The Greatest Battle of All: Metric or Imperial?

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Metric or Standard?

Metric!
176
88%
Imperial!
25
12%

Total votes: 201

Narsil
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The Greatest Battle of All: Metric or Imperial?

Okay, this is to debate the two systems of measurement that divide the world in two, well really, draws a huge fucking wall around the United States.
Those using metric:
Do you like it? Are you glad metric is your country's standard of measurement? Do you prefer Standard? Why?
Those using imperial:
Are you fond of it? Do you wish your place would use metric instead? Why?

Personally, I love the metric system, and I really wish America would switch. But the effort needed is unfeasible at best. Imperial is so...arbitrary. 12 inches to a foot, three feet to a yard, 1582 feel to a mile. I think. And water freezes at 32 degrees.
What the hell?

I really resent that schools teach imperial and that's what's needed to get by in America, because I feel sort of isolated not having any concept of how Metric applies to the real world.
Say something's 26 kilometers away. I have no idea how far that is. 26 miles, and I know that's kind of far.
Say it's 32 degrees celcius outside. I have no idea if that's hot or cold without doing a bit of math. 32 farenheit, and I know that's damn cold.

At best, imperial is one more barrier that keeps America from the rest of the world.

(NOTE: By "imperial", I am referring to the set of measurements that America uses as it's standard means of understanding the physical world. The inch, the foot, the yard, the gallon, the pound, ect.)
Meaningless Observation:
Hey, do you guys realize that Metric is the standard way of measurement and imperial is in itself a metric?

Fix'd to avoid annoying mixups. -4d.
Last edited by Narsil on Wed Aug 08, 2007 5:18 pm UTC, edited 4 times in total.
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jabberwock33
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I'm using standard. I wish we would switch to metric and friggin' standardize everything like the rest of the world.

Mighty Jalapeno
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But metric IS standard... I don't understand the question.

Also, USA isn't the only country in the world to use Imperial! Qatar does, too, as do Burma and Liberia (sometimes).

However, as an engineer, I have to acknowledge that virtually every building I design uses Imperial, simply because... that's the industry standard. 8'1" lumber WAY easier to say than 2760mm, and virtually every standardized component in North America is Imperial.
Last edited by Mighty Jalapeno on Wed Aug 08, 2007 3:41 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

Vaniver
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It shames me that America has not adopted the metric system. It's just... ugh.
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Metric > all. Why, I mean honestly, can't we adopt the measurment system that's on a base 10 scale? 12 inches to a foot, 3 feet to a yard, 4680 feet ot a mile, wtf?

It's 5280 feet to a mile, btw.
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Malice
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Unfortunately, the amount of effort it would take to convert is prohibitive.

I like standard because I'm used to it in an innate sense. I know about how long a foot is when I'm eyeballing something. I don't know about how long a meter is, no matter how many times I look it up.

Metric might make more "sense" to those who grew up with it, but it's really all just abitrary anyway. There's little enough point to being the same kind of abitrary the world round that it's not worth the effort it would take to get us there.

Narsil
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Yes, changing all the signs and shit would cost untold trillions of dollars.
I mean, it has to be a mind-bogglingly large amount of money.

Also, it would then take another generation or two to intuitively understand metric as we intuitively understand Standard. Actually, maybe more than that. It would be a long ass-time, and even then, you would have people that would refuse to change.
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VannA
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Malice wrote:Unfortunately, the amount of effort it would take to convert is prohibitive.

I like standard because I'm used to it in an innate sense. I know about how long a foot is when I'm eyeballing something. I don't know about how long a meter is, no matter how many times I look it up.

Metric might make more "sense" to those who grew up with it, but it's really all just abitrary anyway. There's little enough point to being the same kind of abitrary the world round that it's not worth the effort it would take to get us there.

There is nothing arbitary about it..

Can you use the weight of a bottle of water to tell you how much volume is in it? Or vice versa, using Imperial Measurements?

Or how much energy it would take to boil a kettle? Eh? Eh?! :p
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Gadren
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Mighty Jalapeno wrote:But metric IS standard... I don't understand the question.

According to Wikipedia, "standard units" is one common way of referring to United States customary units.

I wholeheartedly support the metric system -- do we really want to be in the same boat as Liberia and Myanmar?

This issue will require true leadership in order to fix. A US president needs to take a strong stance on this (although I fear we may have to wait a generation, because it'll take at least that long to repair the damage done to the country and get it back to a sense of normalcy). Some ways to fix this:
- Public schools should be teaching metric first (with federal funds dependent on this point)
- public education campaigns (like the thinkmetric campaign) that show the benefits of metric and how keeping imperial is pointless and not some silly "cultural heritage"
- requiring that all products like food display metric values first, and preferably in larger font than imperial units
- encouraging weather services to slowly phase out Fahrenheit
- TV PSAs that help people to get a general grasp of what a metric unit measures (like for Celsius: 30's hot, 20's nice, 10's cool, 0's ice)

e946
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I voted standard purely out of convenience. I don't want to have to re-learn how to judge distances, volume, etc even though the metric system really is better.

Fahrenheit IS much better than celsius at describing everyday outdoor temperature. Fahrenheit is set up in a way that all the termperatures an American city might experience are neatly ordered from 0 to 100.

e946
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Gadren wrote:
Mighty Jalapeno wrote:But metric IS standard... I don't understand the question.

According to Wikipedia, "standard units" is one common way of referring to United States customary units.

I wholeheartedly support the metric system -- do we really want to be in the same boat as Liberia and Myanmar?

This issue will require true leadership in order to fix. A US president needs to take a strong stance on this (although I fear we may have to wait a generation, because it'll take at least that long to repair the damage done to the country and get it back to a sense of normalcy). Some ways to fix this:
- Public schools should be teaching metric first (with federal funds dependent on this point)
- public education campaigns (like the thinkmetric campaign) that show the benefits of metric and how keeping imperial is pointless and not some silly "cultural heritage"
- requiring that all products like food display metric values first, and preferably in larger font than imperial units
- encouraging weather services to slowly phase out Fahrenheit
- TV PSAs that help people to get a general grasp of what a metric unit measures (like for Celsius: 30's hot, 20's nice, 10's cool, 0's ice)

Agreed on everything but weather.

And you have to understand though that it's so much more than education. did you know that (almost) every single exit on a highway on the US is numbered? Where do you think those numbers come from? They're the mile number that the exit falls on, with slight variations if two exits are very close together.

This is obviously something that can be changed to metric, but what will happen to all the online databases, road maps, and god knows that that use exit numbers to tell people which exit to take on highways rather than road names? We would have to have a dual numbering system, which would confuse more people than it would help (This is America, after all, land of the low test scores)

What happens to all the cars that don't have metric speed underneath the standard speed on the speedometer/odometer/tripometer? Are we going to have dual speed limit signs as well? Expect people to be going 1.6x the speed limit.

What about 2 liter bottles of pop? ..oh wait.

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Good gawd metric. And I live in the US! The English system is worthless to engineers. And what the hell is a hogshead???

Oh, and maybe this should be in Science or General? SB? I think not.
Totally not a hypothetical...

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e946 wrote:I voted standard purely out of convenience. I don't want to have to re-learn how to judge distances, volume, etc even though the metric system really is better.

It's not really that hard. The rest of the world has to learn Imperial to deal with you, and we manage it fine.

As for weather: I can see the argument for Fahrenheit being a useful "everyday" unit of measurement, and Celsius isn't really any less arbitrary IMO. That's why we should all use Kelvin.

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Re: The Greatest Battle of All: Metric or Standard?

Narsil wrote:Personally, I love the metric system, and I really wish America would switch. But the effort needed is unfeasible at best. Standard is so...arbitrary. 12 inches to a foot, three feet to a yard, 5280 feet to a mile. I think. And water freezes at 32 degrees.
What the hell?

Correction in bold.

Anyway, the Fahrenheit scale is not as arbitrary as you would think.

0F is the minimum temperature where a salt, ice, and water mixture will be at equilibrium. In other words, if the temperature is below 0F, you regular rock salt probably won't work.

100F is actually the rectal temperature of a Cow, but I'm not sure if that was intended.

Fahrenheit wanted boiling and freezing to be 180 degrees apart, which is why you get 32 and 212.

In any case, there are justifications for this scale. For one, you can get more precise temperatures from Fahrenheit than you can from Celsius without going to faction of degrees. On average, one degree Fahrenheit tends to be the minimum temperature change that a human will notice. And finally, in area of the planet which are habitable, the temperature tends to not go too far below 0F or too far above 100F.

In cases of science, I can't argue the fact that Celsius is better, but for the lay person, Fahrenheit isn't too bad a scale. [Edit: scratch that Kelvin is actually the best to use for science.]

Out of the rest of the English measurements, yeah, I don't quite get them, but getting a general idea of conversions isn't that hard. I know 26 kilometers is something like 15-16 miles, and I know that 32 Celsius is in the high 80s, low 90s. It's not that hard to at least get general ideas of what you're working with from the other (by your opinion) system.
Last edited by Swordfish on Wed Aug 08, 2007 6:37 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Malice
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Hawknc wrote:
e946 wrote:I voted standard purely out of convenience. I don't want to have to re-learn how to judge distances, volume, etc even though the metric system really is better.

It's not really that hard. The rest of the world has to learn Imperial to deal with you, and we manage it fine.

Oh, then there's no problem if you keep doing it, right?

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I really like metric, and I like it for everything except telling people how tall I am. x3 I still can't always think in the non-US formats, like I won't know what the temperature is if someone says it's 30 Celsius, and I'll have to convert in my head.
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Narsil wrote:
Also, it would then take another generation or two to intuitively understand metric as we intuitively understand Standard. Actually, maybe more than that. It would be a long ass-time, and even then, you would have people that would refuse to change.

isn't that the point of metric? that it's intuitive?

I watched the UK go from imperial to metric - when I was a kid there they posted the daily temps in both F and C - then I moved to the US and learned F - where my friends back in the UK learned C and have forgotten they ever knew F equivalents when they were 12.

it would take hardly any time to learn, but you'd have to post things in equivalents for 30 years until the workforce turned over.

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Re: The Greatest Battle of All: Metric or Standard?

Swordfish wrote:0F is the minimum temperature where a salt, ice, and water mixture will be at equilibrium. In other words, if the temperature is below 0F, you regular rock salt probably won't work.

How much salt in how much water at what pressure?

To those arguing about the 'inconvenience' of changing: If every single other country in the world could do it, why not America? And surely the ability to add an extra few 0's to change units outweighs the 'difficulty' of changing?

Go metric.
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Yeah, the UK switched from imperial to metric a while back, and while there was lots of grumbling initially, people are mostly used to it. Although we still use miles. In fact actually the UK system is hardly the model for switching over, now I think about it- I know my height in feet and my weight in stone and distances in miles... but I measure shorter things in metres.. gah. Still metric makes more sense- you don't really need your numbers to be in base 10, but it's nice to have a consistent base, which imperial certainly does not have.

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Metric fo sho. The USA uses Imperial, but Imperial is dumb. We should switch - everyone would be better off...oh well, nobody will ever agree to it. [xkcd]The comfortable is easy to rationalize when you're cold and it's late.[/xkcd] 5280 feet per mile? That's so...odd. Not nice and neat like metric.
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There might be a benefit to having everyone in the world on the same units. But is there really an intrinsic benefit to those units being metric instead of standard?

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VannA wrote:There is nothing arbitary about it..

Can you use the weight of a bottle of water to tell you how much volume is in it? Or vice versa, using Imperial Measurements?

Of course I can. A gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds and contains 128 fluid ounces or 16 cups. It's pretty basic math from there. I use specific gravity cups all the time based on these measurements.

Metric is more obvious in its nomenclature, but ultimately both systems are nothing more than labels and one set isn't inherently better than another. A tray of pure water at sea level will freeze at a certain point. Whether you call that 0C, 32F or 18.6 Solarchem doesn't matter.

That aside, as someone who works in a global industry I would certainly prefer it if there was one agreed upon measuring system. I'd go with metric just because more people use it and it's easier to learn. But anything that frees up space in my spreadsheets so I don't have to have columns for pounds per linear inch, Kg/mm, and N/cm would be just fine thank you.
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The British people are good at getting used to weird systems. Like their money before they went to world-widely-approved 1 currency unit = 100 smaller units. And they changed it only in 1971.
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Malice wrote:There might be a benefit to having everyone in the world on the same units. But is there really an intrinsic benefit to those units being metric instead of standard?

Only that base ten is a hella lot easier for dumb-asses like myself.
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solarchem wrote:Metric is more obvious in its nomenclature, but ultimately both systems are nothing more than labels and one set isn't inherently better than another.

It's easier to learn and it's better standardised. Does that not make it better?

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Andrew wrote:
solarchem wrote:Metric is more obvious in its nomenclature, but ultimately both systems are nothing more than labels and one set isn't inherently better than another.

It's easier to learn and it's better standardised. Does that not make it better?

I agree that it is quite probably easier. The apprentice behind the meat counter at Albertson's (a supermarket in the US) would not have had troubles giving me chicken breast if I had asked for 700 g instead of 0.7 kg. However, I asked her for 24 ounces, and she didn't know how to convert that into pounds (1.5).

solarchem
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iop wrote:
Andrew wrote:
solarchem wrote:Metric is more obvious in its nomenclature, but ultimately both systems are nothing more than labels and one set isn't inherently better than another.

It's easier to learn and it's better standardised. Does that not make it better?

I agree that it is quite probably easier. The apprentice behind the meat counter at Albertson's (a supermarket in the US) would not have had troubles giving me chicken breast if I had asked for 700 g instead of 0.7 kg. However, I asked her for 24 ounces, and she didn't know how to convert that into pounds (1.5).

Oh, I don't know about that. If she didn't know 16 ounces = 1 pound I'm not sure she would have figured out 700 grams into kgs.

I think metric is easier to learn later in life, which is why if we standardized I'd opt for metric. But when you're a kid I'm not sure it matters. It's like picking up a language. The inability to convert ounces to pounds is not in the inherent difficulty of such a calculation but the fact that this person didn't learn it.
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I haven't read whole thread (in a bit of a rush sorry) but I thought I'd just mention if nobody else has that seeing as how important America is in the big scheme of everything, most other countries (most is a guess, I only know Australia) have to deal with both systems, just to be convenient because of the huge amount of American tv / film / internet etc

When I was younger in school learning things like how long a centimeter was, we weren't strictly forced to learn inches or feet, but we all learned anyway, and I know how long a foot, inch, yard or mile is just as well as I know the metric system, and It's not like learning a whole separate language, its just a couple of numbers.

research has shown even a monkey can memorize numbers, are YOU dumber than a monkey?

Is it truly necessary to redo everything in America to metric though? I'm sure seeing as everyone there already knows your system, you could just start educating people in schools on metric and slowly accustom yourselves to the way everyone else does it.

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Malice wrote:There might be a benefit to having everyone in the world on the same units. But is there really an intrinsic benefit to those units being metric instead of standard?

I agree, it'd be nice if everyone was on the same page. I don't particularly care which one, although metric is nicely in base 10 and in use much more widespread across the globepic.
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Also, USA isn't the only country in the world to use Imperial!

Is it worth mentioning that America doesn't use the Imperial system? It uses its own system which is a bit different. Observe: http://www.google.co.uk/search?&q=1+UK+pint+in+pints

If you standardise to what you optimistically call "Standard", you first have to standardise Standard so we all know what it is. And trust me, there are a lot of Brits who will not be happy if you try to make pints smaller. We like our pints. And it'll confuse everyone anyway, having the old literature using units with the same names as the new standard ones but which are different sizes. Everyone who knows metric knows the same metric, although we may bicker about how to spell some of the units.

There might be a benefit to having everyone in the world on the same units. But is there really an intrinsic benefit to those units being metric instead of standard?

The other problem with Imperial and Standard is that neither are any real use for science or engineering (It can just about be done, of course, but it's much, much more difficult and to my knowledge there's no non-metric units for current, amount of substance or luminosity, so you'd either have to invent some or import them from the SI), so we'll still need to have metric around and teach it in schools. It would save a lot of time and effort to standardise to metric and leave Imperial for beer and roadsigns.

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Aeltar wrote:Metric fo sho. The USA uses Imperial, but Imperial is dumb. We should switch - everyone would be better off...oh well, nobody will ever agree to it. [xkcd]The comfortable is easy to rationalize when you're cold and it's late.[/xkcd] 5280 feet per mile? That's so...odd. Not nice and neat like metric.

I think you can blame the Romans for that one.

a lot of the standard measures were chosen because they divided into a lot of factors - this is also why a day has 24 hours.

wiki wrote:A unit of distance called a mile was first used by the Romans and denoted a distance of 1000 paces (1 pace is 2 steps, 1000 paces being, in Latin, mille passus) or 5000 Roman feet, and corresponded to about 1480 meters, or 1618 modern yards.[1]

The current definition of a mile as 5,280 feet (as opposed to 5000) dates to the 13th century, and was confirmed by statute in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I; the change was needed to accommodate the rod which (as opposed to the mile) was a measure ensconced in legal documents (see the discussion about furlongs).

edit: OK, you have to blame the romans AND the elizabethans

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The metric system is killing Canadians, though. All these American tourists cross the border, and see highway speed limit signs that say "110".

...

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I love the metric system, but it would be not only ridiculously costly to adopt it, but extremely hard. Think about it. Houses are built with standard 2-by-4s in the US. You'd have to start selling .6096-by-1.2192s to repair old houses, and there are all kinds of things like this.

Does the metric system include the Centigrade scale, though? Because I despise it. It leads to so many inaccuracies.

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The argument that it would be too costly to switch just doesn't hold water. That was the reason given decades ago for not switching, yet nearly every other country has switched over. Since then, the cost of switching from imperial to metric will have only risen. So it only makes sense that, if we are to ever in the future bite the bullet and do it, the time is now.

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Andrew wrote:The other problem with Imperial and Standard is that neither are any real use for science or engineering (It can just about be done, of course, but it's much, much more difficult and to my knowledge there's no non-metric units for current, amount of substance or luminosity, so you'd either have to invent some or import them from the SI)

This isn't really true. At all. The "metric" unit for current is the same as the "standard" unit for current. Amount of substance? Do you mean MASS? Because we call it pound-mass (and 1 or 2 other things, depending on which you want to use).

Andrew wrote:
solarchem wrote:Metric is more obvious in its nomenclature, but ultimately both systems are nothing more than labels and one set isn't inherently better than another.

It's easier to learn and it's better standardised. Does that not make it better?

So an automatic transmission is better than a manual one? Q-Basic is better than C++? This isn't logical at all.

And the "standard" system is certainly a part of the country's culture, just as English is, just as driving on the right side of the road is.

And what does "better standardised" mean?
Totally not a hypothetical...

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There are benefits to Imperial in construction.

12 inches to a foot- you can cut that into twos, threes, fours, and sixes very easily.

Also, my school does use metric in all of our science classes.
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VannA wrote:Or how much energy it would take to boil a kettle? Eh? Eh?! :p

How big is the kettle?

Also, I doubt you're any better at multiplying by 4.18 than I am. (Number of Joules in a calorie.) And, off the top of your head, what's the heat of vaporization of water? Because if you're actually talking about boiling it, you've got to include that. You might know about how much more a 1L container (of pure water at 4ÂºC and 101325 Pa pressure) weighs full than empty, but beyond that the metric system is only more useful because it's base-10.

And that usefulness is not actually as much as people say. You can give me a gallon of water (in an unmarked cylindrical container, say), and I can very quickly give you approximately 1 quart, or 1 pint, or 1 cup of water back. If I gave you a liter, how quickly and how accurately could you give me 100mL back? There's a reason standard conversions are what they are, and it's because dividing by 2 and 3 is in practice (rather than on paper) much easier than doing it by 10.

Also, the standard system weeds out the weakminded. If you don't know that a furlong is 660 feet (= 10 chains = 40 rods = 1/8 mile) or that a (US) quart is 57.75 cubic inches, what are you doing trying to design my stuff, anyway?

Andrew wrote:The other problem with Imperial and Standard is that neither are any real use for science or engineering (It can just about be done, of course, but it's much, much more difficult and to my knowledge there's no non-metric units for current, amount of substance or luminosity, so you'd either have to invent some or import them from the SI)

Current is amps in both systems. So what if the 1m apart in a perfect vacuum creating .2 micronewtons of force part of the definition doesn't have a nice standard definition? We can still describe it as one coulomb per second.

Amount of substance is the pound-mass. You generally approximate your own mass by measuring kilogram-force, so I don't see why doing it the other way is a problem.

Luminosity is the candlepower, pre-1948 definition.

Power, which you didn't mention, is the horsepower. 550 ft-lbs/sec. Easy as pi to remember.
Last edited by gmalivuk on Wed Aug 08, 2007 4:03 pm UTC, edited 2 times in total.
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Mighty Jalapeno
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Who says metric has no use?

What's easier, 13nm, or 5.11x10^-7 inches?

blob
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They both suck. I want a system where Planck's constant and the speed of light are both 1! (Or Planck units, they use h-bar instead of h.)

"Sir, our camera caught you going at 0.0000002c, that's 0.00000005c over the speed limit..."
Last edited by blob on Wed Aug 08, 2007 3:57 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Standard, screw the English and their metrics!

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