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    Re: At the centre of time
    From: Douglas Denny
    Date: 2009 Oct 22, 11:27 -0700

    The British have been using the metric system ("French measure") for 
    scientific purposes for a very long time. Possibly a century or more.
    It was only in engineering (particularly automotive engineering) that Imperial 
    measurements persisted, and probably only in that sphere of influence due to 
    the very close connections to America and importing/exporting there.   I 
    remember being taught SI units for science subjects from the beginning of 
    secondary school in the early 1960s, and Imperial measure was in decline even 
    then for engineering as 'foreign' continental cars and goods were being 
    imported here in large numbers by the mid 1960s.
    This illustrates the whole argument about measurement is: it depends on what 
    people actually USE regularly for their measurement and the reasons behind 
    that use.
    The argument as to which is "better" has been going on for decades and is 
    quite sterile as an argument as both systems have advantages and 
    disadvantages and either can be used when familiarity with use is there.  
    Having been taught both systems I find it quite easy to use my Imperial lathe 
    but do all work in metric simply because I always used metric. One gets used 
    to applying 40 'thou'(actually 39.37) for every 1mm if you have to use an 
    Imperial divided machine. It is no big deal.
    There are good reasons for using SI for scientific purposes;  which is why it 
    has probably taken over as the international measurement system - as all work 
    scientifically is international by nature, and a universal system is 
    obviously necessary.
    For practical measurement in every day life such as carpentry, or building, 
    the Imperial system was probably superior for intuitive use, as it is based 
    on the yard, foot, and inch which were 'natural' measurements closely related 
    to human anatomy; and the duodecimal system based on twelve has more factors 
    for division.  The practical units used are more convenient with smaller 
    values too. I still find it mildly annoying to measure 'home' lengths such as 
    say carpets as 12.650 Metres instead of simple feet and inches, but it 
    doesn't matter either way if you use one system only as you get used to it.
    It might be a surprise to some that one of the great engineers of all time who 
    gave his name to a screw thread, - and promoted the universal use of fixed 
    and standardised screw threads - Joseph Whitworth - also tried unsuccessfully 
    to promote at the same time the general use of metric measurements in 
    engineering.  he was successful in the promotino of standardisation for screw 
    threads but not metrication !
    I also find it very amusing that the French hate with a passion the use of 
    Greenwich as the accepted International Prime Meridian, yet are responsible 
    for and successfully promoted the SI units system which is the international 
    accepted system for measurement.  The argument is the same for both - it 
    doesn't actually matter very much one way or the other, except that is,  to 
    national xenophobia and pride,  which is worthless in scientific terms and 
    actual use of either system.  What counts is the international recognition of 
    a standardised system that all can use.
    Douglas Denny.
    Chichester.  England. 
    Original post:
     I think the English speaking part of the world could take an example
        from that regarding the SI units.
    Getting back to the thrust of Maarten's observation, Australia and New Zealand 
    went pretty-well entirely metric during the 1960s/1970s.  Over more recent 
    years even the ever-recalcitrant Brits have largely achieved as much, despite 
    enormous angst, moanings/groanings and the gnashing of teeth which I 
    understand have far from subsided, although the advantages of using a 
    European-wide common system, never mind about world-wide, has apparently 
    proved an unstoppable force.  So significant parts of the "English speaking 
    part of the world" have effectively taken Maarten's example to heart.
    "According to the US CIA World Factbook in 2006, the International System of 
    Units is the official system of measurement for all nations except for Burma, 
    Liberia, and the United States.[1] (Some sources identify Burma and/or 
    Liberia as metric, however.[2][3][4])"
    Which leaves that little place in North America as the major feet-dragging 
    nation, or insular wilful ignorer of these advantages.  The irony is that in 
    1790 Thomas Jefferson proposed a decimal-based measurement system for the 
    USA, and a subsequent vote in the US congress to replace the still-current 
    imperial (!) system by a metric system was lost by just one vote.
    Jefferson's enthusiasm, apart from being a chappie of scientific bent, may not 
    have been entirely unrelated to a close relationship between the 
    revolutionary American newly ex-colony and revolutionary France.  Then in 
    1866 Congress legalised the use of the metric system in the United States.
    And that is about where the metrification process halted, although in 1957 the 
    US Army and Marine Corps adopted the metric system for use with their 
    weapons, and in 1988 Congress passed the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness 
    Act, calling for all federal government agencies to use the metric system by 
    the end of 1992.  Has this Act achieved much change in the USA, I wonder?
    A little more time may be required.  There is no point in rushing into these things ...
    Actually, what I really think is that the USA is instinctively, and despite 
    all current evidence to the contrary, a deeply insular nation which would 
    really prefer to withdraw from the world into itself.  This has always been 
    the broad brush of US foreign policy, even throughout much of the 20th 
    century, as is witnessed by the US reluctance to become involved in either 
    great world-wide conflict of that century.  If only it had (even more) fossil 
    oil.  Sigh ...
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