back to article Only true boffins will be able to grasp Blighty's new legal definitions of the humble metre and kilogram

As much of the world's capitals erupt in protests and millions look fearfully at news of job losses and economic contraction, Great Britain has taken the legal step of redefining the metre and kilogram in law. Instead of merely stating the definitions of the two main metric measurements, Parliament has now gone a step further …

  1. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    "The maximum velocity of a sheep in a vacuum, as defined, is unaffected by the recent changes to the law."

    As it jolly well should be!

    1. Saruman the White
      Joke

      Its a pretty baa-ing definition anyway.

    2. EvilDrSmith Bronze badge

      But is that in a Dyson or in a Hoover?

      1. genghis_uk Bronze badge

        .... and if a Hoover, how full is the bag?

        Or better yet, how many Jubs of crap is in the bag?

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Is that a spherical sheep?

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        It's a spherical shorn sheep, in case the vacuum isn't perfect. Which it won't be.

    4. HildyJ Silver badge
      Angel

      But have we confirmed the length of the Osman?

  2. Spanners Silver badge
    FAIL

    Spelling

    You are spelling metre correctly, why are you showing "kilogram" instead of kilogramme?

    We are not in the USA (yet). Please spell it correctly.

    1. Julian Bradfield

      Re: Spelling

      (a) "gram" is universally the preferred spelling in English-language science

      (b) "gram" has been the legal spelling in UK statutes ever since we first legalized metric measures in 1864, though actual use, even by government, has always fluctuated according to the whim of the writer.

      The question is why are you so keen to re-subjugate us to the French:)

      1. Lars Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Spelling

        "The question is why are you so keen to re-subjugate us to the French".

        I prefer kilo to kilogram or kilogramme but regarding being worried about French I believe it's a bit late as there are some ten thousand words from French in the English language. Britain was ruled in French (and Danish) for quite some time after all.

        1. not.known@this.address Silver badge

          Re: Spelling

          Which is why the idiots wanting to ban English words for being "racist" or "discriminatory" is so funny - every word in the English Language has been (mis)appropriated from somewhere else!

          1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: Spelling

            That's not true, I'm sure that we have some original words. Somewhere.

            Pesky Romans. Norse. Danes. Normans. Celts. All of which invaded and wound up becoming becoming British.

            Generally we have two words for most historical things that were common around the time of the Normans, the Norman-French and the English form. Although if you then add Celtic and Old English into the mix it gets even more convoluted at times. Outside Normandy where Norman-French is the local dialect, English has an enormous amount of commonalities with it.

            1. Lars Silver badge
              Happy

              Re: Spelling

              @Nick Ryan

              If you add that English is a Germanic language it all gets so much easier to understand.

              1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

                Re: Spelling

                Which English? Old English or the more modern form?

            2. Toni the terrible

              Re: Spelling

              The original British (not just English) language (and so words) is somewhere before the Beaker People, so only God or the Flying Spagetti Monster knows what the words were like.

        2. MJI Silver badge

          Re: Spelling

          Kilo is a prefix and not a measurement.

          A kilo of what?

          Watt, byte, bit, metre, Newton, Volt, gram, litre?

          Kilo on its own is meaningless.

          1. Someone Else Silver badge

            Re: Spelling

            You forgot kiloJub...

            1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

              Re: Spelling

              True. Never forget jubs.

          2. davidp231

            Re: Spelling

            "Kilo"

            Least they haven't been stupid enough to change it to kibi....

        3. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Spelling

          @Lars - "I prefer kilo to kilogram or kilogramme"

          So, when you go on a massive walk, do you encounter resistance?

    2. dajames Silver badge

      Re: Spelling

      We are not in the USA (yet). Please spell it correctly.

      "Gramme" is the original French spelling from the late 18th Century. The internationally accepted spelling for the SI unit of a thousand grams is (and has always been) "kilogram". The Oxford English Dictionary allow both the "gram" and the "gramme" spellings, but prefers "gram", as does the Weights and Measures Act of 1985.

      If this offends you, you may instead refer to 772 scruples.

      Kilogram certainly isn't USAian, their spelling is "two pounds" (or near enough, for some purposes).

      1. ectel
        Linux

        Re: Spelling

        Was I the only one that thought "why is offence not taken when scruples is set to read+write+execute for the owner and the group but only write for all users? "

        If most people can only write scruples but not read them or execute them no wonder we are in such a state! maybe we need 755 scruples. that way everyone can understand the scruples and act on them.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: Spelling

          But what if they're my scruples, and set 4755?

      2. ectel
        Linux

        Re: Spelling

        Was I the only one that thought "why is offence not taken when scruples is set to read+write+execute for the owner and the group but only write for all users? "

        If most people can only write scruples but not read them or execute them no wonder we are in such a state! maybe we need 755 scruples. that way everyone can understand the scruples and act on them.

      3. Someone Else Silver badge

        Re: Spelling

        Kilogram certainly isn't USAian, their spelling is "two pounds" (or near enough, for some purposes).

        Back in the '70s, I remember it being spelled "brick".

        But they say, "If you remember the '70s, you weren't there," so I may be mistaken....

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: Spelling

          No, they say that if you can remember the 60s, you weren't there. Maybe you had such a good time in the 60s that you can't tell how many decades they lasted for...

          1. Chris G Silver badge

            Re: Spelling

            I remember both the '60s and the ''70s, I was there most of the time but occasionally I wasn't but not always being there in the '60s and '70s was a part of being there.

            1. Someone Else Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: Spelling

              For all you Boomers, Chris G's sentence makes perfect sense; for the GenX'ers and younger, it sounds like gibberish. Chris, your sentence is a great discriminator...well done!

              "Yeah, wot 'e said!

              1. Jan 0
                Headmaster

                Re: Spelling

                "Boomers" is another USAism. In the UK, we were Bulge Babies, or just the "Bulge".

        2. Toni the terrible

          Re: Spelling

          With respect to the USA and Metric Systyem. I seem to recall that many individual states did adopt the metric system, possibly even the Feds. But, it came to naught as not enough States agreed - possibly Republican ones?

          1. Someone Else Silver badge

            Re: Spelling

            Actually the US was well on it way to metricism (is there such a thing?); distance and speed limit signs on freeways (and in some larger towns) were printed in both Imperial and metric in the late 70's. (I think it was by Federal fiat, but I don't recall for sure; this even occurred in Texas, so I'm pretty sure a federal power was involved....) Food and drink containers in grocery stores were also showing up with both measures on them.

            Then Ronald McDonald Reagan was elected our first Acting President. As he didn't have the mental fortitude to handle the metric system (!), and was having his political handlers whisper in his ear that it would be a good political move to reject this furrin' measuring system, he dutifully dismantled the slow, methodical conversion of the US to the metric system. Were he not to have been the president, or to have had an IQ above room temperature (is that in Fahrenheit or Celsius?), the US would have been fully metric by the end of the millennium.

            1. Rich 11 Silver badge

              Re: Spelling

              metricism (is there such a thing?)

              Yes. Please continue.

    3. Lars Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Spelling

      "The kilogram (also kilogramme) is the base unit of mass in the metric system, formally the International System of Units (SI), having the unit symbol kg. It is a widely used measure in science, engineering, and commerce worldwide, and is often simply called a kilo in everyday speech."

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kilogram

      "The metre (Commonwealth spelling) or meter (American spelling) (from the French unit mètre, from the Greek noun μέτρον, "measure") is the base unit of length in the International System of Units (SI).".

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metre

    4. General Purpose

      Re: Spelling

      The British English spelling is overwhemingly "kilogram", as used by the BSI for decades, and per Fowler's Modern English Usage and the style guides of the BBC, the Economist, the Telegraph, the Guardian, Reuters UK and the UK government. Google ngrams are unreliable in many ways but the shift about 100 years ago is clearly shown at https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=kilogram%2Ckilograms%2Ckilogramme%2Ckilogrammes&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=18&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2Ckilogram%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Ckilograms%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Ckilogramme%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Ckilogrammes%3B%2Cc0

    5. phuzz Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Spelling

      Personally I just spell it kg.

  3. TVC

    I can't do this metric stuff. Can we have it in football pitches or London buses please?

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge
      Joke

      You had better state the location of the football pitch and the type of bus - we want precision, nit fuzzy estimates!

      1. OssianScotland Silver badge
        Coat

        For the second, the only possible one is the AEC Routemaster (the RM - based on number produced), with precisely 15 coats of London Transport Red applied overall.

        Note that if the length appears extended, this is probably a small child* swinging off the pole and should not be counted.

        *Ah, happy memories....

        (thank you, the anorak please....)

        1. Vulch

          Handily, if you take the Flanders and Swann London Omnibus* and fill it with concrete the result is near enough to 100 ton(ne)s to visualise the Chelyabinsk meteor as being comprised of such Monarchs of the Road.

          * 30ft long by 10 ft wide. Not mentioned in the lyrics is 15ft tall making it easy to create a cube using 6 of them. NB Dimensions of actual buses may not be the same.

          1. OssianScotland Silver badge
            Pint

            How on earth did I forget the "big six wheeler, scarlet painted, ninety seven horsepower omnibus"

            Have a vBeer

        2. Vometia Munro

          I never wondered why there was a nice bouncy yellow plastic bin mounted at about 5' on a convenient lamp-post next to the local bus stop until I impatiently tried to jump off the still-moving and bounced off it. At which point I suddenly appreciated its cheerful yellow bounciness even if I did feel rather shame-faced in front of the seemingly unimpressed (though more likely "yeah, seem it all before") queue and driver.

          1. Vometia Munro

            Well done to me for both missing out perhaps the most important word (what I jumped off, i.e. the bus; admittedly it may be inferred, but nobody wants to do that much thinking to figure out what some fat halfwit is on about) and then wandering off to do something random during the perplexing 10 minute editing limit. It made sense in my head, anyway, and it may not have even managed that if not for the friendly yellow bin which was otherwise unused thanks to that "the entire world is your dustbin" ethos, but I digress.

        3. ICPurvis47 Bronze badge
          Holmes

          Old Pedant

          Actually, I think you'll find that there were more RTs (Regent Threes) than Routemasters, if you include all the derivatives such as RTW and RTL. 2876 RMs were built, compared with 6,956 RT and derivatives, consisting of 4,825 RTs; 1,631 RTLs and 500 RTWs (Wikipedia). I grew up with RTs, and remember the first batch of RMs being delivered to Barking Garage when I was at school in 1959.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It bugs me when TV presenters describe something being the size of x number of football pitches. As a non-sports fan; it still leaves me clueless. Besides, do they mean American football pitches or British football pitches and are they all the same size anyway? When I last played football (at infant school) I think the pitch was something like 50 feet by 100 feet.

      1. Strahd Ivarius Bronze badge

        "Man is the measure of all things" according to Protagoras.

        So you'd better specify the size of your feet :-)

      2. Zimmer

        Football pitches- not the same size.

        When marking out pitches for the local council in the 1960's (summer holiday job) the groundsperson *

        would ensure there was enough space for the penalty areas . The rest was mostly down to how much space was left and maximum dimensions allowed by the F.A.

        I remember one pitch had less than 3 feet from the penalty area to the touchline.

        (* I also remember him using the 3-4-5 rule with his string and stakes to ensure a right angle in the corners )

      3. batfink Silver badge

        It bugs me too, as a furriner who has lived in the UK a long time now.

        "The size of a football pitch" shouldn't be used as a measure. Officially in the UK, football (soccer) pitches are anywhere between 90 and 120m long and 45 to 90m wide. So (scribble, carry the four...) that's somewhere between 4,050m2 and 10,800m2. Doubtless the pub quiz experts here can tell us who has the biggest/smallest pitches.

        I've been arguing for many years with people who want to keep the Imperial system - particularly the area measures - rather than a sensible system. My usual ploy is to ask them "well how big is an acre?" and the standard answer seems to be "the size of a football pitch", which in fact vary from 1-2 acres, depending on whose ground you're playing at.

        Of course the correct answer to my question is "240 square rods, or or one furlong by one chain".

        1. graeme leggett

          thinking how to do it without a surveyors measure:

          Furlong = 1/8 of mile. 'Average' walking speed ~ 3 mph. So a rectangle 2.5 minutes walking in one direction by 15 or so seconds walk in the other?

          1. AMBxx Silver badge
            Boffin

            Football isn't important for measurement.

            Cricket & Rugby both use 22yds. Derived from a Chain. Much more civilized.

            1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

              A chain is more civilised? Dammit, I'm wondering if it should be renamed now given recent (good and long overdue) events.

              1. AMBxx Silver badge

                Wrong sort of chain (they do have other uses). This type was used by farmers for measuring land.

            2. Sam not the Viking

              The 22 and the 25

              Whilst cricket uses 22 yards (one chain), rugby union used to use 25 yards for the '25' now known as the '22-metre' line. I seem to remember, or was I told by my granddad?

        2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          +1

          I can't visualise an acre, but I can visualise 100m x 100m 'cos its marked out on maps innit. :)

        3. gerdesj Silver badge
          Windows

          "or or one furlong by one chain."

          One furlong by one rod (pole or perch.) Oxen are easier to prod with a rod than a chain. A chain is what a surveyor used to use for measuring length.

      4. onemark03

        British football pitches

        If we're talking football pitches, are we talking about soccer or rugby? (I am excluding American football and Aussie Rules football for the purposes of this argument).

        And if we're talking rugby, are we talking union (94 - 100 m long & 68-78 m wide: https://www.harrodsport.com/advice-and-guides/rugby-pitch-dimensions-markings) or league (112-122 m long & 68 m wide: https://www.harrodsport.com/advice-and-guides/rugby-league-pitch-dimensions-markings)?

        Just asking.

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: British football pitches

          (I am excluding American football and Aussie Rules football for the purposes of this argument).

          FTFY.

          1. DJO Silver badge

            Re: British football pitches

            As I recall "Australian Rules Football" is a misnomer, I understand there is only one rule and that is "No weapons without prior agreement"

        2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: British football pitches

          If we're talking football, that means we're talking about football.

          A simple game where a foot is used to act upon a ball.

          1. General Purpose

            Re: British football pitches

            A simple game.

            Now explain the offside rule.

            1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
              Happy

              Re: British football pitches

              The offside rule is easy. If your team have just scored a brilliant, well-deserved and much-needed goal - it will be incorrectly ruled offside. Or in more modern cases, given by the referee, in order to cruelly raise your hopes, then overruled in a farcical and long-drawn-out VAR process.

              On the other hand, due the to the dubious parentage of the referee and capriciousness of the sporting gods, the opposing team cannot under any circumstances be ruled offside, particularly when they blatantly are.

        3. Nick London
          Coat

          Re: British football pitches

          Sport England publish a document with pitch sizes

          https://sportengland-production-files.s3.eu-west-2.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/comparative-sizes-outdoor.pdf?_YRYzA3jqXXbMqySFXK0rqke5RP0RHRn

          I would have thought the same sizes apply to the rest of the United Kingdom, but who knows these days?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tine to redefine Pi(e)

    Well, I'm glad we got that sorted.

    Now we need the MPs to concentrate on a scientific issue that really matters:- Definining "Pie" as having pastry covering all sides. A circle of pastry on a bowl full of some meat in a sauce is *not* a pie. I *might* be persuaded to make a few exceptions, for dishes like fish pie (potato on top <> pastry) or lemon meringue pie (best with a biscuit base)...

    1. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: Tine to redefine Pi(e)

      Thank you.

      I always (used to) ask if it's a proper pie or a dish of meat and veg with a pastry lid thrown on top.

      This is WAAAYYY more important to define in law than any weights and measurement.

    2. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: Tine to redefine Pi(e)

      You're literally talking cobblers!

    3. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Tine to redefine Pi(e)

      Surely a pie has a lid, whereas a tart or flan does not?

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Tine to redefine Pi(e)

        The problem is that many establishments seem to think it's still a pie if it only has a lid, and nothing else.

        That's no pie.

    4. Someone Else Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Tine to redefine Pi(e)

      Now we need the MPs to concentrate on a scientific issue that really matters:- Definining "Pie" as having pastry covering all sides.

      I see you've ruled out all pizza as a "pie"...with the notable exception of Chicago-style deep dish!

      The Law of Unintended Consequences bites again!!! (tee-hee)

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Tine to redefine Pi(e)

        Of course

        Pizza is it's own food group. Don't want it confused with anything else.

    5. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: Tine to redefine Pi(e)

      But what about shepherd's pie?

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: Tine to redefine Pi(e)

        It's only Shepherds Pie if it contains actual shepherds.

        1. OssianScotland Silver badge

          Re: Tine to redefine Pi(e)

          Thay explains why the last cottage pie I ate was so crunchy. I thought the top had been grilled too long, but it was actually the bloody bricks!

      2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: Tine to redefine Pi(e)

        That's the exception that proves the rule!

      3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Tine to redefine Pi(e)

        Shepherd's pie gets in under the fish pie ruling, as above.

        My brother's pub has actually got this stated on his menus. He describes those half-arsed frozen puff pastry abominations as "casseroles with a pastry hat" - whereas he sells proper pies that he or the chef have made. Pleasingly square ones. The venison ones are particularly good.

        The other investigation we now need is into the herertic who downvoted the OP - and seemingly disagrees that pastry hats are an affront against all that is decent in the world.

  5. Noodle

    Pretty sure 1995 was 25 years ago, not 30.. unless you're ready this in 2025 and it's all good.

    Also, the early 2000s farce caused by those idiot market traders was hardly what held Britain back from adopting metric, considering the metric system was officially introduced in 1960s and I went to school in the late 80s where we were taught only in metric. I'd say more pure pig headed stubbornness in the face of change, which is a longstanding British tradition.

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      "I'd say more pure pig headed stubbornness in the face of change, which is a longstanding British tradition."

      It's partially stubbornness, but it's also familiarity. I know what a decent fuel economy is for a car in miles per gallon, not in litres per 100km. So I buy my petrol in litres and compute fuel efficiency in miles per gallon.

      1. IGotOut Silver badge

        Sorry but I partly agree with OP.

        I was educated in the 70s.

        The only thing I measure in imperial is miles/mpg.

        That is simply down to the fact that signs are in miles/yards and odometers are also in miles. No other reason.

        I couldn't tell you how many ounces are in a pound; pounds in a stone and stones in a whatever. Inches in a yard or yards in a mile.

        1. Graham Cunningham

          cwt

          y/w :)

          1. EvilDrSmith Bronze badge
            Happy

            Re: cwt

            Ah, a hundredweight. Which is 112lbs, obviously.

        2. Giles C Bronze badge

          Someone had to....

          16 ounces to the pound of 108.003 milijub

          14 pounds to the stone or 1.5119 jub

          8 stones in a hundredweight or 5.8397 adult badgers

          36 inches to the yard or 6.5317 linguine

          1760 yards to the mile or 174.5721 double decker buses

        3. Graham Dawson Silver badge

          16 ounces in a pound, 14 pounds in a stone, 160 stone in a long ton.

          360 inches in a yard, showing its very remote derivation from the base 60 counting system used by the ancient Sumerians. Don't talk to me about miles. They made more sense before Elizabeth fiddled with the definition.

          It was a mistake to settle on base 10, just because we have ten fingers. Base 12 is much more flexible.

          1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

            Miles make sense if you un-abolish the furlong. 220 yards for a furlong, 8 furlongs to a mile

            1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

              Revive the furlong! Cast on the chains of liberation!

              1. EvilDrSmith Bronze badge

                All ten of them, to the Furlong (Chains, that is)

                1. Outski
                  Headmaster

                  Which gives us the acre: a chain by a furlong, or what a man could reasonably be expected to plough in a day with a plough drawn by one horse, leaving one chain unploughed, but instead, mowed & rolled for a the village cricket team :o)

                  Side note: at my school, kicking someone in the swingers was known as making them a landowner - giving them two acres

                  1. H in The Hague Silver badge

                    Puny English measures.

                    In Scotland a pleuchgate was the area tilled by a team of eight oxen over a season: 104 Scots acres (which were larger than English acres) or 53 hectares. An oxgang was the contribution made by one of those oxen, i.e. 6.6 ha.

                    There also used to be a Scots mile of 2.29 km or 1.42 English miles.

                    Source: Dictionary of Scottish Building

                    1. eionmac

                      Owr lang Scots miles

                      See R Burn's poetry in Tam o'Shanter

                    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                      Lots of things in Scotland are better, bigger or longer lasting than in England. Take the Scottish pound note for example. They last forever and never wear out!

                      1. batfink Silver badge

                        That's because they're never used...

                      2. OssianScotland Silver badge

                        Yes, but are they moth-proof?

                        (enquiring minds etc....)

                    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
                      Happy

                      The Anglo Saxons had a much better measure. Which was the hide of land. Brilliant because it was defined as the amount of land needed to feed one family of unspecified size for a year. And was therefore totally dependent on local climate and farming conditions and had no definiable size.

                      We should base a measurement system on that, just to confuse the hell out of people.

              2. Emir Al Weeq

                When talking about vehicle economy I have been known to use furlongs/pint just to see how long it takes people to work it out.

            2. Dave559 Bronze badge

              Genuine question: how does (picks arbitrary numbers out of the air) 220 × 8 make any "sense"?

              A measurement system which seems to have as many different conversion factors as there are units, and which are mostly seemingly chosen at random, is just too confusing.

              Whereas a system where the only conversion factors are powers of 1000 (with logically extrapolated 10s and 100s thrown in at the human scale to be friendlier) is just nice and easy.

              1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

                8, and 12 are very useful numbers for basic mathmatics when it comes to dividing things up. If you have a regular size pizza are you likely to cut it into 10 or into 8?

                While 12 is a harder number to cut something into, it's a very convenient number as it's divisible by 2, 3 and 4 compared to 10 which is divisible only by 2 which makes it considerably less convenient when it comes to dividing things up.

                I can't think of an excuse for 220 though...

                1. Handel was a crank

                  Divide pizza? Sod that, this is my pizza, buy your own

                2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

                  220 is large because there's supposed to be something intermediate in the way - a chain is 22 yards, so it should really be:

                  1 yard = 3 ft

                  1 chain = 22yd

                  1 furlong = 10 chains

                  1 mile = 8 furlongs

                  I believe a chain is sized as it is because it was a useful unit in farming way back when. The modern imperial system was defined when the vast majority of people worked on farms.

          2. OssianScotland Silver badge

            "360 inches in a yard" ?????

            (unless it is my back yard)

          3. General Purpose

            There are only 36 inches in a yard, so any derivation from the base 60 counting system used by the ancient Sumerians is even more remote than you think.

            On the other hand, the 12 inches in a foot are clear evidence that ancient Britons were six-fingered.

            1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

              Typo. I blame technology!

              On the other topic, you can count to 12 on one hand. Use your thumb to count on your finger bones. The other hand can record multiples.

              1. Esme

                Only 12? Using binary, I can count to 31 (base 10) on one hand and 1023 (base 10) on both of 'em!

                1. Graham Dawson Silver badge
                  Pint

                  so can I, but my fingers get stiff.

            2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              "On the other hand, the 12 inches in a foot are clear evidence that ancient Britons were six-fingered."

              Six toed, Shirley?

            3. DiViDeD Silver badge

              Re: clear evidence that ancient Britons were six-fingered.

              Only the ancient ones? You've obviously not been up Merthyr Tydfil way in a while.

          4. batfink Silver badge

            But none of that is Base 12. Base 16 (or 8x2 if you like) for ounces->pounds, then 14 for pounds->stone, then 8 for stone->cwt.

            And I notice you're steering well clear of the area measures, which are a horrible hash of several different systems.

            There's nothing like consistency. And that's nothing like consistency.

            1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

              I never said it was. It was a separate statement.

              Think about it a moment: I talk about base 12 after mentioning a whole bunch of stuff that isn't base 12. How likely is it that I've moved on to a related, but separate topic?

          5. H in The Hague Silver badge

            "Don't talk to me about miles. "

            I though statute mile were "mille stadia" - 1000 double paces of a Roman soldier. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

            A while ago, while on a visit to Noviomagus (young people call it Chichester) I did measure my paces and discovered they were indeed approx. 0.8 m long, i.e. in accordance with that definition.

            And a nautical mile is one minute of latitude.

            1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

              I did measure my paces and discovered they were indeed approx. 0.8 m long,

              I think you may have measured your strides. A pace (from right foot at rest to right foot at rest again) is two strides, and closer to 5 feet (1.5m). A Roman mile was 1000 paces, not far off a modern statute mile of 5280 feet.

              1. Jonathan Richards 1
                Thumb Up

                Roman Mile

                ...is indeed a thousand paces (2000 steps) - it's right there in the name. On a long walk in Wiltshire several years ago along the still-straight footpath which follows the Fosse Way, I used GPS to measure the distance covered by 1000 paces at marching speed, and it was *very* close to 1.609 km/1 statute mile.

          6. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            And more useful in Norfolk

          7. this

            er, 36 inches in a yard.

            1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

              Typo, like I said upthread.

        4. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

          I was educated in the 70s.... I couldn't tell you how many .... pounds in a stone

          I'm skeptical. Did you go out of your way not to learn that?

          For any left-pondians it's 14, which is why a British hundredweight is 112lb / 8 st, which in turn is why our tons are different - they're both defined as 20 hundredweight.

          1. Spanners Silver badge
            Boffin

            Me too

            I finished school in 1978. When I started college, one of the first lectures was to teach us the "imperial system" as knowing little about it was the norm.

            I seem to remember laughter and incredulity that this supposed system expected us to take it seriously. The only bits I remember are barleycorn(0), inch, hand(1), foot yard, chain(2) and mile.

            (0) Because it is funny

            (1) My grandfather kept ponies and this is one 9th of a yard

            (2) Length of a cricket pitch

            The only one of those I remember being of any use was the fact that there were 63,360 inches in a mile. Why? Ordinance survey maps before they went to a less insane scale of 1 to 50,000!

            No. If your school had any intention of turning out useful members of society, it made perfect sense not to fill your head with a load of mediaeval junk. If, on the other hand, you wanted to avoid the 20th century and later, then imperial measures are for you! Please hand in your phone, TV, computer, any clothing with man made fabrics to the time guardian as you leave on your horse and buggy.

            1. heyrick Silver badge

              Re: Me too

              "not to fill your head with a load of mediaeval junk"

              While we're discussing old stuff, what the hell is with prices on old books written something like 1'4/-?

              1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

                Re: Me too

                That's Harry Potter wizard money. Galleons, Sickles, and Knuts. "There are 17 Sickles in a Galleon, and 29 Knuts in a Sickle, meaning there are 493 Knuts to a Galleon" (obviously!)

                Only in the United Kingdom though! If you see prices like that elsewhere, it just means there is, at the risk of using offensive language, a loony. (Which is a Canadian coin worth one dollar, but only in Canada.)

              2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

                Re: Me too

                what the hell is with prices on old books written something like 1'4/-?

                If you think that's bad, my grandfather was an insurance agent, he had wonderful ready-reckoner tables to calculate things like 3.5% of £2. 3s. 6½d

              3. Emir Al Weeq

                Re: Me too

                One pound, four shillings and no pence. That's an expensive book for its time.

                1. Outski

                  Re: Me too

                  one shilling & fourpence, surely

              4. Dave559 Bronze badge

                £sd

                "While we're discussing old stuff, what the hell is with prices on old books written something like 1'4/-?"

                [You are, I hope, kidding that you don't know what this means? We got taught about it, in passing, in history lessons at school (hehe).]

                It's (just) before my time, but it's slightly horrifying to realise/learn that £sd was the currency system of the UK (and, correspondingly, Ireland), and previously also other members of the British Commonwealth (who had the good sense to convert (and go metric) sooner), until "relatively" recently, "only"(?) 50 years ago next February.

                If you're young enough, it's extremely surreal to dredge around online video archives from just before "decimalisation" and chortle at (some) people being confused by the "new money", when instead it's the bizarre "old money" that confuses our brains instead! I doubt that anyone old enough to have lived through it would want to go back, however, which makes it all the more strange that the conversion to metric stalled and has dragged out for sooo loonnngggg…

                1. doublelayer Silver badge

                  Re: £sd

                  Well, as a young person and never lived in the U.K., I was always very confused about old British money. There are still coins I'm not exactly sure how much they were, which often leaves me disoriented if I'm reading old British literature. It's similar to how I felt when Jules Verne reported all the measurements in his book in leagues, sometimes clarified as French leagues and times such as two o'clock in the evening, which I still don't understand. Standardization is very nice.

                  1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

                    Re: £sd

                    Two o'clock in the evening? That's a new one on me.

                    On the other hand it's still common to see such idiocy as 12am or 12pm. These are impossible times and do not exist, the interpretation is down to context of use and if you follow the numberical flow from am to pm makes even less sense. Just like zero is neither positive or negative, 12 o'clock is either the meridian or the two equidistant points in time from the meridian, therefore neither can be considers before or after the meridian. While clarifying them as 12 midday and 12 midnight helps, this only works for the 12 midday case because 12 midnight is precisely between two days therefore it is not clear to which it applies, for example, is 12 midnight a Tuesday or a Wednesday? The solution for this nonsense has been around for quite a long time now - it's called the 24 hour clock.

                    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                      Re: £sd

                      Actually, the common solution is to use 1 minute past 12 as the start point of anything that happens over night.

                    2. Julian Bradfield

                      Re: £sd

                      The interpretation is standardized, and fairly easy to remember. All times starting with 12pm apart from 12:00:00.000000.... are after noon, and all times starting with 12am apart from 12:00:00.000000.... are before noon. (Except of course in Murrica, where the Government Printing Office adopted the opposite convention until they finally saw the light in 2008.)

                      Then, 12:00:00... am is made consistent with that, and has to be the start of the following day, because it's "before noon".

                    3. keith_w Bronze badge

                      Re: £sd

                      My father got caught by that when he was told to start a new job at midnight Sunday. When he showed up at midnight Sunday he was told that he should have started the night before. What made it worse was he was not the first to have had this issue. One would have thought that mangelment would have learned.

                2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

                  Re: £sd

                  chortle at (some) people being confused by the "new money",

                  I just remember being incensed that a 5d bag of crisps was now 2½p, a 20% increase without any more crisps in the bag (I was about 10 years old...).

                  makes it all the more strange that the conversion to metric stalled and has dragged out for sooo loonnngggg

                  I think that's more down to familiarity. People who grew up with buying "half a stone" of potatoes had a mental image of that quantity which 3kg didn't give them. With decimalisation a Pound was still a Pound.

                  1. Kobus Botes

                    Re: £sd

                    @ Phil O'Sophical

                    ...a 20% increase without any more crisps in the bag...

                    This reminds me of a joke that did the rounds when we (South Africa) moved to the metric system in '63 (I read it many years later, but can still remember pounds, shillings and pence (plus tickeys - 2 1/2 pennies).

                    There was this farmer who bitterly complained about how badly he was affected by it, as his farm was now almost twice as far from town, his fuel consumption has gone through the roof, his crops were halved, everything was twice as expensive (R2 to the pound), whilst his farm shrank by 15%. (We used morgen as the unit of area - https://www.convertunits.com/from/morgen+[South+Africa]/to/hectare).

              5. eionmac

                Re: Me too

                L (Libra =Pounds); Shillings S =12 pence, Denarius d = Pence Hence

                LSD £1/12/10 one pound, 12 shillings and 10 pence

                Brilliant for computer work as no rounding errors ( 1.0000... 001) in sums on computer.

                For accountancy accuracy, we avoided ten. somethjing in spreadsheets remember 64,000 error?

                1. Outski
                  Headmaster

                  Re: Me too

                  S is for Solidus, which evolved into the shilling/schilling over time

            2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

              Re: Me too

              I finished school in 2002. However because imperial units are (still) partly the standard units used in informal usage in the UK, I absorbed them from parents and grandparents.

              I've noticed a disturbing trend in the last couple of years where my younger friends ( in their mid 20's ) have started referring to their weight in kilograms, which makes absolutely no sense.

              Fortunately people are still measured in feet and inches.

              1. batfink Silver badge

                Re: Me too

                Why does referring to your weight in kilos make no sense? There are plenty of countries around the world that get by just fine with kilos.

                I'm the opposite. I have no idea what my weight is in the strange system of stones and pounds. Why would you go with something like "13st 10 pounds" rather than something like "87.3kg"? Even the American system of just using pounds makes more sense.

                1. phuzz Silver badge

                  Re: Me too

                  I only know my weight in kilos, but I'll admit that in some respects 'stones' make more sense.

                  Mostly because your weight can vary up to a couple of kilos between eating and defecting*, so kilos are too precise.

                  Still, if I'm going to be doing any maths at all, I'll use SI units and thus stidestep all the random "base twelve, no sixteen!" of Imperial units.

                  * I once measured a 2.1kg reduction in my weight after one visit to the toilet, of which I am unaccountably proud.

                2. AndrueC Silver badge

                  Re: Me too

                  Same here. I am 1.81 metres tall and weigh approximately 78kg.

                  The only time I use imperial units are when driving and when playing golf. I keep meaning to change the latter but I have enough problems on the course as it is without suddenly switching from yards to metres. It's surprising how much of a difference it makes.

                  1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                    Re: Me too

                    "switching from yards to metres. It's surprising how much of a difference it makes."

                    ~10% :-)

                  2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

                    Re: Me too

                    But if you're 1.81 metres tall, you can't tell anybody in England how tall you are.

                    The point of standards is mutual understanding. Everybody understands that you're 5'2 or whatever 1.81m is equivalent to. Nobody has any idea what 1.81m looks like in a person.

                    1. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      Re: Me too

                      "Nobody has any idea what 1.81m looks like in a person."

                      Shuuure...

                      I guess you must have been daydreaming that week in primary school when the class was doing rough measurements with the metre stick (you know, it's like yard stick, but can be divided into 10ths, 100ths, 1000ths more easily (spoiler: there's a reason for that)) to get a feel for measurement.

                      You know how big a metre is (you really should do, otherwise there's no hope for you).

                      The metre stick is delineated into alternating decimetre sections (ie, 10 cm), so if you can count as far as 10 (you can, can't you?) you can work out how much 8/10ths of a metre is.

                      The final centimetre, you should recognise from the ruler on your desk.

                      But, in reality, the only person who needs to know their height to centimetre accuracy is that person themself. In other situations (eg, trying to describe someone to somebody else, you might say they were "about 180 - 190 cm tall").

                      1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

                        Re: Me too

                        I know how far 2m is. I know how far 1m is.

                        However there are small differences between tall people and short people that the metric system does not grasp.

                        I could have a good think about it and say that 1.8m is about 6'. But if you're making the listener think about what you're talking about then you're doing it wrong.

                        The difference between 5'8 and 6' is the difference between slightly short and slightly tall. Yet that isn't clear when you're using your fashionable units.

                      2. ICPurvis47 Bronze badge
                        Boffin

                        Re: Me too

                        "divided into 10ths, 100ths, 1000ths"

                        My father once related a tale of an old engineer where he worked, who was asked "How many Thou are there in an inch?", to which he replied "Dunno, must be millions of the little buggers".

              2. heyrick Silver badge

                Re: Me too

                "referring to their weight in kilograms, which makes absolutely no sense"

                What's wrong with it? It's a straightforward linear measurement that is precise enough not to require weirdness.

                When I was young, I weighed stones and pebbles, I mean pounds. How many pounds in a stone? Flippin' 14. Weirdness.

                Myself, I pretty much always measured in kilograms, and usually round it off to the nearest five as the increased accuracy isn't that important in the day to day use of body weight. You know what's "normal" for you.

                "Fortunately people are still measured in feet and inches."

                That has always been centimetres. Yup, leading to charts in school (back in the 80s) with my weight in dumb measurements and my height in metric. {sigh}

                1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
                  Boffin

                  Re: Me too

                  > "referring to their weight in kilograms, which makes absolutely no sense"

                  > What's wrong with it? It's a straightforward linear measurement that is precise enough not to require weirdness.

                  I'm surprised no one here has leapt at the chance of a bit of SI pedantry and pointed out that 'weight in kilograms' makes no sense because kilograms are a measure of mass.

              3. Noodle

                Re: Me too

                The younger people are the ones making sense here, using the standard system of weight measurement used in almost every country on Earth apart from the UK and USA. As an ex-pat now living in a fully metric country I can tell you the rest of the world looks at the UKs continued use of archaic measurement systems such as "stones" and "pints" in bemusement and as confirmation that it's a country firmly stuck in the past.

                1. Richard 12 Silver badge
                  Pint

                  Re: Me too

                  Pints are a good measure of beer. For some reason 568ml seems to be a good amount.

                  Half a litre is "a bit small", while a litre is definitely a too much in one go. I wouldn't use it for anything else.

                  Perhaps 750ml might be a good compromise, we should do some experiments.

                  1. Andytug

                    Re: Me too

                    Or the 660ml (double 330) bottles many lagers are sold in.

                    750ml is already a bottle in wine and spirits terms so would work best I think.

                  2. OssianScotland Silver badge
                    Holmes

                    Re: Me too

                    Half a litre is "a bit small", while a litre is definitely a too much in one go

                    ISTR George Orwell used exactly that line in 1984 (the novel, not the instruction manual)

                  3. batfink Silver badge

                    Re: Me too

                    Agreed on the beer, but I would venture that 500ml and 1 litre would be good sizes for wine bottles IMO. I think that 500ml is enough for a glass each for two people, or enough for one person over dinner. Twice that if you're going to get more serious. However I find 750ml falls unfortunately somewhere in the middle.

                    1. OssianScotland Silver badge

                      Re: Me too

                      Forcing you (OK, probably not much forcing necessary) to order another bottle....

                      .... after which, the third bottle becomes much, much easier

                2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

                  Re: Me too

                  The problem of different languages is far more dividing than the problem of different but easily convertible measurement systems.

                  I can't speak Flemmish, but I could, if I wanted, convert feet to metres for a Belgian.

                  If the EU had a point it would have mandated English as a first language for every member state before it started thinking about weights and measures.

                3. batfink Silver badge

                  Re: Me too

                  Thank you Noodle for referring to me as one of the "younger people" :)

            3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

              Re: Me too

              barleycorn(0)...

              (0) Because it is funny

              And also the basic measure of a shoe size. The difference between size 9 and size 10 is 1 barleycorn, of which there are 3 to the inch.

            4. MJI Silver badge

              Re: Me too

              Old measurements

              mpg of course as for some wierd reason l/km in not used.

              I also use foot on railway vehicles as 1 foot = 4mm

              1. gnasher729 Silver badge

                Re: Me too

                Mpg has the psychological advantage that more is better. l/km isn’t used because the numbers are too small, so we use l/100km. Still much smaller numbers, and bigger is worse.

                1. Richard 12 Silver badge

                  Re: Me too

                  Why is it not km/l?

                  Honest question. It seems very weird.

                  My wild guess would be to make sure the numbers are wildly different so you can't confuse them, which also has the problem that the numbers are wildly different so you can't understand the "other one".

                  Unlike say metres and yards, which are similar enough that for many human-scale purposes it doesn't matter.

              2. ICPurvis47 Bronze badge
                Happy

                Re: Me too

                On my railway, 1 foot = 16mm :-)

            5. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Me too

              Yes, the modern electronics era has universally adopted metric sizing. Except electronics of course where microchip pin-spacings are measured in inches.

        5. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

          As usual, the USofA is even worse

          they still use 'cords' as a measure of wood volume.

          Hands up any Brits who can (without looking it up) tell is now many m3 one cord is?

          1. heyrick Silver badge

            Re: As usual, the USofA is even worse

            Here in France, they use stère (a cubic metre) and corde (either 3 or 4 cubic metres depending upon where you are) for measuring cut firewood.

          2. eionmac

            Re: As usual, the USofA is even worse

            'twas defined in my army manuals for engineering.

          3. keith_w Bronze badge

            Re: As usual, the USofA is even worse

            As I recall, a bush cord of wood is 4ft x 4ft x 4ft or 64 cubic feet, or 1.8 cubic meters. A face cord, where the wood is cut to 16 inches to fit in a wood burning stove or fireplace is 1.33ft x 4ft x4ft or 21.28 cu ft. is .60 cubic meters (approximately).

        6. not.known@this.address Silver badge
          Coat

          1440Kl in one ton of LHyd fuel.

          Mine's the one with the Suleiman and Beowulf patches on...

        7. Someone Else Silver badge

          I couldn't tell you how many ounces are in a pound; pounds in a stone and stones in a whatever. Inches in a yard or yards in a mile.

          Well, I actually remember most of those...but the one I'm most interested in would be stones in a London double-decker bus.

          Wait! Am I mixing my measures?

        8. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          I'm the same although I also measure people in imperial measurements and if you asked me how tall I was in metres I just wouldn't be able to answer. Same goes for weight, although as I don't own any people scales that's a moot point. Amusingly enough I couldn't even say for sure how many pounds in a stone nor ounces in a pound therefore all human weights are in wholes and fractions for me.

          It's also worth noting that the US is one of only three backwards countries in the world not to use SI (metric) measurements as a standard, although their scientists are doing so more and more as talking in the same measurement scales as the rest of the planet is pretty important. American engineers are occasionally catching on more now, but only in some fields of engineering.

          1. Lars Silver badge
            Coat

            The US Army adopted the metric system years ago.

        9. Rich 11 Silver badge

          <smug>

          I couldn't tell you how many ounces are in a pound; pounds in a stone and stones in a whatever. Inches in a yard or yards in a mile.

          I was educated on the 70s too. Fortunately my education appears to have been a little more complete.

          </smug>

          Actually I'm much more concerned about kids educated in the 21st century rather than my contemporaries. The lad in WH Smiths who had to ask his mate if half a dozen was six, when I asked for some stamps, won't be getting my support for Chancellor of the Exchequer.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: <smug>

            "I was educated on the 70s too. Fortunately my education appears to have been a little more complete."

            Same here. We started with imperial, then switched to metric but used both. Partly because no matter how much anyone wished it so, there was no way our measurement system could be completely decimalised overnight as we later did with money (I was in junior school when that happened, 8 or 9 years old). I'm ok with metres and kilograms, but I still have issues with smaller metric weights. eg buying from the deli counter in 100/200/300 grams when I can easily visualise "a quarter of breaded ham", "a half of smoked bacon" etc.

            And of course, even now, you still come across imperial based measurements, especially in older houses or machinery.

        10. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          IGotOut,

          I was educated in the 80s - and we did our science in metric. Which I'm perfectly comfortable with. I can't now remember if what little cookery we did was done in metric or imperial - but in that case the greatest influence on me was Mum. She cooked in imperial and that's still how I think when planning a meal - if following a recipe it'll be metric - but when buying meat or fruit and veg I still estinmate in imperial and convert if forced to buy that way. It's not like converting 3/41b into kg is hard.

          If I'm doing DIY, then the influence on me was Dad. Again, of an older school who thought in imperial. So that's how I mostly estimate distances, and the foot and inch are more convenient for imprecise measurements that mm, cm or m anyway. If I'm working out how much paint I need, or measuring precisely, then I'll use metric.

          For work it's metric all the way. I measure water in litres, because 1,000L is a convenient 1m³ of water that conveniently also gives you a nice 1000kg. Pressure should be in bar, because the numbers are smaller, and litres per second is easier than gallons per minute.

          I saw a survey in the Eurozone a couple of years ago that said that more than half of people still translate how much stuff costs into their original currencies to work out how much it should be, despite the Euro having been with us for two decades! I know I did it when I lived in Belgium, but then I had the disadvantage that I was only just getting used to the Belgian franc when they unsportingly turned them all into Euros while I was in Blightly visiting my family over Christmas/New Year.

          It's not so much stubborness, as people being slow to change the ways they think. Especially when you're doing that kind of sense-checking estimation in your head that tells you if a proper calculation is actually in the right ball-park. Neither is it a uniquely British thing. It's simply people being people.

      2. MrBanana

        "So I buy my petrol in litres and compute fuel efficiency in miles per gallon."

        I also buy my petrol in litres, but stubbornly refuse to compute the fuel efficiency of my 6.0L V12 in any unit - "frightening" is enough to cover it.

        1. OssianScotland Silver badge

          gallons per mile probably covers it

          1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

            'Cos my car does 45mpg and 4.54 litres is one gallon, that means 1 litre is 10 miles, so when filling up I mentally fill up with "300 miles" of petrol.

      3. Sean o' bhaile na gleann

        I can't say when Ireland actually 'went metric', but when I was there in early 2004 the area around Cork was still in the throes of conversion.

        Road signs giving distances in miles vs. speed limits in km//hr made for some interesting navigation...

        1. MJI Silver badge

          First time I drove in Ireland I was doing 80mph down a main road thinking brilliant!

          Our customers told me km/h

          1. Kristian Walsh

            I once took a car for a test-drive without realising that my local dealer had sourced it from the UK.

            I thought it was surprisingly sluggish to get up to 120 until the sun caught the part of the dial that said "MPH". Oops. (Cars in Ireland are sold with km/h-only speedometers)

            Luckily for me, nobody from the Traffic Corps was around that day..

        2. Dave559 Bronze badge

          Road signs in Ireland

          Road signs in Ireland went fully metric in 2005, but newly-erected distance road signs had been switched to km some time before, so that there were would be fewer signs needing converted by the time of the final switchover, canny! (And to think that Britain likes to think that it's the Irish who are the daft ones?)

      4. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble? Silver badge

        I know what a decent fuel economy is for a car in miles per gallon, not in litres per 100km. So I buy my petrol in litres and compute fuel efficiency in miles per gallon.

        <GrandpaSimpson>My car gets forty rods to the hogshead and that's how I like it!</GrandpaSimpson>

        1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          The last time I was in the US a Scottish colleague was discussing MPG of vehicles with a local and the American was proud of his vehicle being approximately the same MPG as the British equivalent. Until we realised that one was saying 17 MPG and the other 70 MPG... The American's jaw dropped.

      5. Terry 6 Silver badge

        It's also that some metric ( and decimal) measures are a tad clumsy.

        A litre is too bloody small a volume for measuring petrol. No one ever puts a litre of petrol in a car.

        The jump from cm to m is too big when measuring height. 5' 8" is easier to say ( and visualise, I think) than 172cm or 1m 772cm.

        A kilometre is a bit too small when measuring journeys, arguably. But is reasonable for the purpose. People seem to use Km quite happily.

        And use degrees C with no problem at all for the most part.

        But a litre is too big for a swift pint, and who'd want to ask for half a litre? The phrase is just too clumsy and rather prissy sounding. ( Also a good linguistic rule of thumb is that people use the fewest and easiest syllables they can. Pint works better here than litre). And should you just want a half with your lunch, "Could I have 0.3 of a litre of your best ale please, landlord..." No.Just no.

        Part of the problem was when they decimalised our money ( not a moment too soon imo) they determinedly set out to remove the familiar intermediate units instead of allowing them to fade slowly - or not as the case might be. These did no harm and were useful. A shilling is a shilling whether it's 5p or 12d. Saying "5 shillings" instead of 25p or "10 bob" instead of "50p" hurts no one and if it stopped being useful or clear would have gone the way of all things. But it provided useful intermediate units. "What, 5 bob for a bar of chocolate!" Sounds better than " What, 25p...etc.". I doubt these units would have been used for precise amounts, which would have encouraged a natural demise. But simply going out of their way to discourage the humble friendly shilling and its derivatives was counterproductive.

        And I'd argue made people less amenable to losing pints\feet/lbs and so on.

        1. Ken 16 Silver badge

          I've had no problems drinking half litres of beer in Germany and any problem with litres of beer is not due to difficulty ordering

        2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          With regards to beer, the Czechs keep it simple - "velký pivo*" = "large/big beer" = a half-litre, "malý pivo" is whatever the smaller glass is (300ml?).

          *or insert name of beer or strength (jedenactku = 11° = fairly weak, třinactku = 13° = strong)

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      I went to school through the 80s and was thankfully taught logical measurements.

      I mean, Imperial might have been okay if it was consistent, but 12 of this and 16 of that...

      1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        It's not as if it's complicated, although I've learned that asking a young shop assistant for a quarter of eclairs will get you a funny look.

        1. IGotOut Silver badge

          Yeah, next time, try a sweet shop, not the bakers. Otherwise, they just think you're a tight ass.

    3. IGotOut Silver badge

      Then, of course, there are Ems and Ens and the joys of printing measurements that are obviously divisions of 96.

      Then we have paper sizes.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        No they're not, a point is 1/72 of an inch.

        1. Nick Ryan Silver badge
          WTF?

          Please don't get me started on the wretched horror that is the Windows printing sub-system. Other than inexplicably missing half of the important information therefore either relying on guesses or custom drivers, the units in use are not consistent requiring a library of conversions between one API call and the next. Not helped as the American's who came up with it are under the deluded impression that the entire world uses American paper sizes and measurements and therefore the accuracy is based on these units of measure, nothing more accurate. You can still this now if you set a margin to a nice round value in metric, Windows will re-round it to the nearest imperial measurement and convert it back.

          1. Andytug

            Is that also the reason why it inexplicably keeps reverting to "Letter" instead of A4, especially if the paper guides aren't 100% spot on the marks?

          2. keith_w Bronze badge

            I dunno what you are doing, but I just checked my print set up and find that the margins are showing in metric, not imperial, even though the paper is set to "letter". Possibly your regional settings are set incorrectly for this.

        2. 2+2=5 Silver badge
          Pint

          > No they're not, a point is 1/72 of an inch

          Actually a point is .013836 inch, so 72 points are .996264 inches. Which didn't really matter when typesetting was done by hand, but when Adobe introduced PostScript, points were rounded up to exactly 72 per inch.

          [icon: nearly a point, in Scrabble terms]

      2. OssianScotland Silver badge

        Then we have paper sizes.

        A Sizes are actually perfectly logical, and rather elegant

        A0 is precisely 1m2, but in a ratio* of 1: root 2, then each subsequent size halves the long dimension of the previous one, maintaining the ratio.

        I can't speak to the B or C sizes, and of course left-pondian ones are just plain wierd

        *I had it in my head it was the golden ratio, but a quick wiki showed me the error of my ways

      3. Ken 16 Silver badge

        I just vaguely remember a Double Elephant is bigger than an A0

    4. AndrueC Silver badge

      I went to school in the late 80s where we were taught only in metric.

      I went to school in the early 70s and was only taught metric. That might have been because the school - Blackfirs in Congleton - was newly built and only opened the year before (my brother was in the first ever intake). But still, I don't understand why anyone under the age of 50 struggles with the metric system and especially not why so many of that age or younger prefer the imperial system.

      It's always struck me as something of a systemic failure.

      1. MrBanana

        I was right on that cusp - just learnt some weird system with 14 of this 16 of that, 220 wosnames to a pound. Then I got given a pack of "snap" cards to teach me the equivalences in a magical new system. I think I was nine, I wanted to shoot the lot of them.

    5. gnasher729 Silver badge

      I still have fond memories of a carpet shop, where I had measured my room as 13 foot 11 inch, and their PFY entered 13.11 x 0.3048 into their calculator to find out how long it was...

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Curtains

        A friend recently measured her window for new curtains, and gave the measurements to her daughter who worked in a department store and could use her staff discount to get them made up for what turned out to be a very reasonable price.

        When the lass brought the curtains home, they were too small by a factor of 2.54.

  6. 2+2=5 Silver badge
    Joke

    Only true boffins...

    > Only true boffins will be able to grasp Blighty's new legal definitions of the humble metre and kilogram

    Are you suggesting that MPs were voting on a legislation change which they may not have understood? I'm shocked, shocked I tell you.

    1. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Re: Only true boffins...

      I'm shocked, shocked I tell you.

      Well, not that shocked.

      I expect a fair few dozed in the benches until it was time for the party whips to herd them to vote with the electric cattle prods.

      1. Primus Secundus Tertius

        Re: Only true boffins...

        The European Parliament, to which we no longer subscribe, had it well organised. Votes were at fixed pre-arranged times. An MEP would turn up shortly before, receive his or her orders from the party, then proceed to her or his democratic duty.

        1. Lars Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Only true boffins...

          The European Parliament.........

          That is a lot of rubbish, the MEPs are elected in their own countries, the group they decide to join in the EP has has no real power over a MEP except that there is power in teamwork. MEPs tend to have their own field of greater interest and the rest they expect their team to master. The voting system is modern and rapid, a few minutes per voting and nothing like the medieval system with people wandering around like in a circus like in the British Parliament.

          The EP is not a two party system with one party ruling the roost.

    2. Just Enough

      Re: Only true boffins...

      I don't care much if they don't understand it. Just as long as they have taken guidance from those qualified to understand it. MPs cannot be expected to be experts in all fields.

      It's once they start to reckon they know it all and "have had enough with experts" that the trouble starts.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: Only true boffins...

        Easily fixed. Hire a new "expert" that produces the correct results. Repeat as necessary if the new "expert" produces a report that reflects reality and not political desires.

      2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        Re: Only true boffins...

        You're using that quote in a way that suggests it to mean something other than the way it was spoken.

        It referred to experts of "the dismal science". Ie: Mystic Meg with an abacus.

        It didn't refer to masters of the hard sciences.

    3. Primus Secundus Tertius

      Re: Only true boffins...

      The -1 superscript in s(-1), equivalent of Hz, will bamboozle a lot of politicians and journalists.

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Only true boffins...

      Ignorance of the law is no defence. So, to be safe from inadvertent transgressions, we not only need to be lawyers but physicists too!

  7. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Woza
      Joke

      and a rover crashed into Mars using both!

      1. Strahd Ivarius Bronze badge
        Trollface

        Don't forget that this mishap occurred only when there was no more German scientist working for the NASA and they had to employ US ones who knew only imperial units...

      2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        The moderators deleted that post, can you believe it?

        This truly is the end times.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          > The moderators deleted that post, can you believe it?

          You mean the post that made a gratuitous and wholly unnecessary reference to Nazi concentration camps? Yes, I can believe it.

          1. OssianScotland Silver badge
            WTF?

            This is not the BBC Have Your Say, or even the Daily Fail comments sections. As El Reg readers and commentators, we should be allowed to see even "gratuitous and wholly unnecessary" posts and respond appropriately, whether through the voting or through responses. We are not snowflakes who need protection from the "wrong" opinions.

            (Deliberately not going AC, although I may regret it....)

            1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

              Amusingly my account was banned from The Guardian the day after the election for politely posting that I was pleased with the election result.

              Unfortunately El Reg seems to be heading in the same vague direction ever since it decided to go left wing to chase the student readership.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                This would be the same Guardian (want to type Grauniad) that, in the 1860's as the Manchester Guardian, was pro the Confederacy and pro slavery?

                Amazing how time heals some things but not others.

                1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

                  Yes correct. The same Guardian that was in favour of forcing workers back into work who were striking against the use of slave picked cotton.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              > we should be allowed to see even "gratuitous and wholly unnecessary"

              The original post was a one-liner designed to provoke a dog whistle response. While I fully understand that everyone here can identify it for what it is, I reported it for two reasons:

              1) I read the comments for the viewpoints of those involved with the technologies discussed in the articles. I don't want to read long threads about racism - there are plenty of other forums for that.

              2) If El Reg gets a reputation for being tolerant then the news will spread, the comments will become inundated with racists and we'll lose a great site.

              1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge
                Facepalm

                So you're responsible?

                I didn't write the post so I can only guess at the motivations but it didn't appear to be written to "provide a dog whistle response" (defined as anything a left-wing reader disagrees with).

                1: It wasn't about racism. It was a surreal joke about the metric system being used for evil as though it was responsible. If you are still confused, nobody is saying the metric system was responsible, in whole or in part, for what that post referred to.

                2: El Reg used to be tolerant to people with a sense of humor. Unfortunately about two years ago they pivoted from grown up and funny to... something else. Hopefully the news of this won't continue spread because then it'll attract more people who think that jokes are for reporting rather than either laughing at or not.

                Did you really honestly confuse that joke with "racism"?

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  > (defined as anything a left-wing reader disagrees with).

                  If you want reasoned discourse then comments like this preclude you.

                  > 1: It wasn't about racism. It was a surreal joke about the metric system being used for evil as though it was responsible. If you are still confused, nobody is saying the metric system was responsible, in whole or in part, for what that post referred to.

                  You describe it as a joke. Technically maybe, but instead of sticking with the "its what got mars express to the surface" or something like that, it brought race and a direct insult to the German people into the conversation. That's not a joke, that's racism.

                  > 2: El Reg used to be tolerant to people with a sense of humor.

                  It still is.

                  > Did you really honestly confuse that joke with "racism"?

                  Did you really honestly confuse that racism with a "joke"?

                  1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

                    > "If you want reasoned discourse then comments like this preclude you."

                    If you want reasoned discourse then don't use the phrase "dog whistle" to define something you don't like.

                    > "You describe it as a joke. "

                    I described a joke as a joke, correct.

                    > "Technically maybe, but instead of sticking with the "its what got mars express to the surface" or something like that"

                    Then it wouldn't be a joke anymore. As it was intended to be a joke, that would be a negative change.

                    > "It brought race and a direct insult to the German people into the conversation."

                    No it didn't. It insulted a system of measurement, but as the metric system doesn't have feelings it doesn't really matter.

                    Even so, are the Germans so feeble and pathetic that they need you to be their keyboard commando?

                    > "Did you really honestly confuse that racism with a "joke"?"

                    There wasn't any racism in it.

                    You've also demonstrated that you don't know what a joke is, given that there isn't a discernable punchline in "its what got mars express to the surface" or something like that".

                    Have you lost a bet that requires you to pretend innocent things are racist?

              2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

                Also I've put this in a separate post because you will report it and it will surely be deleted:

                It was a joke, not a dick. Don't take it so hard.

  8. DrBobK
    Headmaster

    Candela

    What is the new full definition of the Candela? It is an interesting SI unit because it is not defined wholly in physical terms. It is a psychophysical unit in that it takes into account the function relating the sensitivity of the human visual system to lights of different wavelengths (V(lambda)). There should only be one wavelength where the candela can be defined wholly physically, for every other wavelength that value (in watts per steradian - that's where you can get the caesium atom transitions and fractions of the speed of light in) there must be multiplication by V(lambda). Someone just has to measure that (V(lambda)) with real people by asking them to make judgements about the relative brightness of lights of different colours (wavelengths). How is that bit (measurement of V(lambda)) now defined?

    1. David Shaw

      Re: Candela

      ask NPL in Teddington?, I got them to admit privately last November that the ur-Kilo’s had been losing weight, and that wasn’t understood...

      1. ChrisElvidge
        Joke

        Re: Candela

        It's the caesium in the ur-kilo (see article) that's decaying.

    2. General Purpose

      Re: Candela

      Since 2019, the candela's been "defined by taking the fixed numerical value of the luminous efficacy of monochromatic radiation of frequency 540 × 1012 Hz, Kcd, to be 683 when expressed in the unit lm W–1,

      which is equal to cd sr W–1, or cd sr kg–1 m–2 s3, where the kilogram, metre and second are

      defined in terms of h, c and ΔνCs" which provides a standard even if it leaves the challenge of determining luminous efficacy at other wavelengths.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Candela

        Someone needs to explain that to car headlight manufactures. And maybe the people in charge of the laws relating to vehicle construction. IIRC, use of lights on a vehicle in such a way as to dazzle or distract other road uses is illegal. Yet it seems some cars are built in such a way, and with such bright lights, that the driver can't avoid breaking that law, eg the "camera flash" effect from some cars going over a bump or brow of a hill.

        1. Andytug

          Re: Candela

          Isn't that because the contruction/use regs still specify the max in terms of power consumption (55/65 watts) which is only relevant to halogen/incandescent bulbs, not LED, gas discharge or Xenon/HID? A 55W LED light is about 4-500W in brightness.

  9. DHBI

    Oh dear...poor use of symbols and units

    The notation of /s and s<sup>-1</sup> are used in the same paragraph to indicate per second (be consistent!), and it appears that the character "v" (for vendetta) has replaced the greek character "nu" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nu_(letter)), the SI unit for frequency. Who proof-read this? (not someone with a GCSE/O-level in Physics, clearly!)

    1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Oh dear...poor use of symbols and units

      Her Britannic Majesty's government did the proof-reading, on account of the big bits in bold in the article being direct copy-n-pastes from the Statutory Instrument.

      It's quite literally the law.

      1. heyrick Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Oh dear...poor use of symbols and units

        "Her Britannic Majesty's government did the proof-reading"

        Well, there's your mistake. By the time it goes from boffin to government official, it's been passed across a dozen desks, watered down, tweaked, prodded just for the sake of it, and I'd check those numbers just in case somebody rounded it off "because it looks complicated".

        1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Re: Oh dear...poor use of symbols and units

          Wasn't it only last week that some government or other forgot the "these numbers are in millions" text on a budget and nearly voted this in as a budget?

          1. aks Bronze badge

            Re: Oh dear...poor use of symbols and units

            Austria

            https://www.theregister.com/2020/05/29/austria_budget_millions/

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Oh dear...poor use of symbols and units

        direct copy-n-pastes from the Statutory Instrument."

        And that always works well when typeface, document formats and character sets are taken into account, let alone the the program used might implement cut'n'paste and translate between various variables :-)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Self-referential

    ".for which the symbol "kg" is used, is the SI unit of mass, defined by taking the fixed numerical value of the Planck constant h to be 6.626 070 15 x 10-34 when expressed in the unit J s, which is equal to kg m2 s-1"

    I haven't the foggiest what this means, but it looks like the definition of a kilogram is reliant on another measure which is expressed partly in kilograms...

    1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      As Einstein never actually said

      E = mc2 or more accurately "energy is mass". So if you have a definition of energy (which you have if you have a definition of Planck's constant and the second) you have a definition of mass. It may seem circular but it is, in fact, consistent (with itself and reality).

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: As Einstein never actually said

        I understand that it's ofteh more useful to state it as E=Δmc2 - as in the change in the mass as total conversion of matter to energy doesn't tend to happen. Throw in (from a distance advisably) some anti-matter and the resulting calculations get rather more interesting...

        Very small masses are measured in energy units anyway.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Self-referential

      No, it's not. The law defines a constant value H. H is defined as having a unit which includes the kilogram. The other units present are clearly defined, meaning that you can calculate the kilogram in terms of them and the constant value. The kilogram is the one variable there, and therefore can be calculated.

      Admittedly, as this is written, the kilogram is basically just an arbitrary number based on a constant they pasted in. If they wanted to go very extreme, they could include methods for arriving at Planck's constant in the law too in order to prove why that value was used. It's not worth that effort though.

  11. Stumpy

    Does anyone else get a slightly uncomfortable feeling when seeing the definition of the second defined in terms of something that is measured per second

    Or just me?

    1. Woza
      Headmaster

      I know what you mean, but I think it's awkward wording - it's not measured in terms of Hz, it's measured in terms of a count.

      Find yourself a caesium 133 atom. Start counting transitions: 1,2,3,... When you hit 9 192 631 770, a second has passed.

      1. DBH

        "Find yourself a caesium 133 atom. Start counting transitions: 1,2,3,... When you hit 9 192 631 770, a second has passed."

        I tried this but my caesium atom kept exploding. Does anyone know if this works better if you put it in a bowl of rice?

        1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          "

          Does anyone know if this works better if you put it in a bowl of rice?

          "

          It would then go snap, cracle and pop.

          1. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble? Silver badge

            So, you're saying as long as we count 9,192,631,770 snaps, crackles and pops, we're good?

            Do we need to buy more milk for this?

            1. Someone Else Silver badge
              Coffee/keyboard

              Stop it! All of you!

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "Start counting transitions: 1,2,3,... When you hit 9 192 631 770, a second has passed."

        In your head or does it have to counted out loud to be valid?

        1. Jan 0
          Joke

          If nobody is counting does time stop? Then if no time is passing, how can anybody start counting again?

        2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          In your head or does it have to counted out loud to be valid?

          For a number that big, I'm taking my socks off. Fingers alone ain't enough...

    2. Lars Silver badge
      Boffin

      YouTube to help you all.

      The metre

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgqUyFaUDcI

      And the second,

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ml8mXtDbwqs

  12. Roj Blake Silver badge

    Beauty

    What about the SI unit of beauty? Is the milliHelen still defined as the amount of beauty required to launch exactly one ship?

    1. DBH

      Re: Beauty

      I'm glad I scrolled before posting, was about to write the same thing. The problem we face here is for it to be included in the converter we need to find some other measures of beauty. Is it possible to measure this by counting instagram followers perhaps?

      1. OssianScotland Silver badge

        Is it possible to measure this by counting instagram followers perhaps?

        No.

  13. Flywheel Silver badge
    Unhappy

    You mean I'll have to stop using my '90s WH Smith plastic ruler?

    1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Not at all - carry on twanging.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "Not at all - carry on twanging."

        I didn't think I needed a ruler for that. But then I don't use mine as a rule despite the length being correct.

    2. IGotOut Silver badge

      Is that one of those shatterproof ones that any school kid knows, will shatter if you hit your mate round the head with one...either that or their skin gives way first.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge
        Boffin

        They don't shatter

        They just break into several incredibly sharp pieces.

  14. Oliver Reed
    Pint

    All well and good but ...

    Given the mass of the ass and the angle of the dangle . . . .

    . . . . can they use them to calculate the measure of the pleasure?

  15. John Robson Silver badge

    Looks like a danish error...

    Time in Denmark - Tom Scott

    1. Strahd Ivarius Bronze badge

      Re: Looks like a danish error...

      I prefer the Swedish one

      1712

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: Looks like a danish error...

        That's quite fun.

    2. EvilDrSmith Bronze badge

      Re: Looks like a danish error...

      Thanks for the link!

  16. Alan J. Wylie

    The 1959 International yard and pound agreement

    This new definition won't have any practical effect, however, back in 1959 there was a change which caused the UK inch to increase in length by 1 part in 2 million.

    Remember also, that the US (some states, not all) uses two different definitions of the foot, which differ by about 1/8 inch per mile, which can make a significant difference.

    1. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

      Re: The 1959 International yard and pound agreement

      Nah, it's all simple. You just have a leap inch every 8 miles.

  17. I am the liquor

    Lawyers rule that a thing is the thing that the thing is

    Why does British law need to contain the definition of what a kilogram or a metre is at all, when they're clearly and precisely defined already? What next, copy-and-paste the geometric definition of a circle into the traffic signs regulations, in case anyone's in any doubt?

    Surely they could just say "kg is the SI unit of mass" and leave it at that. No need to amend the law every time measurement methods improve by one part in 10 million. Anyone using weights and measures for trade is several steps removed from the reference definition anyway.

    There are so many things that should be precisely defined in British law and aren't, yet for this they decide the law needs to include a definition down to the last hyperfine structure transition.

    1. General Purpose

      Re: Lawyers rule that a thing is the thing that the thing is

      We need our own definition of the metre so we can get rid of European rulers.

      1. Bill Gray

        Re: Lawyers rule that a thing is the thing that the thing is

        Yeah, and get them out of our yards. That'll pound the point home, 'fur long.

    2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: Lawyers rule that a thing is the thing that the thing is

      Presumably because, eg, property boundaries are defined in distances, therefore it makes sense that those distances should be legally defined rather than customarily defined.

      1. I am the liquor

        Re: Lawyers rule that a thing is the thing that the thing is

        "Customarily defined" is probably the key phrase there... I bet it's a hang-over from when customary units did need to be defined in law, because they weren't well standardised. Every country had a different ounce. But SI units aren't customary units, they are standardised, so the law shouldn't need to specify what sort of kilogram it means.

    3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Lawyers rule that a thing is the thing that the thing is

      Indeed, and repeatedly defining a second in different clauses introduces redundancy and errors. Far easier to refer to the SI, perhaps with a specific revision or date. Job done.

  18. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    Why a kilogram?

    Why do they define a kilogram as something other than 1000 grams? I would have expected that a rational system would define the fundamental units and derive the multiples.

    1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: Why a kilogram?

      Because the French measurement system is fundamentally broken and should not be used.

    2. General Purpose

      Re: Why a kilogram?

      The kilogram is the fundamental unit of mass of SI, the modern metric system, and the gram is defined as 0.001 kilograms. Way back in 1799, while the units were still being devised, it was understood that it was far more practical to create a standard kilogram against which copies could be tested, the Kilogramme des Archives, than fiddle around with a standard gram.

      1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        Re: Why a kilogram?

        I think the parent posters point is that the gram should be called the millikilogram and the milligram should be called the milimilikilogram*.

        ( Or the gram should be the base unit of weight in SI ).

        1. I am the liquor

          Re: Why a kilogram?

          The question we need to be asking the French post-revolutionary government is, having fixed the metre as the unit of length, why did they decide that a gram should be the weight of a millionth of a cubic metre of water? Why not a thousandth, or one? If they'd gone for a thousandth, things would be more consistent now.

          My guess is it was a practical decision based on the use of balance scales. A set of weights for a balance scale would increase by powers of 2 or 3, which is easy enough to work with as long as the smallest weight you commonly need to weigh is a whole number. If you need to weigh stuff less than 1, the decimals get unwieldy: 0.5, 0.25, 0.125, 0.0625, 0.03125... (or, heaven forbid, 0.333, 0.111, 0.037, 0.0123...). Or you go back to labelling your weights as 1/2, 1/4, 1/8... which somewhat defeats the purpose of having a decimal system.

    3. I am the liquor

      Re: Why a kilogram?

      It seems the reason why SI ended up picking kilogram, metre and second as the fundamental units is down to the units for electricity. 1 volt-amp = 1 watt = 1 kg.m2.s-3, and all the base units end up handily sized for practical use. In the 19th century, gram, centimetre and second were used as fundamental units (the CGS system) but apparently the derived electrical units were inconvenient to work with.

      1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        Re: Why a kilogram?

        But why call it a kilogram. The name means thousand grams as though the gram is the base unit. Why not call what we call the base unit a gram?

        So 1 volt-amp = 1 watt = 1g = 1m3-of-water

        So an ounce would be 28mg, for example.

    4. Lars Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Why a kilogram?

      On 20 May 1875 an international treaty known as the Convention du Mètre (Metre Convention) was signed by 17 states.

    5. Jan 0

      Re: Why a kilogram?

      When I was at school in the 60s, we were taught to use both the Imperial and the cgs (centimetre, gram and second) system. cgs: Inconsistent length versus inconsistent mass in SI. Our Science teachers advised us that SI (and global warming) was coming. My engineer father used to use slugs and poundals in his caculations. I have no idea what system they belonged to. SI was an easy to transition after cgs.

  19. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    Awkward definition for mass

    I see the kg is defined with reference to caesium atoms and Planck's constant. Why? Having defined the metre, surely it would be easier to then define the kg as being the mass of a certain volume of pure water in a vacuum at it's temperature of maximum density. Using the conditions of a vacuum and temperature of max density means that it can then be derived without needing to define either units of pressure or units of temperature.

    1. General Purpose

      Re: Awkward definition for mass

      That was tried. Water turns out to be quite awkward stuff. In a vacuum, it evaporates, and as a liquid it's compressible. It's a powerful solvent, so it's hard to keep it as pure as necessary for a standard. You need to define the ratio of oxygen isotopes too - remember, 18O water's heavier and so it doesn't evaporate so fast as 16O. And so on.... In short, if it was easier we'd have stuck with it!

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Happy

        Re: Awkward definition for mass

        Couldn't they have used a reference mass of a Irn Bru instead?

    2. I am the liquor

      Re: Awkward definition for mass

      Presumably there was a good reason why they switched to platinum-iridium in 1899... a reference mass of water would certainly have been cheaper.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Meanwhile in Canada

    When the gov't mandated SI only, many companies decided to "catch up" with inflation by selling in smaller packages at the same price. As only SI was on the package, of course this sowed mistrust of SI rather than anger at the companies. Then the opposition became the next gov't and allowed both SI and Imperial. So some sectors are fully converted while others sell in odd-ball amounts (such as 183g or 473ml) and, yes, our neighbour to the south does have a bad influence on all this.

  21. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Probably not entirely a bad thing but ...

    Despite the ambiguities identified by others here, I guess it's a good idea to ensure that the basis for establishing fundamental units is itself standardised. The overriding serious flies in the ointment in this case are [a] the metre is an arbitrary standard based on a faulty measurement in 1793 and not corrected when found to be wrong in 1858, [b] we still don't know the exact speed of light in vacuum, and [c] they seem to feel eight decimal places are sufficient for everything.

    1. terrythetech
      Boffin

      Re: Probably not entirely a bad thing but ...

      We do know the exact speed of light in a vacuum as it is defined not measured. I was working in a uni physics department when the change happened and the 'measure the speed of light' experiment had to be abandoned.

      1. I am the liquor

        Re: Probably not entirely a bad thing but ...

        I can imagine it looked a lot less Nobel Prize-worthy when it suddenly flipped from "measuring a fundamental property of the universe" to "calibrating this tape measure."

  22. Arbuthnot the Magnificent

    NPL and the kilogram

    A few years ago I was on a tour of NPL and jolly fascinating it was too. The tour guide gave a talk about the standard kilogram, how it's calibrated against the other other ones in France etc. (including the time the boss left his backpack, containing the UK kilogram, on the Eurostar and had to dash back to find it). The highlight for me was the fancy high-tech plasma machine they use to clean the kilogram to remove all the atmospheric pollutants that sink into the surface, especially compared to the French solution - one particular old chap gives them a run down with a chamois, and only he is allowed to do it so they are all the same!

  23. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    299,792,458 m/s

    It's not just a limit - it's the law!

  24. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Ooo, a bit dodgy, defining a term (the second) seperately in two seperate paragraphs. One should be the definitive, the other should refer to it.

  25. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    I've been waiting for someone to demand social distancing in non metric measurement, but I'm not aware that anyone has. Maybe that sort of thing has finally died out. The WHO stipulating one metre - while we're using two; I think the WHO generally expects large death tolls on these occasions and just likes to take the edge off it, we wanted actually to stop the plague, and we haven't - the WHO probably does set a bar that makes it crazy talk to go below it, e.g. three feet.

    I think anyway that if you tell people to stay e.g. two metres apart, they try to do it but they don't get it right. So if you want one metre apart, then you ask for two.

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      "I've been waiting for someone to demand social distancing in non metric measurement, but I'm not aware that anyone has."

      I am demanding it! Two people must get no closer than one Christopher Lee to each other (one CL).

  26. G R Goslin

    But are these constants?

    I'd be very suspicious if, after wielding incredibly powerful measuring devices, anything as illogical as these figures, would result in only 9, 10 0r 11 significant numbers. It's rather like, and very analogous to, taking the value of Pi as 3.1415926535 89 when we all know it goes on three or four decimal places more. Keep looking lads. There's bound to bew more out there.

    1. ICPurvis47 Bronze badge
      Boffin

      Re: But are these constants?

      I was stunned to find out recently that Pi can be approximated by dividing 355 by 113, which gives 3.14159292, which is accurate to 7 significant figures. Why was I not told of this shortcut at any point during my 60 odd years in engineering?

  27. Luiz Abdala Bronze badge
    Joke

    Liter, Meter, Kilogram: simplified by water.

    A. 1 Liter of Water weighs approx. 1 kilogram. (997 grams).

    B. A cube with 1000 liters has exactly 1 meter of length on each side of its 3 dimensions, and it weights nearly a ton. Saying that 1 metric cube of water weights a ton incurs an error of 0,3%.

    C. 1000kg is exactly a metric ton.

    D. A cube, with 10 centimeters on each side, if filled with water, will have exactly 1 liter and weight almost 1 kilogram.

    It means that if you need to measure anything in length, volume, or weight, and if you have a source of water and anything that can hold water with a scale, then you can use water as its own metric system.

    Im so glad they didn't define things as their relation to Planck Time and Planck Length.

    1. I am the liquor
      Joke

      Re: Im so glad they didn't define things as their relation to Planck Time and Planck Length

      Too true. A Plank Length is usually about 8 foot, you don't want to be carrying one of those around with you all the time.

      1. OssianScotland Silver badge

        Re: Im so glad they didn't define things as their relation to Planck Time and Planck Length

        But you could always carry Two Short Planks ?

        1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          Re: Im so glad they didn't define things as their relation to Planck Time and Planck Length

          It depends on their thickness.

  28. LeftyX

    Why not hydrogen as the basis?

    Every galactic civilization knows about hydrogen, so let's use it. The mass of H1, scaled-up by some nice exact decimal* multiplier, becomes the mass standard. The hydrogen line (21 cm wavelength) becomes the unit of length. (The Pioneer plaque used this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pioneer_plaque) Etc. etc.

    * Yes, I know not all civilizations, even here on Earth, use base-10 numbers, but we have to start somewhere!

  29. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Next years gonna be fun

    when everything will be redefined in red white and blue wavelengths.

  30. TRT Silver badge

    Due for amendment yet again in July...

    When they announce their solution to maintaining 6 foot social distancing in bars and pubs...they're replacing the pint with the yard of ale.

  31. sawatts

    egg bushells per hen acre

    If you are going to use practical units, may I suggest "egg bushells per hen acre" as a fine basis of a unit system.

    This was the gradient of a graph in an old agriculture text book.

    1. OssianScotland Silver badge

      Re: egg bushells per hen acre

      In a similar vein, our transatlantic cousins (left-pondian species) use acre-feet as, among other things, a measure of atmospheric moisture

      1. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: acre feet?

        I have those.

        Trouble me something chronic before rain.

  32. eionmac

    avoiding errors by use of inch/ft & mm/M

    In my working life our firm from about 1832 (founded 1820) (until I retired in 2005) always all used on engineering drawings both imperial and metric systems.

    All internal diameters were in mm. All external diameters were in inches to nearest thou (1/1000 inch). Thus verbal reference to diameter listener was always clear if internal or external diameter. Likewise if units were off sketch. So 5.001mm in 1 inch meant a bore of 5.001 mm in a bar of 1.000 inch.

  33. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    My caesium is faster than yours anyway

  34. Toni the terrible

    In the Law

    Why bother including lots of technical text in actual laws. It is good enough to reference the appropiate BSI / ISO Standard. I mean we dont want to confuse Boris any more than he is already.

  35. WONKY CLERKY

    Can't be bottomed looking to see if any other has mentioned it,

    BUT,

    there is a campaign for all thingy's imperial

    (or should that be Imperial -?- wouldn't like to be impertinent by assuming the empirical - Standards old boy, standards - etc)

    called

    'YARDSTICK'.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020