Wikipedia:Measurements Debate

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For current style guidelines for units of measure, please see Wikipedia:Manual of Style (dates and numbers).

Moved from Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style

Can anyone Explain to me?

Can anyone explain a good reason not to have both forms of measurement listed, other than blatant bias against the other. Forms of measurements are not facts, they are ways of communicating, no different than langugues, are we to create a base of knowledge that makes it more difficult for some to understand because we want to use a universal system of measurement that isnt yet universal, when we can simply add both and allow all users to understand. The whole purpose of this project to expand knowledge and make it readily available for all. This really isnt about units of measurement this about something else.--Kev62nesl 15:20, 29 April 2006 (UTC)

What's the preferred style for units?

What's the preferred style for units? In your example for numbers etc. you use both m (metre) and kilograms (kg). I'd say the abbreviations for SI units are quite well established (well, outside of the US anyway) and are hardly seen written in full, but I'm not sure about the imperial units, one sees 10 yard, 10 y, 10 yd, 10 yards, etc. Any rules for this? Jeronimo

I think we should prefer metric / SI over Imperial / US. -- Tarquin

I know, but they will be used in many articles no doubt, if only as a secondary to the SI units. Jeronimo

Anonymous observations here ... Someone suggested that both SI and US Imperial measurements be included in all articles, with order in appearance determined by what the article is about. I agree with the observation that some of the Wikipedians here are trying to force the SI system as the only standard, and I've seen more than a few articles where editors went through and removed any hint of US Imperial measurements, even on articles where such measurements were, ah, "the progenitor," for lack of better words.

I don't think it's "the right thing to do" to completely remove US Imperial measurements. I've noticed all-too-often in this discussion a caustic attitude to any objections concerning the deletion of US Imperial from articles; but the fact is, even if the United States is the only country using that system of measurements, Americans are still a significant presence on Wikipedia (and the internet at large!). Attempts by other Wikipedians to disadvantage them, forcing a system many do not have a sense of familiarity with (although it's taught in most American schools, because the US Imperial system is more prevalent here, most Americans will have a better sense of scale with those) .... this comes off as slightly amusing given that Wikipedia's based in Florida.

Again, I'm not saying that Wikipedia should cater ONLY to Americans and use US Imperial; that's absurd. By the same token, it should be recognized that given the user base, US Imperial simply cannot be thrown away, lest you devalue the worth of this encyclopedia to a significant amount of users. I believe the dual system, with order of appearance judging on the article, to be a fair compromise. --anon who forgot to sign anonymously

For the record, the correct term is U.S. customary units, "maintained" by NIST. Imperial units refer the British units of the same names, but mostly slightly (or significantly) differ in value.
Secondly, as of 1988, by an act of Congress, the metric system is the preferred system of weights and measurements in the US. As of 1995, the US is the only country in the world which officially uses non-SI units in commerce, that being the year the UK, the last hold-out, finally banned Imperial units. (Anyway, the U.S. customary units have existed purely as ratios with the metric units since 1906. An inch is defined as a certain fraction of meter.) In Canada and the UK, the only non-metric units are for drinking and driving. There's something poetic about that.
Anyway, the whole point of that is to say that metric units (and SI notation) should be preferred, as no country, English-speaking or otherwise, prefers U.S. customary units. If convenient comparison is desired, they should be inserted parenthetically after the SI units.
There are, however, reasons to provide the reverse. Some standards, some devices, some objects, are defined in US customary units. The definitions should be provided as accurately as possible, and most metric conversions will be approximations to the millimeter. SI units should be provided, but the definition's units should take precidence until the definition is updated. —Daelin @ 2006–01–08 16:52Z

km/h mi/h

I've lately been changing all occurrences of "kph" Google found to the correct "km/h" and got carried away to also change "mph" to "mi/h" in many places, because it just makes sense when mile is abbreviated "mi" and I had already seen it elsewhere. However that's probably a little bit confusing for average US-Americans and the like (who already complained), as would be using "pd" instead of "lb". So I think we should have a definitive guide for which abbreviation to use, or whether to abbreviate units at all in full sentences. Also whether to put a space between number and unit and when the number should be written in letters.
JFTR: I'm fascinated by the imperial system(s) and constantly wonder how anyone can remember all those different conversion factors. -- Crissov 14:36, 20 Sep 2003 (UTC)
While 'mi/h' is certainly logical and sensible, to my knowledge it has never been used. Since understandable beats logical in my opinion when it comes to a project like this, we should keep 'mph' as the abbreviation for miles per hour. Efforts would be better spent on making sure all these also have SI equivalents listed. --Morven 23:39, 20 Sep 2003 (UTC)
I don't like 'mi/h', because it looks like SI but isn't. Whenever I see this kind of thing I can't help thinking 'm = metres -- no problem; but i = ??????'. The same goes for 'mi²', which seems to be cropping up more and more frequently. Is this really used in the US? Or is it, as I suspect, a bastard form? Where 'traditional' units are being used, I think it adds to clarity if the traditional abbreviations, too, are used: mph, sq. mi., etc. -- Picapica 15:40, 11 Jul 2004 (UTC)
In my experience, 'mi²' is never used in America. If clarity were my goal, I'd always use 'square miles' as anything that looks like, for example, 'seven miles squared' leaves my wondering if I should square the number. :-) -- Atlant 12:05, 12 May 2005 (UTC)
The most important question IMHO is why we would be using miles at all? And the answer has to be, "To make this (international) project more accessible to Americans." So we use what Americans are used to dealing with: "mph". Thus: "80 km/h (50 mph)". Similarly, I would avoid "pd" in favor of "lb", since the point is not to conform to some international pound standard, but to make Wikipedia more accessible to people who don't use international standards (i.e., Americans). Thus: "30 kg (66 lb)".
No need to change "mph" to "mi/h": the Imperial/US system isn't supposed to make sense. If these archaic measures are given at all, use their archaic abbreviations. Jimp 12Jun05
One thing, British people use the term mph, and anyone the term mi/h will get funny looks as mi isn't the official symbol for miles in the United Kingdom.159753 13:22, 27 July 2005 (UTC)
The speedometers of most cars sold here in Canada show km/h and MPH while some models of VW show km/h only. Peter Horn 14:30, 1 September 2006 (UTC)

The ISO connection

International Standard ISO 31 (Quantities and units) is the most widely respected style guide internationally when it comes to the use of units and mathematical notation, especially in scientific and educational texts. In most countries, school textbooks follow the ISO 31 style religiously, as do many editors of scientific journals. ISO 31 describes mostly SI units, but it has appendices that summarize the most commonly used U.S. customary units as well. The U.S. length units listed by ISO 31-1 in Annex A along with their abbreviations are: inch (in), foot (ft), yard (yd), mile. Note that the mile does not have any abbreviation specified by ISO 31. The only commonly used abbreviation for mile (m) is already used far more widely by the meter. Therefore ISO/TC 12 decided in favour of not abbreviating the mile at all, as opposed to inventing a new abbreviation for a unit that is deprecated anyway. -- Markus Kuhn (maintainer of misc.metric-system FAQ), 2004-02-17 10:21Z

Expressing inch-pound units

Expressing inch-pound units: As in so many other cases, the metric is a clearer system -- m, cm, km, kg -- while there are many ways in the US system-- 1", 1 inch, 1 in -- and so forth. Since the main purpose here is consistency, how about in=inch, ft=foot, yd=yard, mi=mile, pd=pound, gal=gallon, pt=pint, qt=quart, etc--a regular set of two-letter abbreviations?
Such abbreviations of the US units are unlikely to be familiar to people from "the SI world". Can't these units just be written in full ? That's not much more characters to type. -- FvdP
I agree, typing them in full is likely to be much less confusing. I particularly dislike the idea of "pd" for pound; there's an existing abbreviation, "lb". Note also theat these units are not by-and-large, the "US system", they're the British or "Imperial" system which the USA also uses. The exception is the gallon; a US gallon is different from a UK gallon, so I would strongly suggest that if anyone is using this unit, they say which gallon they mean and give an SI equivalent (either l or dm³ or ) -- Cabalamat 19:23, 20 Sep 2003 (UTC)
And pints and fluid ounces, of course (see gallon, pint, fluid ounce).
James F. 17:28, 21 Sep 2003 (UTC)

Value of inch-pound units in Wikipedia

Value of inch-pound units in Wikipedia:Despite the superiority, on paper, of the metric system, the world's largest economy, with the great majority of internet users, uses the metric system only in limited ways. I tried to lay out some reasonable rules:
  • For common weights and measures, animal sizes and the like, give both, but don't bother with going to decimal places on most conversions, unless precision is an issue, such as the area of Paris, Texas.
  • For things that are always metric, give metric
  • For things that are always inch-pound, give inch-pound
I am familar with the metric system and its merits (except for temperature, where I think for measurements in everyday life Fahrenheit rules), but I have a hard time making the conversions in my head (except, ironically, for temperature). Obviously, in the Wikipedia, if a writer doesn't put in the "other" measurement, someone else will probably come along and do it, but it would be irresponsible and a disservice to readers to state in the style guide "metric is always preferred".
And, anyway, one measurement is better than none. There are still lots of articles with no measurements given at all, Hummingbirds for instance, are famous for being small, but we give no dimensions at all. Ortolan88


The US econony is not larger than the economy of the rest of the World.
  • Giving both is fair enough. Give conversions to the same degree of precision.
  • For things that are always metric, sure, give metric.
  • Is there anything which is always inch-pound?
US Letter sized paper is not defined anywhere except in one of President Reagan's executive orders declaring US Letter sized paper to be used in all government documents. US Letter is considered to be 8 1/2" by 11", rather than its approximate millimeter definition. Standardizing the size of paper is one of the good things he did. Roads and railroads in the US are (were) defined in terms of inches. Beer is always served in pints (although pints are usually colloquially redefined as 500 mL.) Book sizes are defined in terms of inches. I can't find any book sizes defined in metric units. —Daelin @ 2006–01–08 17:03Z
Canada defines the letter size as 216 x 280 mm. As for book sizes givsn in cm or mm, it all depends as to where the catalogue or newspaper article etc. originates. Peter Horn 14:51, 1 September 2006 (UTC)
I don't feel it to be "irresponsible and a disservice to readers to state in the style guide 'metric is always preferred'." It is the international standard after all but p'haps I'm biased. Jimp 14Jun05

Economy

I read once that the EU is larger economically than the US, but that is by the by... Metrication is an ongoing process, which won't ever get any faster is projects like this don't nudge it along a little. This is an international project, and the SI system is the internationally recognized standard. I say we drag people kicking and screaming into the 20th century. -- Tarquin

So what? North America is larger than Europe economically and California is larger than France in this regard as well. So that alone is not a good argument here. I do agree that we should err toward SI and metric though (see below). --mav
The largest economy in the world is the world's entire economy. Most people in this economy use metric. So let's use metric. Ooooooooo
Since we're nitpicking, saying "North America is larger than Europe economically" doesn't help tilt the balance toward US/Imperial, since Mexico and Canada use the metric system... Blacklite 04:43, 4 Apr 2005 (UTC)
If it's my economy vs. yours, then, of course, the US vs. the rest of the World isn't much of a competition. It's up to them to join the 21st century, though. In the mean time, we can be nice to each other: give both. Jimp 9Jun05

For further reference, the US is larger econonomically than the EU.

European Union purchasing power parity - $11.65 trillion (2004 est.) [1]

United States purchasing power parity - $11.75 trillion (2004 est.) [2] Jimbobsween 23:19, 18 July 2005 (UTC)

Therefore the US is larger than the EU by a whopping 1%. Now you've got to add the rest of the World into the picture. The US may have the biggest economy of any nation but this is beside the point. There is more to the World than the US and the EU. It's the US verses pretty much everyone else. Jimp 6Sep05
EU and USA have approximately the same size economy, and NAFTA and EEA also have approximately the same size economy. Whose penis, sorry, economy is larger depend mostly of the very volatile Euro/Dollar relationship.--Per Abrahamsen 08:02, 17 November 2005 (UTC)

The purpose of an encyclopedia is to inform

The purpose of an encyclopedia is to inform, not to make Americans do what Europeans think they ought to do. The metric system is very simple and well worked out and easier to use, but for the US to adopt it requires us to change every board, piece of steel, bottle, can, screw, bolt, nut, and measuring device in a highly developed economy. The US armed services have converted for the most part, some parts of the auto industry and others, including the US Bureau of Standards, that defines all US measurements in metric terms, but the incentive to change has to match the effort to change, and in the meantime, it will help immensely, and hurt not at all, if our articles remind people that a pound is about half a kilo and a meter is just over a yard. And I still say your degrees are just too big for ordinary daily use. All the world should be required to switch to Fahrenheit immediately. Ortolan88
"The metric system did not really catch on in the States, unless you count the increasing popularity of the 9mm bullet." -- Dave Barry
I see the failure of the U. S. to adopt the metric system is more an issue of congressional foot-dragging than anything else. A large part of industry would be very happy with such a change; it would be a very big saving for them not to have to maintain two separate sets of inventory for domestic and export use. The soft drink industry has been ahead of the pack on this one - putting Coke in a 2-litre bottle hasn't poisoned. There's also a trade protectionist aspect to the debate. Industry in other countries is often not at all keen on the idea of a separate inventory to please the U.S.; that can be more of a bother than foregoing exports to the United States. Thus in a protectionist minded government a failure to adopt metric saves American jobs.
Even if Congress were to take the necessary measures today, it would still take at least two full generations for metric to be fully operational. Eclecticology 11:48 Aug 29, 2002 (PDT)
Out of interest - when did Britain start going metric? I was at school from 1987-2000 and I sure think in metric. Haven't got a clue what a pound weighs, gimme kilograms, and what are these "inch" things? =) AW
The UK currency went metric in 1970 or so, as far as I'm aware the US currency has been metric for a long time. As far as weights and meassures, its been fairly recent that its officially metric but the metric system has been the only one taught for quite some time I think. I have to say the US system makes no sense at all, why divide things up into arbitrary amounts? Glad to hear there is at least some effort on their behalf to go metric, even if its not successful yet! EAi 05:35, 15 December 2005 (UTC)
The inch is the only part that makes sense. It's subdivided by halves, so you get fractions of inverse powers of two--very handy usually. The UK banned Imperial units in 1995. They began metrication before WW1. But then, so did the US. —Daelin @ 2006–01–08 17:06Z


"The purpose of an encyclopedia is to inform, not to make Americans do what Europeans think they ought to do". Likewise, it is not the purpose of an encyclopaedia to make the rest of the world do what Americans think they ought to do. Ooooooooo

The case of the UK

The UK decimalized its currency in the early 1970s, and switching to metric was a condition of entry to the EU around the same time. It's been a slow process. I remember when TV weather forecasts were in F and C, but they're now entirely in Celsius. Weights and measures on pre-packaged goods (eg packets, tins of food) went metric early on, but food measured at point of sale (markets, supermarket deli counters) have been dual for a long time -- they switched to metric only around 2000 (2001?), it's now indeed illegal to sell in pounds and ounces. Some imbecillic traders are taking the issue to the European court of Human Rights, but they're not the only chumps to make a mockery of the recent Human Rights legislation in the UK for their own ends and publicity. ... where was I? metrication has more info: "UK policy is to eliminate almost all nonmetric units by 2009, except for road signs." -- Tarquin

The UK decimalised on 15th February 1971. We joined the Common Market (later known as the EU) in 1973. The metrication process began in 1965, and as you say, it's been a slow process. It's true that metriccation was condition of Common Market entry but since it was already goernment policy this was a non-binding constraint. Loose food was metricated on 1st January, 2000. It's not exactly illegal to sell in pounds and ounces. You must display the food price in metric, but you may also display in "supplementary units" provided that they are no larger or more prominent than the metric display. You may ask for the product in any units, but the vendor must weigh or measure it in metric. The receipt must be in metric. Blaise 15:08, 4 February 2006 (UTC)

My policy

I simply use SI or metric and link to the appropriate unit article -- many of which already have conversion factors and links to a great online converter. See square kilometre. This is one of the way we were able to reduce the hideously wide countries tables to their current much leaner state. If and only if there is room, it seems appropriate in context and if it doesn't confuse things, should we use the American system (So long as links to the right unit article are included of course). See the boiling/melting point part of the barium table for an example of this. --mav

California is metric?

(cough) point of information :-) Canada is metric, and California state highways use km, at least that's what metrication says -- Tarquin
Double cough -- the km/mile experiment failed badly and new CA highway signs only use miles and the above was just to point out that comparing an entire continent to one country is not a valid comparison. Canada and the US do work together in a way very similar to the EU when it comes to economics. The Euro may strengthen economics ties between European nations to similar levels seen between US States in the future though. Also economics isn't a reason for this at all -- there are 280 million native English speakers in the US. How many native English speakers are there in Europe? --mav
The California km experiment probably had more to do with Mexico being metric than Canada. I suspect that there are still signs in kilometres in the southern part of the state, especially on the northbound side of the highways. (Bigger signs give better cover for hidden INS agents. :-)) The number of English speakers in Europe is not a significant fact because metrication is not a language issue. The history of this subject in the US is bizarre. For a chronology see http://lamar.colostate.edu/~hillger/dates.htm Eclecticology
This happened just after New Zealand road signs became metric. My mom was driving to Christchurch once and she was doing 95 miles (over 150 km) an hour on one stretch of motorway (when the speed sign actually said 100 km/h and not 100 mph.) She got a hefty fine for it. --Scott Gall

America is metric, too

They just put miles on the signs. All the measurements are actually in km, though. Or so they say... - Omegatron 04:05, Jun 26, 2005 (UTC)

The USA has used metric (in an indirect sense) for quite some time (for over a century IIRC) -- American version of imperial units have been defined in terms of metric units (e.g. the inch is defined to be 2.54cm). -- Naoto

Native English speakers

The number of English speakers that use one system vs another is at the heart of the issue. But now you are having me argue against a position I hold: that, here at least, we should use SI and metric most of the time and have units linked to articles that have conversion factors and external links to online converters. --mav
BTW, there are non-native english speakers, like me, on the English wikipedia. I think in SI units. --FvdP
I'm with mav on this one. The SI unit pages like metre give conversion into feet, yards, chains, furlongs, miles, etc -- Tarquin
Linking units is a good idea, but I am against preferring SI over imperial (even though I'm a European). It is like preferring UK spelling over US spelling or v.v.: we don't do that here either. The rules for the spelling are: use it consistently within one article and use it where appropriate. In scientific articles, it will be appropriate to use the SI units. However, if the subject is typically US or even UK (which if formally also a SI country, but in pratice far from it) imperial units may be more appropriate. If another reader feels it needs clarification with SI units, I don't care about how he does it. I DO want to have a "preferred style" for displaying imperial units. What is the most common convention for that? Jeronimo

We can all understand the words "color" and "colour". Having two types of units, however, can be a source of confusion. (NASA, anyone?) -- Tarquin

Using a form of measurement that I never use and despite intellectual admiration probably won't ever use is more confusing that courteously filling me (and my metric counterpart) in on what exactly is the measurement being presented.
Also, neither "SI" nor "Imperial" are familiar terms to me, and I'm better informed than the average dude. Ortolan88
Imperial / US units / whatever -- that only goes to show that they are non-standard. The rest of the world and the scientific community worldwide uses the SI system. Why not use the standard? -- Tarquin

Imperial US vs UK

Much of the above discussion seems to imply that Imperial and American Customary units are the same, which they are not. If you say a litre, everyone agrees how large that is, whereas a pint is different in Britain and America, and in America there are different volumes for wet and dry measures. Similarly an ounce could refer to a fluid ounce, a troy ounce or an avoirdupois ounce. Even the mile has statute and nautical variants. The advantage of the metric system is that it is unambiguous. Chris Q 10:13 Sep 16, 2002 (UTC)



=S.I ?

Discussion copied from Talk:SI for wider circulation here, giving once again reasons for using the common US system and showing confusion between SI and metric:
<begin>
I have a friend who was raised in France, speaks French and is a college-educated automobile mechanic who in 25 years went through the transition from Imperial to metric system with several lines of cars, including teaching it to other mechanics, and he has never heard the expression SI. Hence, I added the word "metric" to this article. Ortolan88

Cgs

Wait a minute here. I thought that the cgs system is what is commonly called the metric system and SI is simply the International Standard used by scientists (based on m, kg, s)? I also thought that most nations use a hybrid system made up of SI and cgs units. If the opening paragraph is correct then temperatures in Europe are measured and displayed in Kelvin and not degrees Celsius. --mav

cgs and mks are both metric. — Toby 18:35 Nov 3, 2002 (UTC)
mav, Europeans measure temperature domestically in Celsius because it is easy to say and less of a tongue twister, while Kelvin is used in a scientific term, i.e. a cold day: -5°C or 270K or the boiling point of nitrogen -196°C or 77K. 159753 13:32, 27 July 2005 (UTC)

>I thought that the cgs system is what is commonly called the metric system and SI is simply >the International Standard used by scientists

No. The metric system has undergone revisions from time to time. CGS became MKS (metre-kilogram-second), which became SI. Most countries use a mixture of SI, non-SI units related to SI (e.g. litres and hectares) and non-SI units unrelated to SI (feet, for aircraft altitudes; nautical miles). Blaise 15:21, 4 February 2006 (UTC)

An international encyclopedia

I was going by the metric article and the metric-fan additions to Wikipedia:Manual of Style. It seems both these articles are wrong, from what you say. Every time I try to speak up for the 260 million non-metric Americans, I am treated to a condescending lecture on how superior the metric system is. I have never said it isn't superior (except for temperature), but that isn't the issue. The issue is ease of use of the wikipedia by the world's largest internet nation. It is too damn bad the US has been so slow and reluctant and whatever to adopt the metric system, and it is slowly coming in now, but we still don't use it in everyday life, so if we want to know how tall a hippopotamus is, someone is going to have to help us out. It is with some schadenfreude (delight at the discomfort of those you disagree with) at this indication that even metric enthusiasts are not sure what the difference between metric and SI is. Ortolan88
<end>

No, that isn't the issue. The issue is an international encyclopedia, usable by people around the world. Like it or not, English is the lingua franca, and the SI system is the lingua franca of measurement. The reason that the average Frenchman doesn't know the name "SI" is that there is little reason to know the name of the system used in France, since it is the only system is use.
Hippopotamus: that's what all the orders of magnitude pages are there for. I have endeavoured to put links to those pages wherever there is a measurement.
As for the "metric", "cgs", "SI" thing: AFAIK, "metric" is the generic term for the system as a whole, though to some extent the term "SI" is used as it's less ambiguous. "cgs" specified certain multiples as the base units ( the centimeter, gram and second) -- the idea being that in scientific work, one works with a base unit and exponential notation instead of using prefixes. (eg 4 x 10^4 g instead of 40 kg). "SI" is partly a change in base units (metre and kilogram), but also a redefining of the entire system, (with the wavelength of light being used instead of the Earth's circumference for the metre, for example), a setting out of 7 base units. -- Tarquin 09:30 Sep 16, 2002 (UTC)

I regularly come across pages that have only Imperial units. Can I be so bold as to change these to metric and put the Imperial measurements in parenthesis or should it be vice-versa? Scipius 20:01 Nov 3, 2002 (UTC)

I'd say change to "metric (imperial)". (The tarquin of the Dark Side says replace with metric & kiss the imperial goodbye, but it's sunday night, and although the glass in front of me is empty there's a bottle of Bunnahabhain downstairs, so dark side is overruled...) Link the metric term to an orders of magnitude page to help compare values & convert to other types of unit (Klingon, etc). Actually, on second thoughts, I would say remove ambiguous units such as miles -- Tarquin 22:06 Nov 3, 2002 (UTC)

links [[1 E3 m|2.3 km (1.4 mi)]

I support links like 2.3 km (1.4 mi). Only articles about units of measurement (or sentences about units of measurement in articles about something else) need to link directly to Kilometre or Mile. — Toby 02:23 Nov 17, 2002 (UTC)


Why legislate this?

Sometimes the context determines which units are reasonable (Principle of least astonishment). For example, an article on London should give a travel distance in miles, not kilometers.

Otherwise, dictating that units should be converted to a standard appears to be inconsistent with the firm Wikipedia policy that Wikipedia is freely editable. If an author uses units that are clearly awkward, such as "1.60934 km", another author might change this to "1 mi.". If an author is not a resident of countries that use Imperial units, they might prefer to use "km." instead of "mi.".

another author might change this to "1 mi." And another might change it to "1.6 km". :-) Nowhither 01:04, 27 Apr 2005 (UTC)

There is a larger issue: if there is to be one English Wikipedia that is to be used internationally, what would be appropriate style rules for locale? (Locale includes collating order, date and time formats, thousands separator character in numbers, British/USAian spelling, units of measurement, etc. I could not find a specific discussion of this issue in either Wikipedia or Meta Wikipedia. David 20:18 Jan 3, 2003 (UTC)




Another thing to bear in mind -- gallons and pints are ambiguous. technically, so are miles. (nautical, survey, but it's safe to assume hwich one just "mile" means). Furthermore, in the UK, it is highly unusual to give a figure in pounds over 14. 14 pounds make a stone in the Imperial system (or mayb 16. or 18. heck, I don't know.) -- Tarquin 22:49 Jan 11, 2003 (UTC)

14


Just to toss another monkey into the wrenchworks here. The English and American units are much more natural and human scale. An inch is a knuckle, a foot is the length of a foot, a yard is as long as an arm, a mile is a good walk, a pound is a handful, 0 fahrenheit is real cold, 100 fahrenheit is body temperature and also real hot, 200 fahrenheit will burn you, that mischievous guy, Ortolan88


Just like the metric system. After all a centimetre is a fingernail, a decimetre is the length of a hand, a metre is as long as an arm, a kilometre is a gentle stroll, a kilogram is two handfuls, 0 Celsius is an ice-cold cola, 10 Celsius is a breezy spring day, 100 Celsius is just hot enough to make tea properly. -- Derek Ross 02:38 Mar 1, 2003 (UTC) (who is happy with either system as long as he knows which one is being used.)

Just looked the page for the first time. I don't have any solutions, just some observations -

Last few remainders of non-metric usage in Europe to cease in 2009

Europe has officially set the target for going completely metric by 2009, yet vast numbers of people still think only in imperial units. Just because a bureaucrat in Brussels says 'Europe is metric' doesn't make it so. (Usually going by the EU, the safe option is to believe the exact opposite of what Brussels bureaucratic thinks!) I know my class all studied through metric, yet we still use both systems. Our road signs say miles, our cars tell speeds in kilometres. We buy litres of soft drink, but drink 'pints' of alcohol. I bake a christmas cake using imperial measurements yet fahrenheit is no longer used or even recognised. (Watching CBS News the other night, they told how cold it was in the US by giving a number in fahrenheit. Neither my flatmate (23 years old) nor I (mid 30s) had a clue what Dan Rather meant.) I suppose what all that means is that Wikipedia shouldn't use one system or the other - just because someone uses kilograms doesn't mean they don't think in miles, or use miles doesn't mean they don't use celsius. I know that is made all the worse by different imperial unit meanings in the US and elsewhere. (Not to mention spelling. We may not think in kilometres, but we still prefer seeing them spelt kilometres not kilometers!) The bottom line is, there is no simple solution. I'm all for standardising things that can be standardised on Wiki, but this is one issue where if you try to limit use to one, vast numbers of Wiki users from somewhere will not have a clue about the meaning. JTD 02:59 Mar 1, 2003 (UTC)

Leaving aside the atheistic, French revolutionary roots of the metric system, and the vile scourge of creeping decimalism, the chief advantage of the traditional or Imperial system is that it allows other divisors, and does not participate in the monomaniacal insistence on powers of 10. This makes it far more useful in the kitchen, where you may well be called upon to multiply a recipe by three, or take a recipe that feeds four and convert it to feed two, or one, but it's much less likely that you will be called upon to multiply or divide your recipe by 10. The metric system probably has value in science, engineering, or other fields where higher math will be applied; it is useless around the house. The Celsius temperatures are much too loose and sloppy to apply to anything like the weather; but Fahrenheit just marked 0 the coldest temperature he recorded in a year, and 100 the hottest [see below - David], so it works well for weather in the temperate zone. I say that if a rule is required use whichever measures do the best job for what you're talking about: metric for science and physics, imperial for anything you will actually encounter in real life. -- IHCOYC 03:37 Mar 1, 2003 (UTC)

This whole cooking argument is a myth. If you have volume measures, you can scale up your recipe by two. Great! But if you have three times as many guests, you're stuck. You'd have to convert to avoirdupois measures, where 12 is *sometimes* a factor. (but 16 ounces in a pound, no? Oh wait, that's only the english pound I think -- but I don't know because I have not burdened my memory with all the different hanges of base in the system) I agree that 10 is not the best base, but it happens to be the base of our number system. I'd be all for a measurement system in base 12 if we counted in base 12 as well. And the Imperial is not in base 12, there is a different base at nearly every change of units. Quick! How many fuid ounces in an acre-foot? -- Tarquin 08:39 Mar 1, 2003 (UTC)
PS -- besides, the truly brain-free way to scale up recipes is thus: suppose your recipe is for 2 and you are cooking for 4. Measure out the amount required, and tip it into your mixing bowl. Repeat. You've just doubled the quantity, no maths required ;-)
atheistic, French revolutionary roots. Thanks for the reminder, IHCOYC :-)
I knew there must be some more good reasons for favouring metric. -- Picapica 16:10, 11 Jul 2004 (UTC)
Moreover, the whole human-scale argument is a myth too. If a yard is good for the human scale, why not a metre? If a quart is fine, why not a litre? A kilogram is about a couple of pounds. It's all about what your used to. Imperial seems good "for anything you will actually encounter in real life" if and only if this is what you use in everyday life. It's certainly not what I use (except for glasses of beer at the pub). For me metric is the system of measures which do the best job no matter what you're talking about: science or not. By the way, Ihcoyc, physics is a science.
Sure, the Imperial system allows for divisions besides 10 but they're all over the place. There's no consistancy. Sometimes the factor is 12, sometimes 3, sometimes 4, sometimes 5, sometimes even 7 or, even more bizzar, 5.5. I can only second Tarquin's comment. 12 would be useful. Perhaps 60 could be better. How about 360? Then on the other hand, 16 or 32 ... As long as you're consistent. However, we use base ten for counting so base ten is still the best choice ... until we change our counting system.
Jimp 14Jun05
I dont have a problem with base 10. Its factors are 2, and 5, which suit me fine. And if we were going to choose a new base, which obviously we're not, then i dont think the main issue would be how many people Mrs Hubbard is going to cook for tonight. Face it - with the computing power we've had since the 60's, all that became irrelevant. The real issue is how many is practical? And 10 is, + its also what we know. So lets just stick to 10 shall we, and go metric. THE KING 10:54, 20 Jun 2005 (UTC)
I agree with you, King, 2 & 5 are fine. Even if Old Mother Hubbard ends up cooking for four, that's just two squared. The only useful thing really missing is 3 ... I think even Old Mother Hubbard could live with that. Factors like seven and eleven really do more harm than good. Besides, these days the people how failed maths at primary school are eating instant cup noodles for diner. Jimp 22Jun05

guideline

The guideline should be simple enough:

  1. recommed metric in general
  2. encourage conversions where appropriate (as judged by the writer at the time)
  3. don't be too hard and fast about things, especially in specialist areas where you are a non-expert - for example, aeronautics generally uses the nautical mile.
  4. remember that, while metric is preffered (because the entire world uses it, bar a few non-scientific people in America) in some contexts, especially historical ones, metric makes no sense at all.
  5. don't ever, ever use statute mph for marine or aeronautical measurements - always knots (best) or kmh, because otherwise Tannin gets very grumpy and throws his toys around.

Tannin 09:02 Mar 1, 2003 (UTC)


Fahrenheit

Concerning the Fahrenheit temperature scale, a statement made above, and Web site [3] attempt to explain its origin. However, they are incorrect. The Web site claims that the true origins are unknown, which is also incorrect. Some sites, such as [4], like many others, simply invent the origins (for example, that the freezing point of water was arbitrarily set as 32°). Sites such as [5] have almost the correct information. [6] correctly explains that the freezing point was determined by measuring the lowest temperature achievable in a laboratory, which of course resulted by mixing water, ice, and salt in the right proportions (not equally) and letting it sit until the temperature is stable. (He did not want negative temperatures). Laughable today, perhaps, but it made sense in 1714 when he did his experiments. [7] explains that the upper bound came from measuring the internal temperature of a healthy person and calling it 96 degrees (that site explains why).

Other scales include the Réaumur (1730), Rømer (1730+), Kelvin (1862), and Rankine (ca. 1860). See, e.g., [8].

David 19:49 Mar 3, 2003 (UTC)


I find it amazing that people make statements about metric temperature measurements not having enough accuracy for weather readings. Celsius is perfect for weather, 0 is freezing, 0-10 cold, 10-20 cool, 20-30 moderate, 30-40 hot, 40-50 very hot. Easy! People who claim that Celsius doesn't have enough accuracy are just pulling at straws. Most people won't notice a difference of 1 degree Celsius and if that much accuracy is required then throw in a decimal point.

It depends on your purpose. If all you want is the weather report, you could probably report it in 5° increments.  :-) —Mike 07:35, Feb 6, 2005 (UTC)
I've noticed that American TV weather casts almost systematically report temperatures in 5 °F spans (e.g. « upper sixties » meaning 65-70 °F), so the argument about Celsius scale not being "fine enough" is a crock.
Urhixidur 03:36, 2005 July 17 (UTC)

A suggested solution

Maybe one already exists, but in case it doesn't,

  1. Create a page that consists of (i) the definition of what each unit is (ii) the creation of a table of units converting every form to its equivalent parallel, eg - Imperial to Metric, Metric to Imperial, US to UK, UK to US.
  2. All pages mentions units link to this page, with each page then written using whatever units the individual author chooses to use (often the one unit they understand). All readers, if they don't know what 'x' inches or 'y' kilometres is in their preferred measurement can simply follow the link to the tables page.
  3. Leave whatever unit an author uses as the primary unit on that page. If and when someone wants to add in the other system on the page (using the 'tables' page) whichever the original author placed would be given priority, with the alternative is put in brackets. I think this would be more respectful of each person's contribution than to try to enforce a standard that not everyone uses. It is the same rule we follow with US v GB spelling. Where there is a dispute in terms of miles

For example, Dublin is 30 [table page|mile]s (48 km) from Navan or Dublin is 48 [table page|km] (30 miles) from Navan.

The trouble with asking authors to 'convert' is that while some people are comfortable with doing mathematical conversions, others haven't a clue and no matter how simple the equation might feel uncomfortable doing so in case they made the proverbial balls of it. I know for example the height of Nelson's Pillar in feet, the distance between Cork and Dublin in miles, but would baulk at having to convert them to kilometres. (I suspect some people would simply leave out information rather than have to do conversions. )

Furthermore, saying the 'metric is easier because everyone bar the US uses it is simply not true. Even where metric is officially the standard (eg Ireland) a significant proportion of people use or think imperial. I can't think of a single Irish person who measures human height in metres; everyone says five feet eight inches, six foot one inch, etc. Everyone thinks human weight in stones and pounds, not kilograms (not do they use simply pounds). They measure distance in miles. Windspeed is given in the Beaufort scale or in miles per hour, never kilometres per hour. Yet officially Ireland is a metricated country. The same is true in the UK, where some use metric, some imperial, some think different measurements in different systems. JtdIrL 21:37 Mar 3, 2003 (UTC)

There is better than this already: Dublin is 48 km from Navan. -- Tarquin 22:08 Mar 3, 2003 (UTC)

Although I can have sympathy for a people grown up with a tradition of untis with direct links to the Roman empire and beyond, for scientific purposes there certainly is no issue whatsoever. No, I will not mention the Mars probe, but instead simply ask anyone who are in doubt to compare a collection of physical formulae in Imperial to one in SI units. An image of a "disaster area" does really spring to my mind. -- Egil 11:11 Mar 15, 2003 (UTC)


Automatic software conversion

Fix it in software?

When I started reading the Wikipedia documentation, I was pleasantly surprised to note that MediaWiki is able to convert (properly formatted) dates to match one's preference setting for date display. I was a little less surprised that such a fix had not been implemented to deal with the unit conversion discussed ad nauseum on this page. I realize this would tax both the developers and the servers, but wouldn't the end result be more elegant than our current solution?

This feature is already being discussed at MediaWiki feature request and bug report discussion if anyone would like to contribute to this discussion there. --Jarsyl 08:01, 2004 Aug 6 (UTC)

Yes! This morning I have the same idea (as many more people, as can be seen in the page you pointed), and by far is the more elegant and flexible solution. For example, when some editor writes [[48 m]] (or other sintax) the MediaWiki can make the adequate conversion to the user preferences, and when the user has not logged in it will show both units like this: "48 m (29.8 mi)" i.e. [[1 E4 m|48&nbsp;m (29.8&nbsp;mi)]] (note the automatic addition of a link to the orders of magnitude page, and the &nbsp; between every value and its unit). --surueña 07:44, 2005 May 27 (UTC)
I agree. I had the same idea as well. A long battle over who's measurement system is superior is just silly. The wiki server should be able to read the markup and display according to the user's preference. A "force" unit option could be used on the page to override the user preferences and show a specific unit as some things just work better in their native units. (4 minute mile) AndrewC 4 July 2005 13:32 (UTC)

colonialism?

I'm curious about the persistent colonialism here. Why bully others? "Everyone except a few people in the US?" A few? Certainly more than the entire population of your country. And who cares if the EU has a big economy? "What's that got to do with ... rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?" And ain't we human? Let us be. Why this desire to dominate? We have units. You have units. All God's children got units. No one's asking to exclude whatever-the-hell those SI things are. Don't insist that we be excluded either. Behaviour, Behavior, Whatever. (Oh! And don't think that the issue is resolved. Where'd France's newfangled decimal hours and weeks go? Persistent and influential dissent is sometimes more powerful than bullies. And UTC is overridden every time it disagrees by one minute with the true GMT standard. SI is a little bogus. You know what I mean?) Arthur 02:42 Mar 20, 2003 (UTC)

Would that be metric, or Imperial colonialism ? -- Derek Ross
I quote: "We have units. You have units. All God's children got units. No one's asking to exclude whatever-the-hell those SI things are. Don't insist that we be excluded either."
I bet the Incas would have agreed! But the Europeans massacred them anyway. Arthur 03:42 Mar 20, 2003 (UTC)
oops! one more comment. Perhaps the European murderers merely wanted to "drag [the incas] kicking and screaming into the" 16th century (how patronizing of them). I prefer not to killed by poison blankets, if you please. Arthur 04:42 Mar 20, 2003 (UTC)

Some of the authors on this page argued that one system was more intuitive than the other. I don't think this is true. It only depends on where (and with which system) you were raised. To take the Fahrenheit example: For me - being raised with Celsius - Fahrenheit is a complete mystery with (seemingly) no fixed points: The upper limit is slightly above body temperature, whereas the lower limit is at some place I really can't imagine why anyone could be interested in this particular temperature. On the other hand I know that 0° Celsius means that water becomes ice, and 100° means that water boils (well, if you're somewhere near sea-level). Perfectly intuitive for me.

But that's the point: It is only intuitive to me because I was raised with this system and never knew something else. If I were born in Northern America I would surely think differently. But I'm not, and so all those inches and miles and pints and gallons seem very strange to my metric, decimal brain. So we should keep in mind that whenever we use only one of the systems, we make it difficult for a lot of the people out there to understand about what we are talking.

Something about standardization: This is a good thing because it avoids ambiguity and in the long run it makes it easier to understand each other. There is nothing imperialistic or patronizing about trying to agree to international standards. And let me add that my Syrian baker around the corner surely has a different definition of imperialism than you, Arthur.

We now use the Euro more than a year here in Germany and sometimes I still find myself calculating the "real" DM prices. But when you visit other European countries, you see the benefits of standardization however hard the migration seemed. If you never intend to leave your country, you might see no benefit in this, and yes, you could be right that standardization makes things more difficult for you, personally.

But even though standardization is a good thing in theory, at the moment most people are used to only one system. So why not using the pragmatic approach that is already outlined in the Manual of Style (dates and numbers) and provide both units for convenience. That's the great thing about Wikipedia. If you stumble across a unit you don't understand, just look it up and update the page.

Just my 2 Cents (your decision if Euro or Dollar). Maksim 19:44 25 May 2003 (UTC)

Units of measurement

Why not use metric units of measurement ( the international norm) rather than the idiosyncratic system still in use in the USA? I find it very time consuming converting inches , degrees fahrenheit and so on. Martin Pierard Melbourne Australia

I agree that metric should be included in every mention of measurement. There's a number of us Americans who are including both American and metric units in our work. It's a simple thing to use my calculator and convert everything. For example, see Ohio public lands. jaknouse 06:31, 17 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Well, we want people to understand the articles we write, so for the time being we're going to have to use both systems since there are people who have no knowledge (or instinctive understanding) of metric, and others who have no understanding of imperial. Wikipedia is supposed to reflect usage, not try to force change. Personally, I find http://www.onlineconversion.com very handy. fabiform | talk 17:25, 17 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Google is pretty handy for it. See here for an example. →Raul654 17:28, Apr 17, 2004 (UTC)
This is not seen as an issue where it is possible or desirable to enforce uniformity. People in the United States, reading articles about things in the United States, written by editors living in the United States feel that it is natural and comfortable to use U. S. customary units. International unit conversions should always be provided in such cases, but (cough) a lot of us forget to do it. This is definitely an area where, if you do calculate the conversion yourself, you would be doing everyone a favor by adding the conversion to the article. It should be an addition, though; to remove a U. S. Customary unit from a page on a U. S. topic would be perceived as annoying and an assertion of a non-neutral point of view.
(Speaking for myself, I'd add what should be added should be "translations" rather than "conversions," meaning that in an article that is not scientific or technical in nature in general it should be translated to the most culturally equivalent unit. That is, "pounds" used as a unit of weight should be converted to "kilograms," not "newtons;" "acres" to "hectares," not km². That is my expression of my personal point of view and others may well disagree).
I fully agree with all that has been said. Another question would be whether to provide imperial conversions for information about metric countries. I don't think this would be as needed as the reverse, considering that metric is the world standard and imperial the minority exception. I have no set idea about it; perhaps the main numbers should be dubbed in imperial for the convenience of Americans and Canadians. David.Monniaux 06:55, 21 Apr 2004 (UTC)
There's nothing that I see wrong with adding an Imperial/US conversion where appropriate (no fractions of inches for atomic diameters, please). An Encyclopædia should be readable to people brought up on either side of the fence.
I agree, absolutely that conversions (either way) should be additions not replacements. Imagine a situation in which there were an edit-war with one editor after another removing a measurement in one system and putting the conversion in its place. Like a message in game of Chinese Whispers the measurement will become less and less accurate until it would become simply wrong. Each conversion introduces error.
However, should pounds-force be translated into kilograms? Kilograms are a measure of mass not force. Conversions ... or if you prefer 'translations' still have to be correct. Hectares vs. km²? Whichever is better of the order of magnitude regardless of the original unit. Jimp 15Jun05
Another minor issue is that such a translation should try not to suggest a higher decree of precision, i.e. "Dr. Atkins weighed 18 stones at death" should become "18 stones (over 110 kg)," not "18 stones (114.3 kg)". Dpbsmith 11:58, 18 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Well, I for one think that everything you say there is extremely sound, and we should adopt it as policy. I also think that what you call a minor point can be generalised into a very important one: don't try to be accurate where accuracy isn't known. Often, measurements are given to the nearest "round number", and are intended as a ball-park figure only; so "18 stone" might as well be labelled "(110 kg)", even though this is not technically the same quantity. Obviously, this requires a bit of judgement on the part of the editor, to determine the accuracy originally intended - "6 feet", can be considered a round number in that it is the height of a fairly tall human male...
I'm thinking also that this applies equally to currency conversions, where statements like "5 million Altairian Dollars" crop up frequently, and might be "translated" to US Dollars via a highly fluctuating exchange rate. In such cases, precise conversions would be doubly inaccurate, since they would imply that both the original figure and the exchange rate had that level of precision. - IMSoP 12:18, 18 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Well, this really is the only correct way to do a conversion. Converting 18 stone to 114.3 kg would in fact be wrong. Adopt it a a policy? Sure, I guess there're people out there who don't realise this. Jimp 15Jun05

I'm one person who hates the metric system precisely because of the attributes its advocates admire:the system is too simple to have any character! And I think it speaks volumes that virtually the only reason metric has ever been adopted anywhere is that governments prohibited the use of systems people preferred to use.--Louis Epstein/12.144.5.2/le@put.com

I don't see how it speaks volumes. Obviously, on questions like this, people must have an incentive to change in a coordinated way: you don't want to be the only person working in metric in a town of people working with another system. More relevant is, I think, the lack of comprehension of most people in many metric countries for other systems they find cumbersome and complicated.David.Monniaux 11:01, 15 Jun 2004 (UTC)
'That is, "pounds" used as a unit of weight should be converted to "kilograms," not "newtons;" '. You have inadvently high-lighted one of the many short comings of the imperial system. Kilograms are not the same as as newtons, although at sea-level 1 Kg is roughly 1 N. As far as I'm aware, the imperial system has no unit of mass.
Just a correction: 1 kg (not Kg) of stuff weighs about 9.8 N at sea level (the acceleration due to gravity is approx. 9.8 ms-2 at sea level). Jimp 15Jun05
It's a myth that "the imperial system has no unit of mass", perpetuated by many junior high science teachers (including at least one who taught me). The pound is primarily a unit of mass, and only secondarily a unit of force. See pound, pound-force, and weight for details. Indefatigable 22:17, 9 May 2005 (UTC)

Metrification of Florida

Today I received a private message from user:Maverick149 after editing the Florida wiki

"Hello - please do not switch the order of U.S. and metric in any article. Doing so introduces conversion errors and confusion. You should assume that figures given in articles are measured units, so please don't replace them with converted figures. It is also not nice to relegate the form you found to second class status (either way). Thank you. --mav 10:15, 30 May 2004 (UTC) "

In the process of editing Florida, I found that many measures where only in imperial, so I converted them to metric and then rounded up or down to make it easier for any potential reader to understand them. Maybe iwould better to say "1.6 km (1 mi aprox)" instead of "1.6 km (1 mi)", to avoid "confusion".

The rest of the article gave measures in imperial first, then metric in brackets. As I feel that the average american reader can understand metric provided that an imperial equivalent is given in brackets, I reversed the order of appearance.

I am aware that many readers of the english wikipedia are from the US. However I don't feel that stating "(Geography - rv U.S. topic so U.S. standard goes first)" in the history page is a valid reason. Both metric and imperial are legal in the USA.

Furthermore, that an article might refer to the US does not mean that the reader must necesarely be from the States (it is plausible for an australian reader to consult the "Florida" wiki). Metric is used around the globe, and it is taught in US schools. Therefore, metric should have prevalence over imperial in the order of appearance if posible.

Please note that I didn't remove imperial figures, just put them in brackets after metric ones. I fail to see how doing so equals to relegate them to second class status,

(It is perfectly understandable that some exceptions should exist for this rule, for instance the Floppy disk).

thewikipedian

As an American who would like to see all metrication abandoned,I feel that any use of predominantly metric measurements in articles about a country both sensible and free enough to have avoided the always-compulsory imposition of the simplistic metric system is an offense.You are not being neutral when you act to increase the emphasis on metric measurements,you are acting as an agent of oppression.--L.E./12.144.5.2/le@put.com
The sad thing is that you probably really meant that. I guess "sensible and free" translates into "stubborn and egocentric".
However, Wikipedia, especially the English one, is international, not US-American, and because each article, no matter what it's about, should be understandable to the audience it must use the measure the audience understands. The SI (a.k.a. metric system) is legal and taught in all countries, so it's definitely first choice. If an article has references to sizes in local or out-dated units, their SI equivalent should be given, but the most correct shall remain. For instance ship speeds, plane flight heights and some sports are not measured in SI units.
Whether imperial/US or SI value should come second and be bracketed, depends. If it's an exactly measured mile for example, it should be "1 mile (1.6 km)", but if both are mere approximations, SI should come first or only. I'd never define a section as approximately 1.6² square kilometers but 1 square mile (survey), approximately 2.59 km².
I don't know how Britton Hill was measured the last time, but both 345 feet and 105 metres seem pretty rounded to me, so the SI value might well be preferred.
If you think metrication is a bad idea,there's no reason to be part of it.That it has happened strictly as a result of government prohibition of systems people have preferred is a matter of clear history.--L.E./12.144.5.2/le@put.com
Excuse me, but I just could not refrain from paraphrasing CNN article here [9]:
To Europeans, it said, some Bush non-metric supporters suggest a fond mother who watches her son at a graduation parade and notices that, while everyone else leads with the left foot, he leads with the right.
"Look," the mother exclaims to the woman next to her, "they are all out of step except my Johnny!" Przepla 22:44, 4 Jul 2004 (UTC)
A better model for paraphrase would be Anatole France's "If fifty million Frenchmen believe a foolish thing,it is still a foolish thing." That metrication is a change for the worse means that no matter HOW many people do it,NO one should EVER do it.--L.E./12.144.5.2/le@put.com
This is not the place for this sort of pointless debate. If you're not a WP user, go find a forum elsewhere on the web. -- Tarquin 21:54, 6 Jul 2004 (UTC)

What's the most common, usual, easily understood metric equivalent for "acres?"

This discussion was moved here from Wikipedia:Village pump.

Please do not answer unless you are a native of a region in which the metric system (systeme internationale) is commonly used in everyday life. Consider the following three sentences:

  • The area of Central Park in New York city is 843 acres or _________________
  • Boston's Logan International Airport occupies 2,400 acres or _____________
  • The Emory family had a 640-acre ( ______________ ) farm in Grant County, Wisconsin.

Suppose that the blanks were to be filled in with an equivalent, using a metric unit of area. What unit of area would you expect to see used? What unit is most familiar, understandable, useful, comfortable to you? Dpbsmith 12:07, 4 Jul 2004 (UTC)

For those sizes of area, hectares. Arwel 12:54, 4 Jul 2004 (UTC)
Shouldn't this discussion be at Wikipedia:Measurements Debate? Small areas (for example, size of carpets) are in ; large areas (for example, size of countries) are in km². Gdr 13:24, 2004 Jul 4 (UTC)
hectares is correct, but I confess (since i'm not a farmer) I sometimes find square metres or even square kilometres (for huge areas) easier to mentally picture. Erich 14:01, 4 Jul 2004 (UTC)
exactly what Erich said. Marnanel 15:29, 4 Jul 2004 (UTC)
Square meter feels best for me -- Chris 73 | Talk 16:07, 4 Jul 2004 (UTC)
For those sizes, definitely km². Fredrik | talk 16:38, 4 Jul 2004 (UTC)
Absolutely not. In NZ usage, hectares would be used for all three examples given above. Even our largest farming units are always described in hectares (100,000 Ha+). In addition, the average person has a sense of how big the classic NZ "1/4 acre" section is, and can usually relate to a hectare being 10 of those, whereas a sq km is much harder to visualize. dramatic 11:39, 5 Jul 2004 (UTC)
Hectares are the commonest units for areas less than 1 km² and greater then 10 000 m². There are a million m² in a km², hectares fill the middle of this range quite usefully. But note that the are and the hectare are not proper SI units, they are tolerated but not encouraged. - Chris Jefferies 19:55, 4 Jul 2004 (UTC)
I totally agree with Erich. Perhaps fifty or a hundred years ago, when the majority of people were much more informed in matters of land and farming, hectares would have been instantly understood by Europeans. Today, we don't have this immediate everyday connection to the unit (nor really to any other area unit larger than m², the measure of our houses and apartments). Most(?) people will know from school how large a hectare is, though, so they can picture the size if they give it some thinking effort. Given that the numbers for the examples given would be a bit monstrous in either m² or km², hectares might just be the best compromise – but m² would be more readily understood. -- Jao 13:15, 5 Jul 2004 (UTC)
843 acres ≈ 3.4 km², 2,400 acres ≈ 10 km², 640 acres ≈ 2.6 km². How are these "monstrous"? Fredrik | talk 21:02, 5 Jul 2004 (UTC)
They are not. I should have thought twice about the figures. :) -- Jao 11:33, 7 Jul 2004 (UTC)
well the beaty of the metric system is that it doesn't take much effort to convert square metres to hectares to sq km!!! :D :D But I agree with the people who said hectares for areas of land such as farms, parks, etc -- 08:40, 10 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Rmhermen drew my attention to the fact that this issue has not yet reached consensus on the hectares versus km² issue. I made a bounded proposal (I can't remember where it was now!) a while back. I welcome further comments here and/or a bounded counter proposal. Since the debate affects metric readers more than non-metric readers, please indicate within your comments whether you would count yourself generally as a metric reader or a non-metric reader. Thanks.
Bobblewik 15:48, 28 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Trinity Site

Trinity site is currently a good example of an article that is highly perplexing to American readers, because (nearly) all of the measures of distances are given in metric units. Now, I know that a 'metre' (or 'meter') is about the same as a yard, but I have no intuitive grasp of how far '9000 metres' is. The article has always been that way, it isn't that someone just ruthlessly changed it.

The funny thing is that some measurements in the article are in Imperial units, but ironically only those of the small quantities that people can probably convert in their heads easily enough.

I have nothing to add to the debate that hasn't already been said. Often we should give both units, somehow, and context matters, and blah blah blah. Yes to all that.  :-) I just wanted to comment on how perplexing the metric system is to me. Jimbo Wales 08:22, 2 Aug 2004 (UTC)

This came up over a year ago on the mailing list, and I remember Maverick saying to you that you probably don't actually have a grasp of what 9000 yards is, you just think you do. Bottom line: you're obviously a smart guy, Jimbo. It doesn't take much to learn the metric system. ;) -- Tarquin 12:55, 8 Sep 2004 (UTC)


Yeah, Imperial is perplexing to me & to make it worse, the US doesn't use Imperial but their own system which is mostly the same ... oh, and worse still you've got Troy ounces for certain metals. 9000 metres is about 10000 yards but have a go at converting that to miles. Jimp 15Jun05

Protest to universal addition of metric measurements to US topic articles

I would like to protest the mechanical, universal addition of metric measurements to all US topic articles that is now occurring. I would like to see what the consensus is, and if there is support for my position. Please see my more complete entry at Wikipedia Talk:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)#Protest to universal addition of metric measurements to US topic articles. Thank you. --Gary D 00:09, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Metric is not an anti-US system, it is a worldwide system - which should be preferred even within the US. As such, certainly it warrants inclusion on US topic articles. It is the only sensible measurement system for scientific purposes. Having both sets of measurements though, provides a useful unambiguous value (so as you don't lose probes going to Mars for example). Besides, I haven't a clue how many strides are in a yardarm (well, OK, feet-yards-miles) - we aren't taught anything but Metric here. Many people won't have a notion as to what the local measurements mean - conversions are always needed. zoney talk 12:53, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)
  • I don't use the metric system, don't like it, don't care about it. That said, I absolutely agree with the automatic conversion units being added. I always want metric units to have conversions so that I can comprehend them (especially with temperature, where the formula is weirder than my tiny brain can hold and perform), and I don't think that I should be the only one given that courtesy. Geogre 14:27, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Wikipedia is a worldwide encyclopedia, so metrics are needed. It makes the articles more useful for non-US readers--even if the article is about a US topic. I don't use metric (though I think we in the US should adopt it), but I whole-heartedly support the auto-conversion for all our articles. Frecklefoot | Talk 14:58, Sep 1, 2004 (UTC)
I definitely agree all articles should have both the US and metric measurements, with which is more predominate based on the topic of the article. However, as some people on the talk page have pointed out, if the automated conversion results in odd fractional amounts for the converted values, that probably is not a good thing. Niteowlneils 15:14, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Could specific pages where problems might occur have a no bot property added? Even a nobot tag similar to nowiki? This might help with protecting things like "9mm (name of gun)". AdmN 20:05, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)

I have done a lot of edits involving measurement units. I can't see how anyone could program an effective unsupervised bot. I would be glad to be proved wrong. I am not aware of anyone proposals for such a bot. The people in the bot writing community would want a lot of convincing that a bot of that kind works well. I think that the efforts of human editors are adequate for the task and am happy to see that there are more and more people willing to do this. Incidentally, if I were able to write a unit handling bot, one of the simple uncontroversial tasks it could do would be change '9mm' to '9 mm' (note space character). But I know that your point was about conversion rather than format. Bobblewik  (talk) 15:10, 20 Mar 2005 (UTC)
Here's my tupence-worth. Metric equivalents should always accompany Imperial or US units. SI is the international system. This is an encyclopædia with an international audience. I don't imagine it would be surprising if some non-American should want to read one of these US topic articles. Jimp 8Jun05

What makes you think that only Americans would read US topic articles? What makes you think metric is anti-US? Metric is taught in American schools, and it's used by scientists, engineers, doctors, and other professionals all over the US.

There are places where metric is seriously inappropriate

Someone added the intelligence to a folktale reported at John the Conqueror that sixty acres equalled (243,000 m²) in metric. Apart from being a perfect example of the uselessness of the metric system in real life situations and human-scale applications, this struck me as glaringly inappropriate. I removed the metric reference from the article, but preserved it on the talk page. Smerdis of Tlön 19:55, 11 Nov 2004 (UTC)

C'mon, of course 243'000 m² is too accurate a conversion (the acre depended on region and soil quality anyhow), although one could go as far as 242'811.385'344 m² or 242'812.356'592'455... m² (US survey measure). Sane metric sizes for such a rough value include 24 ha, 24¼ ha, 24.25 ha, 25 ha, 0.24 km², ¼ km², 0.25 km². I took the liberty to add 25 ha to the article. Crissov 22:48, 11 Nov 2004 (UTC)
Exactly. Metric is still appropriate if the conversion is done correctly. Never give more significant figures in a conversion than in the original (except if the original is an exact measure). The hectare is no less human-scale friendly than the acre. So, it was only an example of the wrong metric units being used ( m² instead of ha). Now that this has been fixed it really is "a perfect example of the uselessness of the metric system in real life situations and human-scale applications," ... as perfect an example you can get of an untrue statement. There are no places where metric is inappropriate unless Imperial/US is also. Jimp 15Jun05
I suggest instead that if metric units must be added, they should be figured to seven decimal places: the better to acquaint those of us in our backwater with its superior precision and rigor. Smerdis of Tlön 03:29, 19 July 2005 (UTC)
I hope you're not serious.
There are very few instances where metric is not appropriate. - Omegatron 14:18, July 19, 2005 (UTC)
I wonder whether Smerdis is serious. Yes, there are very few instances where metric is not appropriate and in (most or maybe all of) these instances neither are US/Imperial units appropriate. Jimp 6Sep05

Under-represented group

FWIW, I suspect this conversation gives an incorrect impression. I'd bet (play) money that pro-metric American Wikipedians outnumber anti-metric American wikipedians. First, there is plenty of popular support for metrication in the US, mixed with opposition and mostly just inertia. Second, in the particular case of Wikipedia, the case for standard units is quite clear, and (my guess) especially likely to appeal to enyclopaedists. Third, knowledge of metric units is not as weak in the US as implied in parts of this debate.

Note that by pro-metric and anti-metric, I'm meaning general emotional attitude toward the system, and don't mean to imply that there is a binary issue here to decide for or against the metric system! I just want a more accurate impression to be given of the people of a country to which I have some fond attachment. Pekinensis 15:33, 8 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Speaking of pro and anti, I'm pro-metric, anti-circumcision, anti-deletion, pro-abortion, anti-war, pro-immigration, anti-racist, and 100% sure that Greendale is in Yorkshire. Scott Gall 08:43, 19 Mar 2005 (UTC)
There are places where the metric system works well, and in those places it should be used. For science, medicine, and most technical applications it is probably OK.
The metric system has no place in the kitchen, the home workshop, grocery store shelves, road signs, or other places where human scale is more appropriate, and where familiarity and ease of estimation are more important than precision. Forcing metric units into commerce for consumer items is an invitation to crypto-inflation and consumer fraud. If this makes me anti-metric then I am anti-metric. -- Smerdis of Tlön 19:40, 31 Mar 2005 (UTC)
The metric system does have place in the kitchen etc. and is used there almost everywhere in the world. That's definitely better than having several different systems for different applications. --SLi 11:06, 21 Apr 2005 (UTC)
It's all a matter of what you're used to. I've grown up with the metric system and thus would find Imperial units perplexing in the kitchen, the home workshop, grocery shop shelves, road signs or any other place except the pub (I can handle a pint or a fluid ounce). The US system would be even harder for me to cope with especially with their wet and dry pints. Now if you Americans had had the benefit of a good old metric up-bringing, there'd be no such problem. Jimp 7Jun05

Pekinensis, I'd take that bet in a heartbeat--and I'd use real money. We Americans don't like metric crap, and we get annoyed at being told that we "should" switch. Why? To benefit European tourists? Funnyhat 04:26, 31 May 2005 (UTC)

To prevent space probes crashing, perhaps? ;) -- Tarquin 10:14, 31 May 2005 (UTC)

We Americans don't like metric crap, and we get annoyed at being told that we "should" switch.

Speak for yourself, Funnyhat. I'm an American (well, at least until they outlaw liberals) and my life would be far easier if we would finally join the rest of the world in metrication. Vast swaths of America are already fully converted to metric, and it's more than time that we encouraged the remaining sectors to convert. Or do you like an ever-growing trade deficit? -- Atlant 12:40, 31 May 2005 (UTC)
Not only European tourists but tourists from anywhere ... &, of course, yourselves. Jimp 7Jun05

Quality of writing

I haven't followed this debate, so don't know the issues. There's an editor going around adding metric conversions in brackets after every measurement, and it's interfering somewhat with the quality of writing in some cases: for example, one article ended up with the description "an 800,000 metre estate". I feel we should bear in mind that articles should be well written so that people want to read them, because if they don't, this whole enterprise is pointless; any ideology that causes the writing to deteriorate should therefore take a back seat, especially when it comes to an issue like weights and measures. Readers can look up their own conversion tables if the issue matters to them. I'm sure it is sometimes helpful to add these details, but sometimes it isn't, so please let's not adopt a one-size-fits-all policy. SlimVirgin 00:51, Mar 3, 2005 (UTC)

If done properly, adding metric conversions can only enhance the article's quality. An article can't be said to be of a high quality if the reader is stopping every couple of lines to convert a measurement. Conversions in brackets might look as if they're interupting the flow but this is just an illusion. The real interuption to the flow is the reader's having to convert a measurement every two minutes. The argument works both ways: include Imperial/US conversions for metric measures if you like. Jimp 8Jun05

American Article: Imperial (Metric) or Metric (Imperial)

On an American article which sentence should be used:

  • both sides claiming a 468 square mile (1,210 km²) strip of land
  • both sides claiming a 1,210 km² (468 square mile) strip of land

On US related articles should Imperial come first followed by metric and vice versa for non-US? commonbrick 18:25, 14 May 2005 (UTC)

(American meaning U.S. here) Definitely miles first. --SPUI (talk) 21:27, 14 May 2005 (UTC)
My vote would be "according to the whim of the writer". You should be applauded merely for including both; the order is not of importance. The reader's eyes will jump to the one that's intelligible to him. Tempshill 23:20, 17 May 2005 (UTC)
Put the (more) exact one first, i.e. the one the source used. (I suppose SPUI assumes that that would always be square miles in the US and therefore recommends that.) If they are equally (un)reliable, put SI first as it is the preferred system of measurement in Wikipedia. On a related matter, please use either words or abbreviations for both units. Christoph Päper 21:00, 24 May 2005 (UTC)
Imperial (Metric). In metric countries, you can do it the other way. Funnyhat 04:29, 31 May 2005 (UTC)
Um, this is Wikipedia. It is not country-specific, although it is multi-lingual. Therefore it is actually pretty much pointless to use US units at all in this international project. They are just included in some articles either for source reasons (which is okay) or by authors with good intentions (which is often the opposite of good reasons) or without better knowledge.
Sadly there are too many stubborn Americans and too many obliging non-Americans involved in the English Wikipedia to get rid of US units altogether. It is (kind of) a scientific project after all! Imperial units OTOH, where they differ from US units, must not be used, except in some historic contexts. Christoph Päper 22:05, 31 May 2005 (UTC)

May I remind the readers from the U.S.A. of their national law? (bolding by Woodstone 22:10, 2005 Jun 12 (UTC)):

Metric Conversion Act, Dec. 23, 1975
§ 204. Metric system authorized. - It shall be lawful throughout the United States of America to employ the weights and measures of the metric system; and no contract or dealing, or pleading in any court, shall be deemed invalid or liable to objection because the weights or measures expressed or referred to therein are weights or measures of the metric system. (14 Stat. 339, Adopted July 28,1866)
§ 205b. Declaration of policy. - It is therefore the declared policy of the United States-
(1) to designate the metric system of measurement as the preferred system of weights and measures for United States trade and commerce;
(4) to permit the continued use of traditional systems of weights and measures in non-business activities.

So it appears to me that even in articles dealing with the U.S.A. the SI units should be given first and then optionally the Imperial units.

A Sane Solution

Put the most accurate measure first with its conversion (if warrented) in brackets. If the measurement was done in one system, then this is going to be the most accurate. If the source uses one system, it's fair to assume that this the system in which the measurement was done. Where accuracy is not an issue or it's not possible to determine which is the most accurate then the question arrises as to which to put first.

In this case metric should be generally preferred unless there exists a good reason to prefer something else. The only good reason I can think of is a case in which metric is not the usual system of measurement. For example: in articles about US topics (perhaps), in articles about certain historical matters, in (aero)nautical articals (in which the nautical mile and knots should be used) or in articles on special/general relativity (where c would be preferred over m/s).

However, metric is always appropriate where Imperial/US measurements are. Thus wherever Imperial/US measurements are given metric equivalents should also be given. This, of course, is not to demand that all writers do their own conversions: just let them be done.

Jimp 15Jun05

A succinct solution

Either use: 1) Metric units only 2) Metric units with imperial units in parentheses

The consensus above seems to be that metric should be given most favoured measurement system status, so is there anyone who can't live with this very simple solution? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Kennethmac2000 (talkcontribs) July 2, 2005 23:46 (UTC)

I'm not sure how you see anything resembling a consensus above other than that metric units are appropriate in all articles. I think the best compromise is that the most accurate figures (or those used in source materials) should be given first, and if those figures are non-metric, provide the metric equivalent in parenthesis, and where appropriate, if the metric units are given first, provide non-metric equivalents in parentheses. olderwiser July 3, 2005 02:42 (UTC)
I agree olderwiser. We cannot impose metric on the US contributors it makes no sense, nevertheless, we can all agree on a compromise. An example of a contribution from the US that is well intentioned can be found at the 1988 Olympic results. This page only reports track and field (athletics) throws and jumps in imperial. This is illogical since the original distances were measured in metric. This user has converted the distances to allow US readers a better understanding of the distances and heights involved and should be lauded for this effort. But why remove the metric measurements making this article next to incomprehensible to a non-US reader? I have edited the 1984 Olympic results, by the same user, to reflect what I believe is the compromise we should be seeking.
I will add that I created a similar page for the 1986 European athletic championships but I did not add the imperial equivalents. This is pretty much in line with the metric only stance. The assumption on my behalf is that few US contributors would find this page interesting and it is time consuming to convert all the heights and distances. If, however, a US contributor wants to do those conversions and add them to the article I would not complain. If there is an equivalent US event that only measures in feet and inches, for example, longest distance jumped by Evel_Knievel, then I don't have a problem with the imperial measurement taking priority. And if people wish to add the metric version in parentheses this would be appropriate. I do think it would be inappropriate to either convert it to metric only or put metric first with imperial in brackets.
Actually the Evel Knievel reference is a bad example since his measurement units are some of the worst I have ever seen. "On February 28, he set a new world record by jumping 19 cars in Ontario, California. On May 10, Knievel crashed while attempting to jump 13 Pepsi delivery trucks". Of course there is no mention of the width of these cars? My guess is they were on the thin side but who knows? This is a good example of poor units making comparisons impossible. As someone mentioned above in section Imperial_US_vs_UK, "The advantage of the metric system is that it is unambiguous". This sums up the argument perfectly. David D. 3 July 2005 15:39 (UTC)
Sounds like a very reasonable compromise. Removing the metric unit conversions provided for some US articles is pointless and misguided if Wikipedia is an international encyclopedia. --RolandG 07:53, 30 September 2005 (UTC)

To my fellow Americans

As a proud Midwesterner I want to simply ask "why?" Why can't we Americans grasp the superiority of the Metric/SI units and switch? The purpose of Wikipedia is to inform and the only way Americans will switch is if we're forced to, so please only Metric units! We will learn and figure it out. Please don't "misunderestimate" us and assume we aren't capable of learning the Metric system, we just need a little shove. Metric only, Americans will just have to use their know-how and figure it out. EdwinHJ | Talk 02:03, 23 July 2005 (UTC)