Sunday, November 18, 2012

Fun With Units

It might surprise you to know that, as an engineer, I have spent virtually my entire career working in metric units.  When I go to the supermarket, I'm used to buying food by the pound or ounce, and I still think miles per hour when I'm driving my car (but there is something fun about those 'Speed Limit 120' signs on Canadian freeways, isn't there?).  I'm not sure what it says that soft drinks by the liter are pretty universally accepted - but when our local dairy tried to introduce 4-liter jugs of milk, it flopped spectacularly.

But when I go to work, it's all millimeters, and kilograms, and Newtons and Megapascals, and all that happy stuff, and if someone tries to talk pounds, or inches, or psi, I mentally convert them back to metrics to get back in my 'comfort zone'.

Anyway, being an engineer, when I see stuff like what you'll see below, it probably amuses me out of all proportion.  This is what happens when engineers try to have fun, I guess. . .

1 unit of suspense in a mystery novel = 1 whod unit
1 milli-Helen = amount of face that will launch one ship
10^12 microphones = 1 megaphone
10^6 bicycles = 2 megacycles
500 millinaries = 1 seminary
453.6 graham crackers = 1 pound cake
10^12 pins = 1 terrapin
10^21 piccolos = 1 gigolo
10 rations = 1 decoration = 1/10 C-ration
10 millipedes = 1 centipede
3-1/3 tridents = 1 decadent
5 holocausts = 1 Pentecost
10 monologues = 5 dialogues = 1 decalogue
2 monograms = 1 diagram
8 nickels = 2 paradigms
2 snake eyes = 1 paradise
2 wharves = 1 paradox
2000 mockingbirds = Two Kilomockingbirds

'Til next time. . .


  1. I just remember the big deal teachers made in the 70s about the metric system being the future. And here we are, still buying fabric by the yard and gas by the gallon. FAIL!

  2. That was too cute; I loved all of them; 2 snake eyes equals 1 paradise the best!

    I do agree with Bijoux remembering how the metric system would take over and being taught conversion rates as part of school, but she is right, most stuff we buy is still in the "old way" of measuring.

    I do medical transcription (type up what doctors dictate after their encounters with patients). They, of course, use metric system. We weigh less in kilograms than pounds, I like the smaller number for that indeed!

    enjoy the day!


  3. Snork!
    The the best use of metrics I've seen in awhile.
    I'm fairly certain I missed that entire metric generation in the seventies (other than one gas station here in town tried selling by the liter). Nothing I was doing at the time needed the application and I figured that, if necessary, I would eventually learn it by osmosis. Now the only time it seems necessary is when I make a custom print size on the printer.

  4. 500 millinaries = 1 seminary

    Ahem. I shall now quote Clapton: "Some of this generation is millinaries/ I can't keep decent clothes to wear."

    Ya hadda be there. Badda-da-boomp.

  5. Love it, always nice to find others with quirky(that's the nice way of putting it, my kids have other words) minds too.

  6. cool stuff there. even in grade school i argued with me teach that the metric system would not catch on in daily life until marketers learned to round up rather than down. telling folks to drop from a gallon to a liter or even two just wasn't gonna do it, ya know?

    pretty sure the 2 liter soda made it because it's a hair more than half gallon .... whereas some other conversions attempts went the other way. but watta i know?

  7. Bijoux - I know; it probably still is, but it will take a gneration or two longer. Jen's HS Physics teacher actually managed to get the state to put up one of the first metric road signs in the US, announcing that, aside from being 10 miles to the next town, it was also 16 kilometers. And honestly, buying fabric by the meter wouldn't be all that different from buying it by the yard, would it?

    Actually, in various and sundry less-visible ways, it's happening. Metric bolts are supplanting 'old-unit' bolts; most machinery, for that matter, is designed and built in metrics. Even engine displacements are given in liters now, instead of cubic inches. In track and field, all the races are run in meters, and nobody ever runs the mile anymore. . .

    But yeah, it'll be awhile before 5 cc replaces a teaspoon. . .

    Corgi - So, a losing roll in craps might get you to heaven?

    And I get what you're saying; why should I weigh 220 lb, when I can weigh 100 kg. . . And, if I were 6-feet-7-inches, I think I'd rather be 2 meters tall. . . Just sayin'. . .

    Skip - You can still get gas by the liter (or litre), if you really want to; just hop thru Canada. 'Course, that's a little easier for us here, than it is for you. . .

    Buck - Just the word play of 'millinary/seminary' makes me laugh. . .

    Sailor - 'Twisted' might be more apt, at least in my case. . .

    Xavier - That's what surprised me about the 4-liter milk jugs; they sold 'em for the same price as the gallons, and they were a bit bigger, so I figured it would be a no-brainer, but people still preferred the gallons. And, you know, half a kilo is 10% more than a pound. . .

    Which makes me think. . . street drugs are sold by the gram, or the kilo. . . coincidence?

  8. i remember in trinidad it was similarly mixed up. gas was sold in liters but everyone spoke about how many miles they drove.

  9. Lime - I was thinking, a while back, that miles might be the hardest to give up. Around here, we don't have mountains an' stuff to get in the way of where we want to run our roads, so most of the back-country roads are a mile apart, on a north-south/east-west grid, and in a lot of places, they even have names like '12-Mile Road', and such. In such a scenario, it would seem pretty forced to say, "It's 3.2 kilometers down from 10-Mile Road. . ."

    Actually, Jen has been given a few recipes from friends 'across the pond', and was a tad perplexed to find that many of them give measurements by weight, rather than volume, so you have to have a scale handy when you cook. . .

  10. Craig...
    Crossbows are legal in Michigan.
    MSU should use them on their opponents...:P

  11. I am also one of those who uses some sort of crazy mixture when it comes to units of measurement.

    ~ Speed and travel distance -- metric
    ~ Estimating distance -- imperial
    ~ Body weight, gym weights, estimating an items weight -- imperial
    ~ Food and product weight -- metric
    ~ Baking -- Imperial/Metric
    ~ Estimating size -- imperial

  12. G-Man - Oh, I don't think it's come to that, just yet. Scoring a few more points would probably be even more effective. . .

    And legal crossbows - is that a relatively new thing? (I don't hunt myself, so I'm not up on all the laws an' such. . .)

    Flutter - Hmmmmm. . . I notice that you estimate in Imperial, but when it comes to actual measurements, you're metric. Which means that your brain still thinks Imperially, unless specified otherwise. Your kids probably won't have that problem. . .

    That's kinda how I figure it'll go here, eventually. Folks'll make do with a mishmash of units for different stuff, and the 'English' part will just get smaller & smaller, and each successive generation will think more intuitively 'metric'. . .

  13. :-) That was delightfully silly.


  14. Hi, Pearl! Thanks for stopping by!

    See, you get it. 'Delightfully silly' is exactly the point. . .

  15. @corgi, again - See, I just got what you liked so much about the 'snake eyes/paradise' thing. Sometimes, things are just meaningful on multiple levels, aren't they?