Units of Measurement

AllanR

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 21, 2021
Messages
642
Location
Canada
instead of necroing an old thread...

If if read a futuristic sci-fi and the author uses imperial
--if the story was wrote in the 90s or later, I assume the author doesn't know much science. Probably an unfair assumption, yet one that happens nonetheless. It is a stumbling block and if I were to hit another one or two blocks right off, I would discard the book.
Basically if the story involves off Earth by human tech it should be metric imo. Science uses metric, NASA uses metric, imperial causes rockets to get lost. It requires me to suspend my disbelief when I encounter imperial here. (of course some authors produce their own units with great success)

If it was steam punk in the USA I would expect imperial.
 
Last edited:
If we take measurements in radiation as an example. I choose this as an example because it throws up an anomaly. The becquerel is the international unit (SI) used in Europe and this is based on a disintegration per second within a nucleus. In the USA, the older unit called a Curie is still used. This is based on 37 billion disintegrations per second derived from the decay of one gramme of Radium. This means that instead of using Sieverts and Grays for measuring diposes (as per the SI system), Nasa still uses Rads and Rems despite going metric for other measurements.
 
I was a teen when my country switched. So many people use a weird mix of both in everyday life. Feet for people's height, C for temp, km for short distances or long, intermediate however are measured by driving time. cm for rain, inches in construction, litres for fuel or drinks....
At the time of switch the math texts replaced feet for metres and question like 'A six meter tall man...."

Sorry btw for the tone of the first post, I mustn't have had my coffee yet :/

Nasa still uses Rads and Rems despite going metric for other measurements.
I had no idea Nasa uses rads and rems instead of sieverts and grays
 
When I'm prepping for a story... If it is fantasy I will default to some version of imperial, but it is contemporary or sci-fi it will be metric.
Oddly 0c feels colder than 32f but 86f feels warmer than 30c.
 
SI Units are a strictly modern phenomenon in the English-speaking world, and any media from here created up until the 1960s would use Imperial measurements (one of the attractions of, "Star Trek," was the use of metres and kilometres, which struck me as very advanced at the time).

I was in primary school when it was decided that the UK would convert to metric in the future, and the new generation should learn the new system, just as we were getting our heads around inches/feet or ounces/pounds/stones, with the result that I can visualise 6 inches or 20 feet, but haven't a clue what a meter is. (We changed to decimal coinage at the same time, which made things even more fun)

Just about every school ruler and measuring-tape in the UK is calibrated in both imperial and metric even now, and please don't mention Arshins to me.
 
SI Units are a strictly modern phenomenon in the English-speaking world, and any media from here created up until the 1960s would use Imperial measurements (one of the attractions of, "Star Trek," was the use of metres and kilometres, which struck me as very advanced at the time).

I was in primary school when it was decided that the UK would convert to metric in the future, and the new generation should learn the new system, just as we were getting our heads around inches/feet or ounces/pounds/stones, with the result that I can visualise 6 inches or 20 feet, but haven't a clue what a meter is. (We changed to decimal coinage at the same time, which made things even more fun)

Just about every school ruler and measuring-tape in the UK is calibrated in both imperial and metric even now, and please don't mention Arshins to me.

By my generation we'd arrived at a wierd hybrid of measuring conventions. Roughly as follows:

Lengths and distances: people and roads in imperial; everything else in metric
Weight: people mainly in imperial; food mainly in metric; Heavy goods ?!?!?!?!?
Volume: milk and beer in imperial; everything else in metric.

This makes it pretty hard to make connections across categories and scales....
 
Miles per Gallon
Miles per Hour
Pint of beer
Six foot man
12 stone
26 inch TV
14 pounds per square inch
Deep six
32 inside leg
size 10 clod hoppers.
Cruising at an altitude of 20 thousand feet.

Certainly to a Briton of my advanced age none of these standards sound remotely fluid in writing when converted to to their metric equivalents. In fact they really jar on the nerves. The external mental juggling of interpreting them pulls one out of the story.
(And metric tonne up boys don't impress me either ;))

I will however concede that decimal currency was an absolute boon after schoolboy battles with compound interest in Pounds Shillings and Pence.
 
I tend to have an odd combination since in my work I end up using both because US manufacturers of components still use inches and mils.
With that in mind I tend to write with an odd mix and then sort it out before I send to anyone. For the SF I tend to try to stick to metric.

Here in the US we still have challenged people in our military industry. At work, I remember an irate phone call from a member of a 'to remain unnamed organization' that they thought I should have sent a mounting diagram with "American Measurements". I said, "I'm sorry, but it was manufacture using those metric measurements." And since his concern was the screw for a mounting hole I had to remind him that--for best fit--he should use the type of screw suggested.
 
At work, I remember an irate phone call from a member of a 'to remain unnamed organization' that they thought I should have sent a mounting diagram with "American Measurements". I said, "I'm sorry, but it was manufacture using those metric measurements." And since his concern was the screw for a mounting hole I had to remind him that--for best fit--he should use the type of screw suggested.

Headline: 'Bomber Breaks Up In Fight Due To 1/8" Screws in 4mm Holes.'
 
instead of necroing an old thread...

If if read a futuristic sci-fi and the author uses imperial
--if the story was wrote in the 90s or later, I assume the author doesn't know much science. Probably an unfair assumption, yet one that happens nonetheless. It is a stumbling block and if I were to hit another one or two blocks right off, I would discard the book.
I think your point is valid but I still don't think in metric. Unless some measurement in a story obviously makes no sense I probably ignore it.

In his book Destroyer, Chris Fox said the galaxy rotated in 26,000 years. That really pissed me off. I guit reading it. It is actually about 200,000,000 years. I don't know what the error margin is. I have also seen 220 million. 26,000 would require stars at the outer edge to travel faster than light.
 
I was once ridiculed as an apprentice when I did a measurement that was something like one metre, five inches:D
when accuracy was needed & my tape-measure was just a basic one, I used "X and half a millimeter". Or sometimes "plus a smidgen" -- our head aero engineer was not impressed but admitted it worked !
 
Where ever possible I work around the issue. Instead of saying a character is 175 cm tall, I would say something like 'his average height suited the low overheads of the boat." Or something like that. I've found it to be quite doable. Another example would be instead of saying the character is fat I would say, 'He was well over the regulation weight for a crewmember'. Maybe someone calls him slim, as a joke. See where I'm coming from?
Of course, in the future, everyone would use metric.
 
In a long lost past, when times were simpler, minds were younger, driving long road trips, especially in arid climates; a "six pack" was a unit of time and distance.

"It took three six-packs to drive from LA through Death Valley to Las Vegas. We loaded up some more beer in Las Vegas and we ran four more six-packs to get to Joshua Tree National Park in the Sonora desert, where we camped."

This unit supported by Edward Abbey and Hunter S. Thompson
 
Yes, Alex we have the same units of time and distance measurement here. But because of the vast distances in this country we generally use the unit block. IE A block of beer, 30 cans to a block. :giggle:
 
Indeed. And during an epic road trip through the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, back in the day, the common purchase was a dozen. The Canadians had a clever slang name for that which I wish i could remember.

Google is no help. A "Rack", or, as you say a "Block" is 30. A "2-4" is two dozen. Americans have called that "A Case" then and now,

A common offering locally, now is a box of 18. I guess I'm too old to pick up if there's a clever slang term for that. But I'm getting no help on what the natives called a dozen in 1977.

And spare me the "Stubbies." I've always preferred a long-neck; even if it is a Molson.
 

Similar threads


Back
Top