Editorial: Your standards of measurement

Trent Ernst, Editor


“It’s cold in here,” says Pam last Friday. “I’m freezing.”

So Lisa goes and turns up the heat. “I’ve set it to 75,” she says. “So it should get nice and warm.”

“Is that Centigrade or Fahrenheit?” asks I. Lisa just shrugs. “Because if it is Centigrade, expect the papers to start spontaneously combusting….”

I’m pretty sure it’s Fahrenheit, though. Which got me thinking, didn’t Canada start metrication, like, back in the 1970s? And yet still we’re telling temp in such an archaic method as Fahrenheit. Quick, what’s the freezing point of water in Fahrenheit? 32. What’s the boiling point. Um. Something difficult to remember. 212, Google tells me.

Let’s try the same thing, but in metric this time. Zero. 100. Easy peasy.

We live in a base ten society. I’ve got ten fingers and ten toes. If I had 53 fingers, then maybe four times that might make sense for the boiling point of water, but somehow, even then, it doesn’t seem logical.

Or what about distance? How many feet in a mile? A bunch. How about yards? Why are none of these factors of any other? If I start with two miles, subtract 25 yards, add 8 feet, and then another 6 inches, how many furlongs am I left with?

And don’t get me started on weight. Actually, lets.

Here’s one of my favourite brain ticklers: what’s heavier: a pound of gold or a pound of feathers?

If you don’t understand how these things work, you would say a pound of gold. And you’d be wrong.

If you do know how these things work, you’ll say “why Trent, they both weigh the same, because they’re both pounds.”

And you’d still be wrong.

Because most materials use pounds and ounces from the avoirdupois system. In this system, a pound is 16 ounces, and an ounce is 437.5 grains. What’s a grain? My point exactly.

But here’s the thing. Precious metals are measured in troy weight. A troy pound is 12 troy ounces, and each troy ounce is 480 grains.

So, if we go back to grains as a standard of measurement between the two, then a pound of gold weighs 5760 grains, while a pound of feathers weights 7000 grains.

So, which weighs more? A pound of feathers or a pound of gold? Well, obviously it’s the feathers. Why? Because pounds are stupid, that’s why.

Quick: which weights more? A kilogram of gold or a kilogram of feathers? They both weigh the same! Because metric makes sense!

Going back to grains. If you were to check the books now, you’d find that the official definition of a grain is 0.06479891 of a gram.

You get that? To stop people from being confused, they have to define pounds with the metric system.

Indeed, according to the 1959 International Yard and Pound Agreement, a yard is officially defined as 0.9144 metres.

So basically, in an effort to help define the broken Imperial system, they’ve had to define it by the metric system. Why? Because the metric system is simple, logical, and makes sense.

And guys, face it, it’s also sounds more impressive. Would you rather admit to a mere 4.7 inches, or an impressive 12 cm? “I’m packing a full decimeter, ladies.”

Of course, that goes the other way, too. Grocery stores would rather tell you that steak is 250 grams rather than a half a pound.

But because some people are stubborn, Canada remains a bi-measurable nation, rather than the proud metric nation more than four decades (base ten) after the fact.