Register | Sign In


Understanding through Discussion


EvC Forum active members: 57 (9175 total)
2 online now:
Newest Member: Neptune7
Post Volume: Total: 917,640 Year: 4,897/9,624 Month: 245/427 Week: 55/103 Day: 13/11 Hour: 0/1


Thread  Details

Email This Thread
Newer Topic | Older Topic
  
Author Topic:   How Scientifically Literate Are You?
Dr Adequate
Member (Idle past 369 days)
Posts: 16113
Joined: 07-20-2006


(4)
Message 106 of 134 (698000)
05-02-2013 12:07 PM
Reply to: Message 81 by dwise1
05-01-2013 2:47 PM


Re: No Fracking Problem
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.
And the old system was so simple. Four farthings made a penny, four pennies were a groat. Six pennies were a tanner. A shilling was twelve pennies, hence two tanners or three groats. A florin was two shillings, half a crown was two shillings and sixpence, a crown was five shillings, and a pound was twenty shillings, i.e. ten florins or four crowns. A four-shilling piece was colloquially known as a "barmaid's ruin". A guinea was twenty-one shillings, and was the standard basis for assessment of professional fees such as would be paid to doctors and lawyers; pounds and shillings would be used by tradesmen.
The British long resisted the change to decimal currency on the grounds that it would be too complicated.
Edited by Dr Adequate, : No reason given.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 81 by dwise1, posted 05-01-2013 2:47 PM dwise1 has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 107 by ringo, posted 05-02-2013 12:18 PM Dr Adequate has not replied
 Message 108 by dwise1, posted 05-02-2013 3:05 PM Dr Adequate has not replied

  
ringo
Member (Idle past 497 days)
Posts: 20940
From: frozen wasteland
Joined: 03-23-2005


Message 107 of 134 (698003)
05-02-2013 12:18 PM
Reply to: Message 106 by Dr Adequate
05-02-2013 12:07 PM


Re: No Fracking Problem
Dr Adequate writes:
And the old system was so simple.
So simple a child could understand it - just like Chinese.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 106 by Dr Adequate, posted 05-02-2013 12:07 PM Dr Adequate has not replied

  
dwise1
Member
Posts: 5974
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 4.2


(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.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 106 by Dr Adequate, posted 05-02-2013 12:07 PM Dr Adequate has not replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 115 by Coragyps, posted 05-02-2013 6:14 PM dwise1 has replied

  
dwise1
Member
Posts: 5974
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 4.2


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).

This message is a reply to:
 Message 92 by 1.61803, posted 05-01-2013 3:49 PM 1.61803 has seen this message but not replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 110 by Dr Adequate, posted 05-02-2013 3:25 PM dwise1 has not replied
 Message 122 by ringo, posted 05-03-2013 11:51 AM dwise1 has not replied

  
Dr Adequate
Member (Idle past 369 days)
Posts: 16113
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 110 of 134 (698027)
05-02-2013 3:25 PM
Reply to: Message 109 by dwise1
05-02-2013 3:07 PM


Re: Metric System groupies and scientific literacy
A similar thing --- this isn't really on-topic, but I'll get it off my chest --- goes on with exchange rates. People argue whether the U.S. is better than Canada or the E.U. or vice-versa with regard to the question of whether the Canadian dollar is worth more than the U.S. dollar or the Euro is worth more than the U.S. dollar. They don't realize that one U.S. dollar is worth 1.01 Canadian dollars which is worth one U.S. dollar, dammit.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 109 by dwise1, posted 05-02-2013 3:07 PM dwise1 has not replied

  
Dr Adequate
Member (Idle past 369 days)
Posts: 16113
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 111 of 134 (698028)
05-02-2013 3:31 PM
Reply to: Message 89 by ringo
05-01-2013 3:23 PM


Re: Metric System groupies and scientific literacy
The other side of that coin is that it's easier to make mistakes lke dividing by a hundred instead of ten.
Well unless you're innumerate, it's easier to divide by a hundred and get the right answer than it is to divide by 5280 and get the right answer. And if you are innumerate, it's still easier to divide by a hundred and get the right answer than it is to divide by 5280 and get the right answer.
I teach kids on weekends, and it is in fact easier to learn how to move the decimal point than to learn to divide by an arbitrary four-digit number. You're far more likely to screw up doing the latter. Or to forget which arbitrary four-digit number you're meant to be dividing by.
Simpler isn't necessarily better. Every year before Christmas and Father's Day, you see those commercials for supertools that can replace a whole toolbox full of conventional tools. The trouble is that a tool that can be used for everything is seldom really good at any of them.
Arguing by analogy is like using a giraffe as a can-opener.
Edited by Dr Adequate, : No reason given.
Edited by Dr Adequate, : No reason given.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 89 by ringo, posted 05-01-2013 3:23 PM ringo has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 121 by ringo, posted 05-03-2013 11:46 AM Dr Adequate has not replied

  
Faith 
Suspended Member (Idle past 1529 days)
Posts: 35298
From: Nevada, USA
Joined: 10-06-2001


Message 112 of 134 (698032)
05-02-2013 3:39 PM
Reply to: Message 103 by dwise1
05-02-2013 11:27 AM


Re: No Fracking Problem
You've made your point about the superiority of metric, 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.
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.
Edited by Faith, : No reason given.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 103 by dwise1, posted 05-02-2013 11:27 AM dwise1 has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 113 by ooh-child, posted 05-02-2013 4:15 PM Faith has replied
 Message 117 by dwise1, posted 05-02-2013 9:04 PM Faith has replied

  
ooh-child
Member (Idle past 429 days)
Posts: 242
Joined: 04-10-2009


Message 113 of 134 (698041)
05-02-2013 4:15 PM
Reply to: Message 112 by Faith
05-02-2013 3:39 PM


Don't go changin', to try to please us...
Faith, I don't think anyone is trying to get you to 'change' - I think CS's post was made in jest. Hence, the emoticon. dwise1 isn't trying to get you to throw out your old measuring devices, or reprogram your brain.
Why are you so combative & defensive, even when you don't have to be?

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 114 by Faith, posted 05-02-2013 4:25 PM ooh-child has seen this message but not replied

  
Faith 
Suspended Member (Idle past 1529 days)
Posts: 35298
From: Nevada, USA
Joined: 10-06-2001


(1)
Message 114 of 134 (698042)
05-02-2013 4:25 PM
Reply to: Message 113 by ooh-child
05-02-2013 4:15 PM


Re: Don't go changin', to try to please us...
Golly gee, I thought I was correcting a misimpression.
Edited by Faith, : No reason given.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 113 by ooh-child, posted 05-02-2013 4:15 PM ooh-child has seen this message but not replied

  
Coragyps
Member (Idle past 819 days)
Posts: 5553
From: Snyder, Texas, USA
Joined: 11-12-2002


Message 115 of 134 (698051)
05-02-2013 6:14 PM
Reply to: Message 108 by dwise1
05-02-2013 3:05 PM


Re: No Fracking Problem
Attoparsecs. That's the unit!!!

This message is a reply to:
 Message 108 by dwise1, posted 05-02-2013 3:05 PM dwise1 has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 116 by dwise1, posted 05-02-2013 8:53 PM Coragyps has replied

  
dwise1
Member
Posts: 5974
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 4.2


(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

Replies to this message:
 Message 119 by Coragyps, posted 05-03-2013 8:57 AM dwise1 has not replied

  
dwise1
Member
Posts: 5974
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 4.2


(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

  
Faith 
Suspended Member (Idle past 1529 days)
Posts: 35298
From: Nevada, USA
Joined: 10-06-2001


Message 118 of 134 (698084)
05-02-2013 11:12 PM
Reply to: Message 117 by dwise1
05-02-2013 9:04 PM


Re: No Fracking Problem
Yes, doing all those conversions as you describe for your high school friend's mother is what I thought was necessary.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 117 by dwise1, posted 05-02-2013 9:04 PM dwise1 has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 120 by dwise1, posted 05-03-2013 9:55 AM Faith has not replied

  
Coragyps
Member (Idle past 819 days)
Posts: 5553
From: Snyder, Texas, USA
Joined: 11-12-2002


Message 119 of 134 (698115)
05-03-2013 8:57 AM
Reply to: Message 116 by dwise1
05-02-2013 8:53 PM


Re: No Fracking Problem
The basic unit of speed was one furlong per fortnight,
Used by civil engineers to measure rates of travel of substances in municipal sewer plants.....

This message is a reply to:
 Message 116 by dwise1, posted 05-02-2013 8:53 PM dwise1 has not replied

  
dwise1
Member
Posts: 5974
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 4.2


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.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 118 by Faith, posted 05-02-2013 11:12 PM Faith has not replied

  
Newer Topic | Older Topic
Jump to:


Copyright 2001-2023 by EvC Forum, All Rights Reserved

™ Version 4.2
Innovative software from Qwixotic © 2024