" numbers. Just bear in mind that other peoples products come with "nice" metric measurements.

    Also, I prefer metric becasue I was born after it was adopted and it's all I know, certainly. But it does seem that if everything is ten more than the previous level it's a lot more consistent than imperial where the number of x's in y differs depending on what type of measurement you're talking about.

  • by marinebane (743426) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @03:26AM (#9504245)
    every time somebody makes an argument against the metric system, they are essentially also making that same argument agaisnt the arabic (our) number system. to use a number system with a base of 10 and not use units with a base of 10 is illogical, and impractical where units with a base of 10 are much easier to manipulate using a number system with a base of 10.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @03:28AM (#9504255)
    Hunting rifles are for hunters who can't deal with rocks and sticks.

    Computers are for people who can't deal with carving their writings on cave walls.

    Rocks, sticks, and fractions aren't bad or useless per se, but why still use them for purposes to which there are much better solutions?
  • Re:On in the US (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Rie Beam (632299) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @03:40AM (#9504322) Journal
    "The net result was a backlash that delayed adoption of the metric system here by decades. Instead of the in-your-face road signs, they should have just quietly started converting smaller things over and let the old system fade away gradually."

    And what makes you think they aren't? Look around the house sometime - you'll notice that a lot of things are slowly being changed peice by peice, and in the very small manner in which you state. It really isn't a pipe dream for the US to switch to the Metric system - more likely, though, we'll end up like Britian, using a combination of our older, more average measurements for everyday uses, while more speciality measurements will be in complete Metrics.
  • Re:Quick note.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MochaMan (30021) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @03:46AM (#9504349) Homepage
    Amazingly, you're speaking and writing English. So use the logically correct spelling, or change the way you pronounce it to match how you spell it. You fucking idiot.

    I, for won, am exited tu help yu re-rite Inglish literachure, in yore new language. "The Nites Of The Round Tabel" iz so much better than chainjing the pronunsiashun tu "the kuh-nig-hets of the raund tahbluh"

    How 'bout we all just calm down and realise that no matter how much you rant about one retarded system being better than another retarded system, English simply has fucked up spelling and that's that?

    If you truly do feel passionately that meter is better than metre, then please "use your fucking brain" and start spelling table in a way that's consistent with label (as English and Americans alike pronounce it).

    On the topic of units of measurement, please feel free to explain why this "pint" unit is still spelled like mint, hint, dint, lint, tint, vint, glint and any other word ending in 'int'. Yes indeed, the Americans have certainly got this spelling thing all worked out once and for all. Pity the rest of us haven't picked up the fantastic system work they've done.
  • by sfe_software (220870) * on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @03:46AM (#9504350) Homepage
    ...my Honda is metric, and I have a set of metric tools to deal with that.

    I personally grew up working on American cars (GM, Ford, Dodge) and using the "standard" measurement system exclusively. As I got into engineering-related areas, I've found it necessary to learn the Metric system, and the appropriate conversions.

    As well, I've gotten to like foreign cars (Toyota specifically -- you can't kill them!), and I think you'll find most auto mechanics -- and I am not one -- easily capable of converting millimeters to fractions of an inch. Regardless of their normal mathematical skills, by association and eventual familiarity, these things are easily picked up. Not to mention, most American cars I've worked on recently seem to use either all metric or -- worse -- a combination of standards (too often the engine is Japanese while the rest is American...)

    But the point of that was that the conversions aren't difficult, and (despite what many non-US people tend to imply) Americans are perfectly capable of learning to convert, or learning a new system of measurement.

    It's not lack of intelligence or lack of will, but lack of necessity, that keeps most US citizens from converting. We all realize that 100 km == 60 miles, if only because of the jokes commedians make about driving into Canada and seeing a speed limit sign of 100. Plus most cars sold here display speed in both measurements, though admittedly the km portion is usually much less prominant... ...but again, it's lack of necessity. Lumber here is generally sold in "standard" units: an 8-foot 2x4 for example. It's an unnecessary difficulty to just decide to use metric units, when much of what you work with is non-metric. At that point it just adds an unnecessary (and potentially inaccurate or error-prone) conversion.

    Granted, if the US government mandates the use of metric units, we'd have the necessary push. However, I suspect many would oppose a conversion being required by law in this country if it isn't shown to be absolutely necessary.

    In the public (non-government) area, it becomes a "chicken vs egg" scenerio. No lumber yard is going to sell lumber measured exclusively in metric units, and no building contractor is going to ask for several 79mm X 157mm X 244cm boards to build a wall when 2x4x8' is the standard of measurement here in the US for such materials (I'm not sure my conversions were correct there btw).

    Anyway, it's not a stupidity or laziness factor as many non-US people assume, rather it's that our current system is very much established and ingrained into our society that it's difficult to change without making laws to require the change, which most citizens would disagree is all that necessary. In engineering fields, it's a different story, and if you're an engineer you likely should know both systems (since you will likely deal with both). Even in electronics, some standard measurements are in "mils" (thousandths of an inch) while others are in millimeters...

    Anyway I'm just ranting because I'm still awake for some odd reason.

    BTW, this was not directed at the parent; the Honda/metric comment just inspired me to rant for a bit :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @03:48AM (#9504357)
    Uh... I'm all for metric, but your "example" is hardly an argument for metric. All of those 1s line up so nicely, because you're using units that are _by definition_ a 1:1:1 relationship. Imperial units would look just as clean, using ft, ft/s, ft/lb, etc. And of course, natural constants like pi, c, or G, look ugly no matter the unit.
  • Re:On in the US (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bootsy Collins (549938) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @04:02AM (#9504422)

    Do you ever buy soda in two liter bottles?

    Cecil Adams pointed out that it's a lot easier to switch than most people think. The way to do it isn't to label everything in both imperial units and metric units; it's to just do it. Instead of labelling each gallon jug of milk with the fact that one gallon = 3.74 liters, thus making the metric system seem comparatively complicated (when in fact, it's less so), the right thing to do is to get rid of gallon jugs and replace them with four liter containers. We see two liter and half-liter soda bottles running around and everyone's fine with it now. Remember a couple of "temperature calibration points" -- water freezes at 0C, 20C = a nice spring day, 34 = Miami in July -- and dealing with the temperature scale change becomes fairly easy. It's trivial when you just do it.

    Oh, and as an aside, while you may be very comfortable with miles and pounds and gallons (and, I'd guess, Fahrenheit degrees), how many other imperial units are you comfortable with? Most people aren't familiar with very many. How many people are comfortable with rods, links, chains, bushels, and pecks? How many people understand fluid ounces and ounces of weight (not understand that there's a difference, but what that difference is, and how they're related)? Can you picture an acre in your head fairly accurately? Most people in the U.S. can't, despite the fact that it's the most commonly used unit of land area. For most of us, for most purposes, imperial units are useless because we don't even understand them. One thing that metric units buys you is that the whole thing hangs together, is internally consistent. If any of it makes sense, it all does. I can't visualize an acre, but I can easily visualize a hectare, the corresponding unit of the metric system -- a square that's 100 meters (a little longer than an American football field) on a side.

  • by JRIsidore (524392) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @04:06AM (#9504439)
    the ten base system of our numerical system has no real place in the natural world

    You mean besides the 10 fingers you mentioned? Anyway, please tell us where the base 12 can be found in nature.
  • by The Cookie Monster (129545) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @04:12AM (#9504467)
    <sigh>
    The only appropriate base system for units of measure is that of the number system they will be used in.

    We work in decimal - base 10.

    You arguments are a red herring, they are arguments for us adopt a number system that is base 12 system (which incidently, imperial is not) over the base 10 one we use at the moment, not arguments to have your metrics in a different base to the one they are used in.

    In the computer world we work in binary instead of decimal, and relevent computer metrics are base 2 rather than base 10 because of this. Having 12 bits in a byte, 3 bytes in a word and 1760 words in a kb (or whatever) would just be daft, exactly as daft as the imperial system infact.

    Also, using an imperial measure of angles to justify the imperial system is a bit circular.
  • Re:Quick note.. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @04:49AM (#9504626)
    I think you mean "car" rather than "auto" ;)
  • by Hansu (234247) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @05:00AM (#9504673)
    that lots of people still have no idea how many inches are in a meter, even after some folks have had big problems because of conversion errors

    Just because we don't want to, doesn't mean we can't.

    Um... doesn't the article just state that you can't.

  • Most poeple... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nice2Cats (557310) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @05:24AM (#9504789)
    Some quick Googling determined that lots of people still have no idea how many inches are in a meter, even after some folks have had big problems because of conversion errors.

    Not to put too much of a point on it, but the rest of the planet doesn't have to give a damn about how many inches there are in a meter, because they don't have inches anymore. Or stones. Or bushles. Or cubits. Or zentner. Or... This is a Yanks-only problem: even the Brits can think in meters, their problem is that they can't spell the word right.

    You have two choices, my fellow American friend: Either convert to metric like the rest of the world in the 21th Century, or stop complaining.

    As great as Slashdot is, this U.S. bias is getting to be a pain in the ass. It is beyond me why a simple complaint about the known problems of math education in the U.S. makes the front page.

  • Re:no kidding. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @06:06AM (#9504985)
    They're not ENGLISH units, they're IMPERIAL units. Not only do you provincial fucknuts not understand metric units, you don't even know the name of the units that you use!
  • by Ziviyr (95582) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @06:07AM (#9504986) Homepage
    If we ever learn Planck units are slightly different than our beliefs now, we'd end up in quite a mess.
  • by Toadpipe (606624) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @06:29AM (#9505056) Homepage

    I suppose you are Yet Another one of my countrymen who thinks that Henry Ford invented the automobile and that it's funny our current leader brags about not reading the news. Ever.

    It's people like you who make me ashamed to live here. But For however long it takes people like me will continue to try to better your world for you until you wake up and realize there is nothing great about this country.

    If it was "the best place" we'd all have free medicine when we need it, a job, food free from chemicals, food period, less violence in the streets, no racism (which is rampant, from all sides), inexpensive quality housing, both parents (if there are two) in any given family wouldn't have to work (if they can find work) to support their children, we'd actually have cars that live up to emissions standards, it would be safe to eat the fish from our waterways, it would be safe to walk through a city (any city) at night, people would be able to hold police accountable to the same laws they supposedly uphold, we'd stop declairing "war" on abstract concepts ("war on terror" is working about as well as "war on drugs" did), we wouldn't have to filter our water to get rid of the poisons our water treatment plants put in it, we'd never have another case of a high school grad who couldn't read (thousands a year), there'd be nearly free quality higher education for average income people, there'd be less homeless...

    I'll stop there for now, but if you ever get tired of just saying it a great place and want to actually help make it a great place, help is needed.

  • Re:Quick note.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Soft (266615) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @06:37AM (#9505084)
    What are you going to do next rename Bordeaux into Bordo so you can get your heads around other French concepts?

    Or Deutschland into Germany? Or España into Spain? And what about la Suisse, I mean Schweiz, I mean Svizzera...

    And don't worry, to people in Bordeaux, the capital of l'Angleterre is Londres, not London. <g>

  • Re:On in the US (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RollingThunder (88952) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @06:37AM (#9505090)
    That's just because the numbers are nice.

    If it's something more oddball (like 28 MPG) then it's trickier.

    Metric fuel consumption is fuel _consumption_, not _efficiency_, and stated in Liters per 100km.

    Thus, it's dead easy to figure out how much you need for a given trip length.

    The question of which is more useful would come down to "Do you need to figure out how far you can go on a tank, or how much you need to get there?" I generally know where I'm going, and the distance to that place, so knowing I need X Liters to get there is more useful than "Well, I could manage to go 200 miles."
  • by ckaminski (82854) <ckaminski&pobox,com> on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @07:45AM (#9505308) Homepage
    At what temperature?
  • by ansak (80421) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @10:50AM (#9507129) Homepage Journal
    Toadpipe wrote:
    ... we'd stop declairing "war" on abstract concepts ("war on terror" is working about as well as "war on drugs" did) ...
    I had a sound-byte moment the other day:
    Lyndon Johnston declared War on Poverty in America. The problems of poverty in America have only gotten worse.

    Richard Nixon declared War on Drugs in America. The drug problem in America has only gotten worse.
    Did America really want George W. Bush to declare War on Terror?
    "Send in the troops" isn't always the best metaphor for throwing lots of resources at solving an endemic, annoying and debilitating problem. Somehow that seems to be harder to see from inside the beltway than from outside or even outside the borders entirely (me; Canada). <sigh>

    cheers...ank

  • by Cecil (37810) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @10:51AM (#9507137) Homepage
    This thread is an excellent example of why metric is, in general, easier. Imperial is so loaded with caveats, non-rounded numbers and region-specific changes that no one can remember what the correct conversions are anymore. And even when people do remember, they're only correct to 1 significant digit (8 pounds vs. 8.33...whatever the actual numbers are) whereas metric conversions are very accurate, I'd be surprised if it was less than 6 significant digits in the 1L = 1kg water at standard conditions conversion.
  • by OwnedByTwoCats (124103) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @10:52AM (#9507146)
    A pint's a pound the world around...

    Sure, they're both 16 ounces, but are they the same ounces?

    And a gallon is 8 pints.
  • by Toadpipe (606624) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @11:44AM (#9507760) Homepage

    Yes, it's sad, but that's the reason that, much to chagrin of those who feel I should blindly love everything about this nation and never pay attention to the for the people by the people stuff, I feel the need to stick around and at least try to make a difference.

    It's even sadder to realize that to find someone aware of american politics, for the most part, you have to look outside of america.

    Salute.

  • Re:Oh yea? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nebaz (453974) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @12:23PM (#9508369)
    Mass doesn't ever change because of temperature or pressure or stuff like that

    This is a true statement. However, what I wrote was
    Thus for a fixed volume, so does mass.

    As heat is applied (generally) the mass will expand, so if you are looking in a fixed volume container, there will be less of the substance in that original volume (original container, if you will) thus the amount of "stuff" in that container changes, thus does it's mass.
  • by corngrower (738661) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @05:07PM (#9511878) Journal
    Suppose I do want to know how heavy a liter of petrol is. I look up the density of petrol in a book someplace, low and behold it's given in gm/cc. Now
    gm/cc is the same as kg/liter. I've got my answer.

    Now how much would a gallon of the stuff weigh. Being that the density is given in reference using the metric units (gm/cc) I'll have do do a conversion. After about 10 minutes of thinking, and knowing a gallon of water (density 1 gm/cc) weighs about 8.3 pounds, I multiply the density by 8.3 to get the weight of a gallon of the substance. Not too bad, I guess, but not as straightforward as the metric system.
  • by Solilok (791022) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @09:46PM (#9514187)

    Metric is more than just units and a self consistent system. It is also consistent with the fact that our numeral system is base 10.

    Until the american stock exchanges converted to decimal, it was not immediate how $8 37/256 was comparable to $8 9/64.

    So things are improving

  • Significant Digits (Score:3, Insightful)

    by crashnbur (127738) on Wednesday June 23, 2004 @10:59PM (#9514633)
    The correct measure of a meter in inches has many more than four digits, but 39.37 is correct when rounding to four significant digits. Likewise, 39.4 is correct when rounding to three, and 40 is correct when rounding to two or one.

    And although it has nothing to do with rounding, 42 is also correct when you're a karma whore who thinks /.'ers will mod up any reference to Douglas Adams.

A LISP programmer knows the value of everything, but the cost of nothing. -- Alan Perlis

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