Looking back, I really don’t appreciate the attitude with which elementary school teachers discuss US customary units (or for you Brits, Imperial units). Sure, they’re not as easy to convert as metric, but you don’t have to be such un-American assholes about it.
The fact of the matter is that they were convenient. Take feet and miles for example. When was the last time you really cared how many feet away something really far away was? You didn’t. Why? Because feet, by definition, measure distances that you’d walk, and miles, by definition, measure distances that you’d drive. And when you drive, you go way to fast to care how many feet it is. And when you walk that, you don’t care about miles. That’s really far away. Having an easy-to-remember conversion factor would just discourage you on your long walk.
But Al, so far, everything you said can still be applied to kilometers and meters. Couldn’t you just redefine miles and kilometers to make them easier to convert?
Right, it’s that easy. We should definitely redefine the mile tonight and repost all of our road signs with updated distances so you assholes can multiply and divide by 10 IN THE COMPUTERS YOU’RE USING TO DO THE MATH FOR YOU ANYWAY.
Sure, when Napoleon conquers America and imposes the metric system on us, we’ll embrace it warmly by teaching all kids metric. And while we’re at it, we’ll kill two birds with one stone by teaching it in art class while we’re teaching them how to make white flags of surrender.
But Al, how about Fahrenheit? There’s nothing practical about it! Water freezes at 32 and 212? It seems completely arbitrary.
Yeah, you would think it’s arbitrary, but when was the last time you really cared what exact temperature water froze or boiled at? Really, if freezing and boiling water is what really matters, we should measure temperature based on the time it takes to freeze and boil water when you put it in a freezer or on a hot stove.
But practically speaking, wouldn’t it make more sense to have a scale that would be practical and tell you something? Like, for example, where the average temperature of the atmosphere at the earth’s surface is centered at 50, and 0 and 100 degrees are two standard deviations away from the mean? So when you find that it’s zero outside or it’s 100 outside, you can say, “wow, it’s way f’ing cold” or “wow, it’s way f’ing hot.”
Yeah, me too. Unfortunately, Fahrenheit isn’t like this. But my point was that you didn’t know this. Once you thought about it, you thought that it was perfectly plausible. You were just being an asshole about it by assuming that it didn’t make sense.
(If you’re curious, it was zeroed at the stabilized temperature of a mixture of ammonium chloride and ice, it was 32’ed at the freezing point of water, and it was 96’ed at the human body temperature when measured at the arm pit.)
In any case, in the spirit of staunchly defending all things American by pointing out flaws in all things foreign, I continue this argument by saying that all you metric-o-philes will feel so silly once technology advances. Why?
As technology advances, we will start caring less about water, and we will start caring more about absolute zero. Combining scientific advances with American Fahrenheitism, we will use the Rankine scale, which is essentially the Fahrenheit scale zeroed at absolute zero. I’ve already adopted the Rankine scale. Just the other day, I found myself saying, “damn, it’s like it’s 591 today. It feels like just yesterday, it was only 560.”
But more importantly, the real flaw is that metric is too highly dependent on the base-10 number system. In the future, when base-12 takes over, and 1/3 can be represented in a non-repeating decimal (or as we call it, twelvimal), teachers are going to be equally snooty and unEuropean as they’re saying, “some people that lacked foresight created metric which is so difficult to convert as it involves multiplying and dividing by 6B4 (pronounced six hundred beaty four). How arbitrary!”
There. I hope your eyes have been opened. Stay tuned for my next post in which I invent Kentucky Fried Turkey – the healthy alternative.