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Author Topic:   How Scientifically Literate Are You?
dwise1
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Posts: 5987
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 2.8


(1)
Message 63 of 134 (697870)
05-01-2013 10:19 AM


No Fracking Problem
13/13. Is a really easy test.
With the question on fracking, of course the first answer that came to mind was "oil", but since that was not an option it had to be natural gas. I'd be curious to know what wrong answers were chosen.
I seem to have always known "nano", but it probably dates back to when I learned the metric system in high school circa 1967. Working later in electronics, I always thought it strange that no capacitors were rated in nano-farads, but many were in thousands of pico-farads.
Too bad we never did make the switch to metric. The US/English system is such a terrible pain to use in meaningful work.

Replies to this message:
 Message 64 by Faith, posted 05-01-2013 10:26 AM dwise1 has replied

  
dwise1
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Posts: 5987
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 2.8


Message 81 of 134 (697907)
05-01-2013 2:47 PM
Reply to: Message 64 by Faith
05-01-2013 10:26 AM


Re: No Fracking Problem
There is no way I'm going to convert all the measurements in my cookbooks to metric and throw out all my measuring gear.
You don't have to. There is absolutely no need to do that. Even in a thoroughly metric country like Germany, recipes still use cups (Obertassen), teaspoons (Teelffel), tablespoons (Esslffel), and pounds (Pfund) -- see Kchenmae
(Kitchen Measurements)
. Though in the future if the old measuring cups and spoons were no longer available, then somebody would need to perform those conversions. My phone has an app for that, gUnit.
You should also take a look at the English version of that article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooking_weights_and_measures, which covers US and UK kitchen measurements in more detail. Including how our measurements by the same name are not the same. Everywhere in the world, a liter is a liter is a liter, but from one country to the next a pint is not a pint.
The main problem with using a German recipe is that their dry measurements are in weight and not volume (eg, 160g of flour instead of one cup of flour) and I think that is common in many European countries. Though in Germany I did see a graduated measuring cup/beaker that was not only in milliliters but also had scales for flour, sugar, rice, etc, in grams.
In high school and college I worked part-time for 8 years with my father, a carpenter. Now if I had done it full-time for many years, I would have been able to do this on sight, but taking a measurement I would always have to calculate how many 16'ths or 32'nds of an inch that mark was. First day on the construction site in Germany, I was handed a Meterstock and told to get a board 17mm wide and I was able to use that Meterstock first time with absolutely no difficulty. The first thing I did when I returned home was to buy a steel tape with both scales on it, inches for my father and millimeters for me.
Now, there are two valid problems with converting to metric. One is that most trades have sets of special measurements that they use all the time and have memorized. Measurements such as standard door dimensions and offsets and the spacing between studs. A solution could be like the kitchen compromise where old measurements are still retained and supplement the new measurements. The second problem is visualization. We can look at something and estimate its size and lift something and estimate its weight, or we can be told a length or weight and we can visualize about what that would be. We would have to relearn all that when we convert over to metric and that would be a problem that could only be solved through much practice.
Still, the great ease of the metric system and the great difficulty of the US system is found when we work within the system.
Here's a problem that illustrates that. You're going to build a water tank with a certain length, width, and depth. How much water will that tank hold (ie, what volume of water, eg how many gallons)? And how much will that water weigh? And you are not allowed to look anything up (eg, a figure for how much a gallon of water weighs, or conversion factors from cubic feet to gallons). In the US system, if you cannot look up conversion factors then you are lost; one year in elementary school, the math book did not contain a table of those conversions as it had in other years and I was lost --I still have to look up how many feet are in a statute mile (5280, but I'm never quite sure).
However, in metric the solution is very simple because the three forms of measurement are all interrelated: 1 cubic centimeter is one milliliter and one milliliter of water has a mass of one gram. With that basic knowledge, you can solve that water tank problem with great ease. And if you need to figure out the weight of a certain volume of another substance given its density, that is also simple and straight-forward.
The metric system is so easy, it boggles the mind that Americans are so afraid of it. Kind of like in the late 1960's when the UK adopted decimal money, stores hired many "Decimal Dollies", girls whose job was to explain the new money system to the perplexed British shoppers.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 64 by Faith, posted 05-01-2013 10:26 AM Faith has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 85 by Faith, posted 05-01-2013 3:04 PM dwise1 has replied
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dwise1
Member
Posts: 5987
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 2.8


Message 83 of 134 (697913)
05-01-2013 2:54 PM
Reply to: Message 70 by Panda
05-01-2013 12:24 PM


Re: No Fracking Problem
Not just the Japanese. I've seen that yyyy/mm/dd format used in many places, including in genealogy programs and reports and on US government forms. And I often use it in software version change logs.
In everyday life, I use day-month-year, though I write/say the month name instead of using the number. Learned that in high school German class and lived it in the US military for 35 years. It's the normal way, same as 24-hour time.

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dwise1
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Posts: 5987
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 2.8


Message 90 of 134 (697922)
05-01-2013 3:24 PM
Reply to: Message 85 by Faith
05-01-2013 3:04 PM


Re: No Fracking Problem
You explain it well enough to make me wish I'd learned it. Too late now. '
It's never too late. It just takes a few minutes, that's all. Or the better part of an hour if you are very very slow. It's really that easy.
Compare that with it having taken you several years to learn the US system? And you still don't know it because many of its units of measure are specialized. For example, what's a slug and how big is it?
I don't have to be concerned with how they measure things in Germany of course. If I moved there I assume I'd learn their system.
Yet again you display your immense talent for missing the point.
The point is that even in a very metric country, old units of measurement still survive. So your false dilemma of storm troopers descending upon your kitchen to confiscate all your US measurements has absolutely no basis in reality.
I know what a quart is but a liter is just an annoying failure to be a quart. Etc.
No, you got that backwards: a quart is just an annoying failure to be a liter.
There are different systems of measurement that co-exist. There are different systems of thought and belief that co-exist. One is intrinsically no more valid than the other. They are what they are and those who use one or the other have their reasons for doing so, some of which are very good, some of which are very poor.
They exist. Accept that.
PS
A slug is the US unit of mass which is used in the foot-pound-second system (FPS http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foot-pound-second) in physics. It's the mass that it takes to generate about 32 pounds of force.
That also touches upon a fundamental confusion that the US system causes, in that weight is measured as a force, whereas the metric system measures mass. At most sub-light speeds, an object's mass will remain the same, whereas its weight can vary greatly depending on the gravitational field it finds itself in. The metric system enables us to work through problems clearly, whereas the US system requires a lot of mental gymnastics.
Edited by dwise1, : PS -- answer to what a slug is

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dwise1
Member
Posts: 5987
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 2.8


Message 103 of 134 (697993)
05-02-2013 11:27 AM
Reply to: Message 84 by Faith
05-01-2013 2:55 PM


Re: No Fracking Problem
Scientists can learn to do the conversions, don't impose it on the rest of us.
Scientists don't have to do the conversions, because by working within the metric system they have absolutely no need to convert between metric and English/US.
The irony of your position is that by sticking with the English/US system, you need to perform non-trivial unit conversion calculations all the time. For example, converting from feet to miles and back again. Or even worse, converting fractional feet to inches to calculate a volume then having to convert from cubic inches to cubic feet. Or having to chain such calculations together from inches to feet to miles and back. And that's not counting having to keep lists of all kinds of odd unit conversions, like from cubic feet to gallons. It's non-stop in the English system.
Of course, you also have to do unit conversions in metric, but since those are done my mulitiply and dividing by powers of 10, the work involved is trivial. And instead of having to keep lists of obscure conversion factors, you can easily rederive what you need on the spot.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 84 by Faith, posted 05-01-2013 2:55 PM Faith has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 112 by Faith, posted 05-02-2013 3:39 PM dwise1 has replied

  
dwise1
Member
Posts: 5987
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 2.8


(1)
Message 108 of 134 (698022)
05-02-2013 3:05 PM
Reply to: Message 106 by Dr Adequate
05-02-2013 12:07 PM


Re: No Fracking Problem
Just so we can bask in the glow of the simplicity of the English/US customary systems.
In his treatment of positional number systems in the second volume of The Art of Computer Programming, "Seminumerical Algorithms" (pg 166), Donald Knuth points out that the English system of volume measure that originated in the 13th century was a binary system:
quote:
2 gills = 1 chopin
2 chopins = 1 pint
2 pints = 1 quart
2 quarts = 1 pottle
2 pottles = 1 gallon
2 gallons = 1 peck
2 pecks = 1 demibushel
2 demibushels = 1 bushel or firkin
2 firkins = 1 kilderkin
2 kilderkins = 1 barrel
2 barrels = 1 hogshead
2 hogsheads = 1 pipe
2 pipes = 1 tun
It appears that he has mixed together wet and dry measures there, but in doing so we see the binary logic of the entire system.
At the end of his Naval Terminology FAQ (NavTermFAQ), Jeff Crowell lists wet measures as well as lengths/distances:
quote:
Non-trivial trivia:
Volumetric measure:
4 gills make a pint
2 pints a quart
2 quarts a pottle
2 pottles a gallon
8 gallons a firkin
2 firkin a kilderkin
2 kilderkin a barrel
2 barrels a hogshead
2 hogsheads a pipe
2 pipes or three puncheons a tun
In brief, then, a gill is a quarter of a pint, where a Pint is 20 fluid ounces in the UK and 16 fl. Oz. in the USA
Distance:
Fathom: 6 feet
Rod: 16.5 feet (also called a pole or perch)
Chain: 4 rods, or 66 feet
Furlong: 10 chains, or 660 feet. 1/8 of a statute mile.
Cable:
On land, 120 fathoms, or 720 feet.
At sea, 101 fathoms, 606 feet. 1/10 of a nautical mile
League: (same as a shot)
Land: 3 statute miles
Sea: 3 nautical miles
Note: in the US Navy, anchor chain is measured in "shots," but these are shots of 15 fathoms’ length (90 feet). The same measure in UK service is referred to as a "shackle."
The Wikipedia article, United States customary units is a must-read. It starts out giving the reason why US and UK measurements of the same name are not the same quantity:
quote:
Many U.S. units are virtually identical to their imperial counterparts, but the U.S. customary system developed from English units used in the British Empire before the system of imperial units was standardized in 1824. Several quantitative differences from the imperial system are present.
It also cites the CIA FactBook that names the US as one of only three countries that have not adopted the metric system, the other two being Liberia and Myanmar. Despite our backwardness, in the US science, medicine, and the government as well as many sectors of industry have adopted the metric system.
And according to that article, US customary units were standardized in the late 19th century, officially so through the Mendenhall Order, 1893 -- that link is an interesting read of how that developed. Interestingly, that standardization defined US customary units in terms of the metric system:
quote:
Mendenhall ordered that the standards used for the most accurate length and mass comparison change from certain yard and pound objects to certain meter and kilogram objects, but did not require anyone outside of the Office of Weights and Measures to change from the customary units to the metric system.
The Mendenhall Order article also mentions that "In 1866 the Congress passed a law which allowed, but did not require, the use of the metric system." The US customary units article mentions the political and religious fervor in the late 19th century over which system to use, with the advocates of the customary units winning out. It seems that they rejected the metric system because they viewed it as "atheistic" and that the customary units were the ones "which alone are acceptable to the Lord."
The Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988 made the metric system "the preferred system of weights and measures for U.S. trade and commerce" and gave government a role in adding industry as it voluntarily converts over, as it must if we are to remain competitive in the world market. As W. Edwards Deming said:
quote:
It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.

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dwise1
Member
Posts: 5987
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 2.8


Message 109 of 134 (698023)
05-02-2013 3:07 PM
Reply to: Message 92 by 1.61803
05-01-2013 3:49 PM


Re: Metric System groupies and scientific literacy
Funny true story.
Back around 1980, the price of gasoline in the US was rapidly rising ever higher and was soon going to exceed $1.00/gallon for the first time. This created an enormous problem for gas stations, because the mechanical pumps could not be set for prices higher than 99.9 cents per gallon. They all needed to somehow modify or replace their pumps to be able to continue to operate. I don't know all the interim solutions they had arrived at, but the end result is that now all gas pumps are electronic.
There was one gas station in Nebraska, as I recall, that, inspired by the national mandate to convert to metric, converted to metric. They recalibrated their pumps to liters and posted their prices in cents per liter. And everybody was going there for the "really low prices". On TV, the reporter was talking to one ecstatic customer who was singing the praises of these "really low prices":
"Look at these prices! Aren't they great?"
"But that's the price in liters, not in gallons."
"Yeah, yeah. But look at these prices! Aren't they great?"
I only saw that one TV report, so I don't know how long it took folks to realize that the prices there weren't any different than elsewhere (assuming no gouging was taking place).

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dwise1
Member
Posts: 5987
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 2.8


(2)
Message 116 of 134 (698064)
05-02-2013 8:53 PM
Reply to: Message 115 by Coragyps
05-02-2013 6:14 PM


Re: No Fracking Problem
The attoparsec is mentioned in List of unusual units of measurement. It's equivalent to about 3.085 and is noted as having no obvious practical use.
However, the light-nanosecond does have a practical use. Then-CAPT Grace Hopper (later RADM) in her lectures would distribute pieces of wire cut the the length of one light-nanosecond, which is about a foot. Having started as an ENS in a WWII electronic computing project, she had seen the effects of that limit to how fast a signal can travel inside a computer. In the old mainframes where a signal may have to travel from one end of a six-foot-long cabinet to the other in order to be meet other signals at a logic gate at just the right time, long wires like that not only placed a upper limit on that computer's maximum speed, but it also required the signals that had shorter distances to travel to be delayed. And in that had to be done with all the different signals. Story is that designing such computers would lead to the engineer having a nervous breakdown. The Cray S-1 super-computer (c. 1980) was designed with all the wiring running inside of a circular column such that no wire was longer than two feet; if a signal needed to be delayed, you just laid down an extra-long trace ("squiggly line") on the printed circuit board. All because of the light-nanosecond. With all those "wires" shrunk down to microscopic distances on a silicon die less than 10 square millimeters in size, our modern PCs can run much faster than any mainframe could have ever hoped to run, all because of the light-nanosecond.
There's also the nanocentury which also has found use in computer science. It was devised in 1969 by IBM when the design objective, "never to let the user wait more than a few nanocenturies for a response." A nanocentury is approximately 3.155 seconds, which is within half a percent of being pi seconds.
For systems of measurement, what about the Furlong/Firkin/Fortnight (FFF) system? The length unit of the system is the furlong, the mass unit is the mass of a firkin of water, and the time unit is the fortnight.
One example of its use is based on one microfortnight being equal to 1.2096 seconds. On the VMS operating system, the TIMEPROMPTWAIT variable, which holds the time the system will wait for an operator to set the correct date and time at boot if it realizes that the current value is bogus, is set in microfortnights. Though the documentation noted that micro-fortnights were approximated as seconds in the implementation.
The basic unit of speed was one furlong per fortnight, roughly one centimeter per minute or about 14 meters per day. Not only could this speed be described as "glacial", but it actually does realistically measure the speed of some glaciers.
Another notable constant based on those units is the speed of light, known as "Strapp's Constant" (Jock "Strapp" Marshall), which is 1.80261012 furlongs/fortnight.
While you're at it, there's also the List of humorous units of measurement. One example is the sagan to measure a very large quantity ("billions and billions").
Another example is the Helen, a unit for measuring beauty, with a milliHelen being enough beauty to launch one ship. Besides ship-launching, it's also related to setting the towers of Illium ablaze, courtesy of Marlowe's play, The Tragic History of Doctor Faustus. Thus a picoHelen is enough beauty to "Barbecue a couple of Steaks & Toss an Inner Tube Into the Pool". Negative values of the Helen would be a measure of ugliness as indicated by number of ships sunk or clocks stopped.
Share and enjoy!

This message is a reply to:
 Message 115 by Coragyps, posted 05-02-2013 6:14 PM Coragyps has replied

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dwise1
Member
Posts: 5987
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 2.8


(3)
Message 117 of 134 (698067)
05-02-2013 9:04 PM
Reply to: Message 112 by Faith
05-02-2013 3:39 PM


Re: No Fracking Problem
You've made your point about the superiority of metric, ...
It's not a case of one system being superior to another. Rather some systems are better suited to some tasks than are others, in part by making it easier and less prone to error to set up and solve problems. And based on what system is used by the community in which you are working, thinking about working in, or wanting to understand.
... only I'm not going to change because of my ingrained habits. That's just the way it is. I understand the old system, I can think in the old system, I can do quite decent estimates of length and size and distance and volume and quantity in the old system, and at my age there is no point in changing.
What does any of that have to do with learning the metric system? Whatever makes you think that you would be forbidden to use the US conventional system? Why must you continue to bring up such silly obstacles?
For one thing, the metric system is so easy even you with all your age can learn it in just minutes ... assuming that you stop constructing your silly mental blocks.
But more importantly, you really do need to learn the metric system, at least if you continue to aspire to rewriting the entire science of physical geology. How can you understand anything you read about geology if you do not understand the system of measurement that geologists use? Yes, I know, you insist on being ignorant of the subject matter, but ignorance just simply does not work; we know, because we've already tried it far too many times. The only job that ignorance does well is to help shut out reality.
DWise1 writes:
Scientists don't have to do the conversions, because by working within the metric system they have absolutely no need to convert between metric and English/US
I was thinking of the situation where the average person was going to be required to do conversions between the two systems and that's too much to ask of us, so if anybody is going to have to do that let it be the scientists. And I assumed they would have to because they would be living in two worlds themselves, their scientific world and the everyday world of old system measurements.
Where do you get these weird ideas from?
Yes, scientists do live in "two worlds" (more than two, actually, but I'll let that one slide). Why would that even begin to require them to spend all their time converting between US conventional and metric units? That would be incredibly stupid! In the US (which I assume is what you meant), a scientist would use the metric system at work and US conventional units at home and in the car and inbetween would use whichever is handier to the task at hand. How else would anybody live? With but a few possible exceptions, the only conversions they'd have to perform would be the necessary conversions within the system that they are using at the moment (which in the US conventional system would involve a large number of non-trivial and difficult conversions within the US conventional system).
Think of it in terms of speaking a language -- I speak English and German, a little less Spanish, even less French, and far less Russian. When I speak English, I'm thinking in English. When I speak German, I'm thinking in German. The same for Spanish, and also for French and Russian, though less so because I'm not as fluent. You don't speak a language by thinking in another language; that just does not work. For example, my ex-wife's brother had grown up speaking Spanish in the home and English outside of the home as had my ex (actually, they were raised to speak Spanish with their parents and English with each other so that their parents could correct them in both languages), and he learned German in high school. When he graduated from high school, he went on a student tour to Germany. The first week he was there, he did as he had in German class: He wanted to say something, so he took the English, translated it to Spanish, and then translated the Spanish to German, and when he heard German he translated it to Spanish and then to English. That only lasted one week and it only lasted that long because of his stubbornness. That is just too exhausting to keep up, so he finally gave up and just did it all in German and was done with all that translation nonsense.
Trying to convert every value back and forth between metric and US conventional is like my brother-in-law constantly translating back and forth between English, Spanish, and German. Far too much work and completely useless. You're conversing in German, stay in German. You're working in metric, stay in metric. That's how real life works. Sometimes on occasion you need to translate something, just as on occasion you may need to convert a measurement, but that is the exception rather than the rule. Learn what the real world is like rather than locking yourself in a delusional nightmare!
Now, I suspect I might know where your weird delusions about the metric system came from, because a high school friend's mother had what may have been a similar experience when she was taught the metric system. What they did to her was to have her perform a large number of conversions between the two systems, so she was left thinking that the metric systems was too complex and far too difficult to work with for her to want to have anything to do with it. Now, contrast that with how I was taught the metric system: we were told what the basic units were and the meaning of the prefixes, after which we went into the lab with meter sticks and metric scales and measured stuff. We were taught what it was and then we applied what we had been taught.
Let me describe that a bit differently. It would be like giving the students a collection of objects and a meter stick to measure them with. In my case, I was required to report back how long each of the objects was in centimeters; I worked entirely within the metric system. In my friend's mother's case, as possibly also yours, she also measured all the objects, but then she had to convert all of those measurements in order to report back how many inches long they were; she was not allowed to work within the metric system but rather was forced to convert between systems. Or possibly in her case they didn't have any meter sticks so she had to measure the objects with a ruler and then convert all those measurements in inches over to centimeters.
Is that what had happened to you?

This message is a reply to:
 Message 112 by Faith, posted 05-02-2013 3:39 PM Faith has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 118 by Faith, posted 05-02-2013 11:12 PM dwise1 has replied

  
dwise1
Member
Posts: 5987
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 2.8


Message 120 of 134 (698120)
05-03-2013 9:55 AM
Reply to: Message 118 by Faith
05-02-2013 11:12 PM


Re: No Fracking Problem
So now you know better.
Making the world better eliminating one delusion at a time.

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dwise1
Member
Posts: 5987
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 2.8


Message 127 of 134 (698188)
05-03-2013 6:24 PM
Reply to: Message 123 by NoNukes
05-03-2013 1:00 PM


Re: Metric System groupies and scientific literacy
My main 'beef' with non metric units is the division of units into non-decimal parts. Converting calculated values into 16ths and 32nds before you can use them is an error prone step that provides no extra value.
In calculus class, I found this to be true: We used calculus to set up the problem, did most of the work in algebra, and made most of the mistakes in the arithmetic. And when you're having to do lots of long division and multiplication with inconvenient numbers, that's just all the more opportunity to make arithmetic errors.
For those who are not convinced, here's the type of problem I would have to work with in US conventional units: You want to hang a rectangular object centered horizontally on a wall. Yes, you could solve this with constructions rather than with measurements, but to make ths a valid example we must use measurements. You take the two measurements and they both in several feet plus some inches, plus some fraction of an inch. It works best if we can put them all in the same units, so for both we have to convert feet and inches down to 32nds of an inch. Then we subtract the smaller from the larger and divide the remainder by two to get the width of the left border in 32nds of an inch. Which means that now you must convert that answer out to feet, inches, and a fraction of an inch. Lots of converting to have to do while staying within the system of measurements.
You could avoid all that converting by working the problem like we work time problems, by keeping them in their units and then do whatever borrowing and carrying may be necessary. Very cumbersome and even more prone to error.
In contrast, in metric you would take the measurements in meters and you could keep them in meters throughout the calculation, because fractions of meters are treated as floating-point fractions not as rational fractions.
Though interestingly, I've seen it pointed out that 12 inches to a foot is easy to divide up because 12 is one of those special numbers like 60, of which 12 is a factor: 12 is evenly divisible by 2, 3, 4, and 6 -- throw in 5 as a factor and you have 60.

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dwise1
Member
Posts: 5987
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 2.8


Message 133 of 134 (698320)
05-05-2013 1:21 PM
Reply to: Message 132 by Dogmafood
05-05-2013 10:51 AM


Re: Metric System groupies and scientific literacy
Though there was a time when a 24 did indeed measure 2 inches by 4 inches. You will still find them in the walls of older houses built in the first half of the 20th century and you will encounter them when doing remodel work in older houses. And instead of the rounded edges we see now, these had nice sharp right-angle edges.

This message is a reply to:
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