I second this opinion.

Also the practicality feet and inches is superior to metric.

You can take your “but metric is divisible by ten” and cram it up your ass.

I’m. 6 foot 3 inches, that’s 1.90 meters. My buddy is 6 foot 4 inches, he’s 1.93 meters.

For everyday measurements (a person’s height, the width of a couch, the size of a TV) you either have to be accurate to the second or third decimal place for meters or work in hundreds for centimeters.

Meters are fine for the same scale you might use yards for, like a football field.

But it’s much more convenient to think about a 2x4x8 than a 40x90x2440.

 

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By J. Kb

41 thoughts on “Me too, also the practicality of feet and inches”
  1. “Meters are fine for the same scale you might use yards for, like a football field.”

    Or exploding someone’s melon at 800m……

  2. I work in both systems. Imperial is better for piping and thickness of steel. Imperial works about the same as metric for pressure… i think better im psi then kpa but kpa can get into big numbers hard to do in your heat quickly.

    For temps i prefer metric. 0C is freezing water. 100C is boiling water. That is a good linear scale.
    -38C is the current temp outside my house. 20C is a good inside temp. If its 30C or hotter out the AC is on.

  3. Haha, this is pretty funny.
    It all boils down to what you’re used to from childhood. When I was growing up in Europe, metric was natural. After 30+ years I the US, inches and Fahrenheit is more natural to me now. One can get used to pretty much anything.

  4. The difference between “My God, it’s freezing in here” and “OMG, it’s so hot and stuffy I can’t breathe” is usually 0.5 degrees F, depending on the season and the wife. 72.5 F on the thermostat is freezing while inside during a Texas winter, while 73.0 F on the same thermostat is unbearably hot and stuffy during a Texas summer. I have no idea what that is in newton meters (or whatever they use for temperature).

    Nota bene – different wives may have different results.

    Note also that in Texas winter, it’s common to have the natural gas fireplace going at the same time as the A/C, with several windows open. Don’t ask. It supposedly sets the ambiance.

  5. I have a hard time “thinking” in metric, meaning, I have a natural “feel” for how far an inch, or yard, or mile is or how heavy a 5lb weight feels. When someone expresses something to me in terms of the metric system, I have to first convert it to imperial before I can really grok what they’re trying to convey.

    However I must say that doing math in metric is MUCH easier than in imperial.

    For example, I was recently building a set of drawers. I needed to cut an 8 foot piece of lumber into 5 equal parts. Let’s see: 8 feet is 96 inches, divided by 5 means that each piece is going to be 19.2 inches long. 19 1/4 is 19.25, so too long, but 19 1/8 is 19.125 so that’s too short. Could use 19 3/16 because that’s 19.1875; 19 7/32? That’s 19.21875, so it’s somewhere between 19 3/16 and 19 7/32.

    Oh wait, there are going to be four cuts and the blade width of my saw is about 1/8″ so that’s 1/2 inch I’m going to lose in cuts, so now I’m at 95.5 inches divided by 5 which is 19.1 inches each…

    Obviously for something like that I just cut each piece to 19 and have 1/2 inch of extra to cut off the last piece – it’s not like I’m building a nuclear reactor; but the fact remains the math with something like that is messy, not easily done in your head, and lends itself to mistakes.

    There’s a reason the metric system is used pretty exclusively in physics and science.

    1. By the way, I’ve had several things in my life that have helped me define some “rules of thumb” for converting between metric and imperial.

      For example: I ran track and cross country in high school where I learned that 3.1 miles (a standard cross country course) is 5 kilometers. 100 meters is about 110 yards. 800 meters is about 1/2 mile and about 880 yards. Armed with those comparisons I can get approximate conversions in my head pretty easily.

      Shooting and standard ammunition calibers tell me that 7.62 millimeters is .3 inches. 6.8mm is .27 inches. 10mm (1cm) is .4 inches, etc.

      I was stationed in Spain for three years and although I never got “comfortable” with the metric system, I could convert common things like temperature and speed limits to something I could relate to in my head..

      For example. 1 degree F is 1.8 degrees C. Freezing is 32 degrees F and 0 degrees C.

      So for a ballpark of temperature I use (C x 2) + 32, then guestimate from there. Example:

      30 degrees C would be (30 x 2) + 32 = 92 degrees F. That’s going to be a bit high because it should have actually been times 1.8, so estimate a little lower and I’d ballpark the temp at about 88 degrees F.

      Whip out my trusty calculator to double check…actual temp 86. Close enough for government work.

      20 degrees C would be … about 69 degrees F.

      checking…actual 68. Close enough. Works pretty well for me and I can do it in my head easily.

      Works just as easily the other way, just remember to subtract 32 from the F temp first, then divide by two. If you divide first and then subtract, you’ll come out way too low.

      Speed is also easy. If you have both Mph and Kph on your car’s speedo, you can easily see that 60mph is about 100kph. The rest is pretty easy to do in your head from there. 50kph ~ 30mph. 120kph ~ 75mph, etc.

      For weight, 1 kg is about 2.2 lbs so multiply kg by two and then add a little to compensate. Going smaller, a pound is 16 oz so a Kg is about 36 ounces. Any deeper than that and I’d have to break out the calculator.

      Volume is a bit more complicated. I can do it in my head but it typically takes some time. I know a gallon is a little less than 4 liters. I know that there are 1000 cc in a liter, there are 8 pints in a gallon and 16 oz in a pint* so using those basic numbers, I can make rough conversions between the two.

      The one that really throws me is fuel economy. In imperial, we use Miles per gallon or distance divided by volume of fuel. That means the higher the Mpg number, the better the fuel economy.

      Not only are there differences in the units of measure in metric, but they also reverse the formula. They use liters per 100km or volume of fuel divided by distance. In metric fuel economy, big numbers are bad and small numbers are good.

      Unless you’re a math whiz (which I am most certainly not) there is no really good way to convert those without using a calculator and to this day, I have no idea whether a car that gets 5 liters per 100km is getting good fuel economy or bad. I only know that it’s worse than 4 and better than 6.

      Anyway, I hope I didn’t insult anyone’s intelligence with this, these are just some of the little things I’ve picked up over the years.

      *How do I remember that there are 8 pints in a gallon and 16 oz in a pint? From drinking pop as a kid. Back when I was young, Coca Cola still used returnable glass bottles. My mom always bought the “gallon pack” which was a carrier marked “Eight 16 oz (1 Pint) bottles”.

      I can still picture them in my mind (and on my taste buds, Coke did two things that ruined them for me…switched from sugar to corn syrup and from glass bottles to aluminum and plastic. I rarely drink a Coke any more, they just aren’t very good…but back in the day…)

    1. 90 60 90

      As others pointed out, it’s all in what you’re used to. English seems natural if that’s your native language; not so much if it’s a second language. As my youngest sister put it when dropping English in favor of German as her foreign language elective: “I want to study a language that has rules, rather than only exceptions”.

      The same applies to units. I grew up on metric (and my father was a metrologist so I learned the underpinnings of the system in quite some detail). It works well. US system works too if used with care. The thing about the US system is that it has a lot more units than you think at first: “12 gauge” can mean at least a half dozen things depending on whether you’re talking about shotguns, electric wire, or sheet metal. Does a #12 drill make a 12 gauge size hole? I have no idea. And then for added grins there are “letter” drills. Similarly, screw threads: 1/2×11 is clear but #6 is not. Elsewhere I would find an M3 screw, whose size is obvious.

      There’s also US vs. British units. And two kinds of ounces, one for salt and one for gold. And have you ever tried to decipher a property deed that described the boundary lengths in rods? That required a trip to the encyclopedia. Oh yes, and some people actually believe that a “survey foot” is a different size than a regular foot (by a few millionths, I think). I don’t believe it because no one has ever made measuring instruments that accurate with any inch other than the 25.4000 “Canadian” inch. Yes, there used to be three inches: US, UK, and Canadian. In theory at least, but Johansson said the h*** with that and made his “Jo blocks” to the 25.40000 definition.

      The most important thing to do is, for a given project, to pick the system and use it consistently. Don’t be like the guys who crash-landed a Mars lander because half of them worked in metric and half in imperial.

      1. The most important thing to do is, for a given project, to pick the system and use it consistently.

        And use the same tape measure for cutting that you used for measuring.

        I have three tape measures. At 4 feet, there’s about a quarter inch of variance between them, but it doesn’t matter if I just use the same one throughout a project.

          1. Maybe. More likely, one is just really old, and on one the machine that prints the graduations on the tape may have need recalibration.

            But as long as I use the same tape for measuring that I do for cutting (and as long as I can cut the correct angles), it doesn’t matter; the space will match the material cut to fit there.

  6. The system you grew up with will always be the supreme one. All my measuring tapes are “bilingual” because my brain refuses to process Imperial length units and not for lack of trying. Good measuring tapes in both systems are hard to find, so I am always in the hunt for 5 Meters/12 Feet tapes.

  7. It is really quite simple, if you want me to understand, use Fahrenheit or inches. If you don’t want me to understand, go with metric. The only metric I speak is when shooting long range because I have a scope that is in mils.

  8. Fahrenheit is better for describing health/medical issues as well. Because the scale is more finely-grained, it’s easier to detect and report changes without going 2-3 digits past the decimal point, and an at-a-glance body temperature reading in double-digits is probably fine, while triple digits indicates a fever.

  9. Imperial would be a hell of a lot more useful if they had dropped fractions for decimals a century or two ago. 6’ 3/4” plus 4’ 5/16” equals… Fuck if I know.

  10. My father had a wonderful book — it vanished before I got to inherit his stuff unfortunately — which described the picture of units in Europe before the metric system. What a mess. Feet and inches and lots of other stuff everywhere, but different in every country, often changing in different provinces or even towns. I have a book about 17th century shipbuilding that describes a Dutch merchant ship, with all its dimensions given in Amsterdam inches and feet — with 13, not 12, inches to the foot.
    One memorable picture in that units book was from some random principality in Germany, where officials were sent off to settle the official “foot”. Their procedure: go to some town, to the parish church, at end of services. Stop the first 16 adult males leaving church, and make them line up, feet touching. Measure that length, divide by 16. Presto, the official “Rhineland Foot”, at least for that period.
    If I remember right, the British “yard” was originally defined as the length of King Henry 8th’s arm.

    1. And wasn’t the “foot”, at some point, literally the length of the king’s foot … which until it was standardized had to be re-evaluated at each coronation? (New king, new “foot”.)

  11. And then there are nautical miles, and knots. We don’t use statute miles or kilometers at sea.
    When you are on a ship, it’s very easy to look at charts, use a divider, measure around shoals and such, an find out your destination is, say, 20 nautical miles away. Your ship only goes 10 knots, so you know you can reach your destination in about 2 hours.
    Easy, peasey!
    Converting to metric or statute miles accurately requires a calculator.

    1. I assume the charts are scaled in nautical miles, correct?

      But if all the charts and dividers were instead scaled to statute miles or kilometers, wouldn’t it be just as easy to use those units?

      Or am I incorrect in saying that navigation charts are traditionally done in nautical miles, and changing units requires either a calculator or conversion tables or the re-issuance of all-new updated charts and tools, and it’s just easier and more convenient to use the traditional units for this specific purpose?

      Asking seriously. No snark intended.

      1. Glad you asked. The reason we have nautical miles is simple. The earth was eventually recognized to be a globe. So, the equator was a circle. Since a circle has been defined, since Pythagoras was a little boy, to be divided up into 360 degrees, (It’s because six equilateral triangles fit neatly inside a perfect circle), the circle of the equator was divided up into 360 degrees. Look at any globe and you will see this.
        Now, since all nautical charts use latitude and longitude derived from the 360-degrees of the equator, and since degrees are broken down into distances called “minutes” (as you may guess, there are 60 minutes in one degree), and minutes are broken down into seconds (you guessed it, 60 seconds in one minute). So you can calculate how many minutes are in 360 degrees: it’s 21,660.
        Here’s the answer to your question: the nautical mile is defined to be one minute at the equator. So the 360 degree equator is divided up into 21,660 nautical miles.
        So sailors say “a minute a mile.”

    1. And my answer to all the guys who claim to be math or computing geniuses because they’ve memorized pi to 100 places:

      NASA used 3.14 and still hit the moon right where they wanted to. The processes and formulae are more important than memorizing numbers.

      1. Re using 3.14 for pi — I very much doubt that. Navigating to the moon requires a whole lot more than 2 digits of accuracy.

        Meanwhile, someone earlier said that physics uses metric: in fact, the “metric” system — officially the SI system after its French name — contains units not just for length and weight and temperature, but also for electricity and other stuff. If you want to do electronics, there is only one system of units, and that system is the SI. (If you go back a century, that wasn’t completely true, but the oddball units that had some use back then have all vanished.) There simply isn’t any imperial unit of, say, electrical current.

  12. Ah… the beauty of going into electrical engineering. It was always metric.

    (Well, until you get into digital, and you get the metric/binary weirdness.)

  13. rd beat me to it.

    That map of the world should be captioned with this:
    The orange indicates which countries have had a man walk on the moon. The blue indicates who uses the ‘superior’ system of measure.

      1. And the only solar-powered car that traveled 300,000 miles, ran stop-and-go on uneven terrain, and then was left to sit for half a century in an extreme environment, but probably would still run just fine.

        Can any foreign car manufacturer claim the same thing?

  14. I use normal (U.S., doggonit!) units for everyday life, building things, cooking, and so on. And Fahrenheit for everyday temperatures. I’ve even found occasion to use furlongs and chains!
    If I’m doing chemistry (for whatever reason), it’s cgs units and Celsius, because them’s the rules.
    For physics, it’s mks units and Kelvin, because that’s a nice coherent system.
    Electronic stuff… it’s a hodgepodge. Spatial measurements are almost (almost!) always in inches, except that newfangled chip packages tend to be built to millimeter patterns, so board layouts are a weird mixture. Electrical measurements are their own world, but fit in well with mks. Temperatures are usually Celsius, except when they’re Kelvin (which happens more often than you might think).
    So, It’s Complicated. But the traditional units evolved the way they did for reasons that were good at the time, and which remain good for many daily uses. The formal, created system of units is very convenient for certain formal uses, but isn’t necessarily a good fit for people’s everyday lives.

  15. The Army taught me to use meters at the range, while walking, and while considering the range of artillery. For everyday life, I use the American version of Imperial measures.

  16. The most oddball articles posted here get the most replies. Everybody uses the system they like/are used too/job requirements/measuring tool they pick up/etc. and nothing is gonna change a single persons mind on what to use. The weirdos have been trying for at least five decades to change us to metric, it’ll never happen. LMAO

  17. Two things, one, screw Kelvin, go Rankine, 0 is dead, 100 is dead.

    Second, try working with your hands, which usually means angles and triangles. If you are doing triangle you are probably using 30/60/90s or or 60/60/60. You can not get the lengths on a 30/60/90 in metric because it doesn’t f’en break into tenths, you have to approximate. Don’t even get me started on how metric deals with cutting threads….

  18. True dat. EX: The “3-4-5 Rule” for confirming exact right angles. (Which will still work in Yurpeen as long as you don’t mess up the math and keep the same proportions).

    I’ve had to work in both, although Imperial comes easier because that’s what I started with 100 years ago, so I’ve gotten reasonably good at translating, although I do use a “digital crutch” from time to time to make sure I’ve got the smallest bits right. (I live in mortal fear of my HP 15C dying because they’re no longer made and no one has anything even slightly close to it in either size or capability, and yes, I am an Unreformed RPN Addict).

    @Sailorcurt – RE: drawer measurement – you will have the same problem in metric if you go right of the decimal far enough (although if you go right far enough it becomes academic, if for no other reason that saw blade flex and wobble ain’t consistent). Length is length, whether it’s measured in feet, inches, millimeters or “furlongs per fortnight” (an actual measurement standard that was used on foil charts (remember those?) for management meetings at (name redacted) company in the 1980s).

  19. Metric is the bomb diggity for electronics. Normal is the shizzle for sewing and carpentry. And If I’m doing miles I do them better if I think of them in klicks and put them back at the end.

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