Sunday, January 16, 2005

Centi-inches

Slowly but surely, the world crawls towards metric. In many places, imperial mesaures are of course still in wide use but even in, say, the US it is often neccessary to use both in the same transaction. e.g. If you ship a package out of the US, you ordinarily have to provide package dimensions not only in imperial measures for your courier, but additionally in metric measures for US customs.

One of the really cool things about metric, aside from the serious attempt that was made to establish a rational and interconnected basis for the metre, kilogram and second (which means that there are less arbitrary constants to memorise when converting from, say, joules to amp-metres), is that larger and smaller units of measure for the same quantity are always multiples of powers of ten so you can convert from 2.7Km to 2,700m to 270,000cm or 2,700,000mm just by moving the decimal point around. Try that with miles, yards, inches or thirty-seconds of an inch. No doubt you already knew this.

What you perhaps did not know, and that I've just noticed, is that users of imperial measures are discovering the joys of metric scaling, but are perhaps a little shy about acknowledging metric origins. At present, google lists just 24 pages which contain "centi-inches", but 152,000 which contain hundredths-inches.

Perhaps inches could be renamed "freedom-centimeters" :-)