A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

A weighty issue: measuring the distance between Europe and America.....

One of the world's great mysteries is why the US never adopted the revolutionary and republican new system of weights and measures developed during the French Revolution, namely the Metric, or CGS, system based on the centimetre, gram and second. You would have thought that this would have been the perfect opportunity to demonstrate real democratic and revolutionary fervour and to shed all those remaining pounds from the heavy British legacy, the Imperial, or FPS, system of foot, pound and second.

But no! The US has doggedly (and ostrich-like) stuck with the remnants of an imperial past, despite the fact that, since 1960 and the universal adoption of the International System of Units (SI), metres, kilograms and seconds rule the Earth.

Now, although I'm with America on issues like 'global warming', the stubborn refusal to play measure-for-measure is surely a comedy of errors. And, what is worse, in the US, 'ton' (tn, or T) comes in two different measures of weight, namely, a 'long ton' and a 'short ton'. The 'long ton' is the old British Imperial measure of 2,240lb = 1.016t, but this was then adjusted in the US and Canada to the 'short ton', a measure of 2,000lb = 0.907t. All jolly helpful, guys. I never guessed that Lexington and Concord were about maintaining a foothold on those bridges. Then, just so the confusion is utter, the 'long ton' has been maintained in the US for the displacement of ships. I'm sunk. Miles too difficult for me.

So, come on you lot over the pond. It's time to shed that imperial past. If Liberty Bushwhacker really wants to mend some of the broken fences with Europe, why don't you just get up-to-date (at last!) (and logical) and join the rest us, yea, by the 10s, nay the 100s, nay the 1,000s, nay the 1,000,000s, nay en mass (kg)?

You did it for your currency, after all. And just think, if it wasn't for Paul Revere, you'd still be putting pounds shillings and pence in the collection plate of Boston Old North Church. Ding, dong.

Philip, foot-slogging to lose those pounds every second. A litre of coffee, mate?

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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