28 February 2007

The metric system

Filed under: Ponderings

Why do you suppose you never hear someone talking about a centiliter, a megagram or a gigameter? It seems odd to me that with a measurement system of such amazing flexibility people wouldn’t use it to its full capacity.

It seems to me that rather than saying something is 1,450,000,000 kilometers away (which is roughly the average distance from Earth to Saturn) wouldn’t it be easier to say that it is 1,450 gigameters, or 1.4 terameters away?

I know that there is a unit of measurement called AUs (astronomical units) where you take the distance from the Earth to the Sun and count that as 1, but that doesn’t really work for me because it isn’t constant, as the Earth is never the same distance from the Sun.

It’s the same thing with light years, which measures the time it takes light to travel to some distant place, 4.5 light years for example, which is roughly the distance from our Sun to its closest neighbor. My problem with that, and this may be the subject for another entry (perhaps I’ll write tonight) is that I just can’t wrap my mind around the “fact” that the speed of light is constant. So again, we’re using a non-constant measurement to determine another measurement.

So, let’s stick with the metric system (which granted is a little “monkey centric” it being originally defined as 1/40,000,000th of the polar circumference of the Earth, but at least it’s constant) and use it to its full capacity.

I wonder how many zero keyboard keys we could save?

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