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Old February 25th, 2009, 04:01 AM   #261
mgk920
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Canada also doesn't use the 'red circle' for speed limit signs, they are the only other country besides the USA that I am aware of that does not.

That said, and interestingly, the current sign standard in the USA's federal Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices ('MUTCD' http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/ and then follow the appropriate links) for km/h speed limits is similar to the current USA MPH signs, except that the number is inside of a black circle with 'km/h' below the circle. It should not take that much effort to evolutionarily change that to a red circle and then to progressively drop the words and other fluff.

IIRC, the biggest objection for the normal 'international' red circle was that several USA states use a circle for state route number signs and that one state (New Mexico) uses a circular red 'Zia' sun symbol for its state highway route number signs (see: http://www.routemarkers.com/states/ ). There was a worry about confusion. OTOH, I have heard of many problems of other state route signs being confused with speed limit signs, especially in Illinois (see the above link for its sign design). Case in point - Chicago Police ticketing drivers who misread the signs on Cicero Ave for speeding - it is Illinois state route 50 while its speed limit is 35 mph (about 60 km/h).

Has there been any recent chatter in Canada about going to the 'red circle'?

Mike
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Old February 25th, 2009, 04:13 AM   #262
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I could see dual signage as being good for a stimulus package. Eventually, I see the black circle speed limit sign (see avatar) being the standard, then "SPEED LIMIT" eventually removed thereafter.

Of course, upgrading and electrification of the rails would be my first priority.
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Old February 25th, 2009, 04:14 AM   #263
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Quote:
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I was thinking that since the US government is going to spend about $800 billion on stimulus package, it would be a good opportunity to do some metrication work. Metrication effort would create more jobs, and is it not what this stimulus package intends to do? At least, something good would come out of this financial crisis. Sadly, most of these flag-loving beer drinking Joe-sixpacks cannot stand change in any shape or form even if it will bring obvious benefits. Conservatism and progress can't walk side-by-side in peaceful coexistence. Ironically, this is one negative side effect of a democracy - a government doesn't push the progressive agenda if the general population is unwilling to accept it regardless of any scientific or common sense justifications.
FWIW, the Obama administration has explicitly stated its support of metrification. All systems of measurement are arbitrary human constructs anyway, so I have no preference for either SI or engineering units.
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Old February 25th, 2009, 10:05 AM   #264
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FWIW, the Obama administration has explicitly stated its support of metrification.
Hmm, I haven't heard him or anyone from his administration mention metrication. Any links? If it is so, then it would be pretty cool

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All systems of measurement are arbitrary human constructs anyway, so I have no preference for either SI or engineering units.
I take you meant US Customary units? All measurement systems are indeed arbitrary human constructs... until one throws the notion of heritage and culture in them to justify one's stubbornness.
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Old February 25th, 2009, 01:24 PM   #265
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All measurements are man-made, of course, but the metric system's use of a ten-based system is certainly a lot more logical vs 12 inches in a foot or three feet in a yard.
Having said that, and I do think going metric is a good idea, I think we've seen the USA make a nice turn away from the conservative know-nothingness that Alex was talking about. Obama's been in charge for a month- that's not too long. And we DO have bigger fish to fry than just converting speed limit signs into km/h with a red circle around it.
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Old February 25th, 2009, 02:36 PM   #266
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_19

The 1980 metric speed limit sign (never posted in the field, AFAIK, but shown in the construction plans) was on a rectangular blank and consisted of a red circle around the limit value ("88" in this case) with "km/h" below. "SPEED LIMIT" was not used.
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Old February 25th, 2009, 02:47 PM   #267
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I think I saw one of those in El Paso on I-10...this would've been more than 20 years ago now....don't know if it's still there.
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Old February 25th, 2009, 05:21 PM   #268
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I believe there were some metric tests in the Syracuse, NY area.
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Old February 25th, 2009, 09:23 PM   #269
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alex Von Königsberg
Hmm, I haven't heard him or anyone from his administration mention metrication. Any links? If it is so, then it would be pretty cool
Yeah, nm on that. A MyBarackObama group on metrification doesn't count, even to me.

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I take you meant US Customary units?
Whatever you want to call it. That's just what they called in all my engineering classes: "American engineering" units - shortened down to just plain "engineering" units.
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Old February 26th, 2009, 09:34 AM   #270
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Drivers' from Europe or Latin America dislike of the fact that American roadsigns are different than what they're used to seeing is hardly justification for spending hundreds of millions of dollars on such a program. The US has already switched over to metric on all scientific and engineering matters when it comes to anything that involves blueprints. That was the main issue in the 1970's when the debate first heated up, so there's no loss for us sticking with Customary units of measure for the average driver in this country.

And the only tangible advantage metric provides over customary is in conversion. Yes, the metric system makes more sense in engineering circles, and in countries that already use it. But the vast majority of Americans, no matter how intelligent and sophisticated they are, find the customary system easier to use, even those who are well-versed in the metric system. We all know how long 1 mile is. How many drivers need to convert to feet while they're behind the wheel?

I'm not opposed to the concept of converting to metric. I'm opposed to the costs involved, costs that would see only marginal benefit, if that.
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Old February 26th, 2009, 09:59 AM   #271
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I always found the customary system to be illogical, with crazy measurements. Other than the fact that people are raised using it, and it's traditional heritage from an even crazier system in the UK, there doesn't seem much reason to retain it.

However, (as Rail Claimore said) I think that the main reason why the US hasn't transitioned to metric is because the undertaking would be so large that it wouldn't make much sense financially. However, I believe that it eventually will make the change. Not anytime soon though.

IMO, metric is easier to understand. A person raised using customary learning metric will have a easier time learning than the opposite case. Less arbitrary numbers, for example:

A mile is 5280 feet, and a foot is 12 inches.

A kilometer is 1000 meters, and a meter is 100 centimeters.

What seems more easier to understand to you? And it gets worse when using volume or weight measurements.
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Old February 26th, 2009, 11:05 AM   #272
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The beauty of the metric system is not even in converting from length to length or from volume to volume, but rather in conversion between mass, length, area, volume, etc. You give me a 10 cm ruler, and I will convert it into a metre, a kilometre, a hectare, a kilogramme, and a litre. When the water starts to boil, I know it reached 100 degree Celsius, and when it starts turning into ice, we're at 0 degrees. What is here not to understand?
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Old February 26th, 2009, 11:16 AM   #273
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I agree 100% with Xusein and Alex.

A couple of centuries from now, people will laugh at the amount of time taken for the metric system to be universally adopted.
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Old February 26th, 2009, 12:10 PM   #274
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Here is the video from the same trip. Colfax looks like a typical small American town.



Watch in High Quality
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Old February 26th, 2009, 12:56 PM   #275
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Originally Posted by Xusein View Post
I always found the customary system to be illogical, with crazy measurements. Other than the fact that people are raised using it, and it's traditional heritage from an even crazier system in the UK, there doesn't seem much reason to retain it.
other than the sizes of the units being logical - a mile just happens to be 5280 feet, but the system wasn't devised like that - the mile evolved to be a nice measure for long distances, the foot for short (helpful to picture and estimate as most of us have two). I've been educated in metric all my life, yet I cannot picture it when measuring distances and weights in everyday life. I'm 5 foot 6 (or 5 and a half, if you wish), not 165cm (just because the last one is meaningless and irks me). The numbers are better, especially as fractions come easier than decimals, when they are quarters, fifths, halves, thirds, sixths. I weigh 8 and a half stone (8stone7). I can judge that on a 4-16 scale that most adults live (likewise a 4-7 scale for height), whatever the kg that is, I have no idea and don't care, because the number is meaningless to me - somewhere between 50 and 60. I use kg for weighing other things (though have stolen the cup idea of those across the pond for cooking, simply as it's so much easier - 1cup, rather than 250g). My pace is just about a yard, and definitely not a metre (short legs).

There are many areas where metric is better, but there are also occasions when customary is better. And there are times when it doesn't matter - road signs are one of the latter cases. Should tens of billions be spent metricising the road network of the US (and the UK)? No - the benefits are too small, especially in the US.

Whenever I use km, I always convert to/from miles. For instance I live about 3.5km from the City Centre, but I only know that as it's 2 and a bit miles, with the bit being about 500 yards.
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A mile is 5280 feet, and a foot is 12 inches.
A kilometer is 1000 meters, and a meter is 100 centimeters.
when it comes to road signs, how relevant is that? You don't get mixed units on them, nor need to mix them.

Anyway, shall we change the 60-60-24 split of subdivisions of a day as they aren't 10 (and also change)? Then multiples of days are in 7, 28, 29, 30, 31, 365 and 366 (week, month, month, month, month, year, year). Why have all efforts to try and decimalise (or even logicise) time failed? Because the divisions are the right size - a tenth of a day is too long, a hundredth of a day too short to be the primary subdivision. 7 days is the right number for a week, varying months aren't that much of a problem (and are based on a fixed thing - moon rotations) and a year is fixed.

Metric is great for engineering, for calculations, however it's completely arbitrary - the metre started out life as 100 times 1 trillionth of the distance between the north pole and the equator through Paris - it is a completely random size. On the other hand, yards, feet, miles, cups, etc grew out of a need - they evolved/were designed to be a useful size, even though it meant annoying conversions between the different units, but that was half the point - there wasn't (and isn't) any need to convert between the units in everyday life.
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Old February 26th, 2009, 03:46 PM   #276
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We're getting a little off-topic, but anyway:

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Originally Posted by sotonsi View Post
I've been educated in metric all my life, yet I cannot picture it when measuring distances and weights in everyday life. I'm 5 foot 6 (or 5 and a half, if you wish), not 165cm (just because the last one is meaningless and irks me). The numbers are better, especially as fractions come easier than decimals, when they are quarters, fifths, halves, thirds, sixths. I weigh 8 and a half stone (8stone7). I can judge that on a 4-16 scale that most adults live (likewise a 4-7 scale for height), whatever the kg that is, I have no idea and don't care, because the number is meaningless to me - somewhere between 50 and 60. I use kg for weighing other things (though have stolen the cup idea of those across the pond for cooking, simply as it's so much easier - 1cup, rather than 250g). My pace is just about a yard, and definitely not a metre (short legs).
But that's just your personal preference. As for fractions, most people would find it far easier to calculate using decimal than mixed numbers or improper fractions. Also, most people would find measurements easier when only one unit is involved.

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Originally Posted by sotonsi View Post
There are many areas where metric is better, but there are also occasions when customary is better.
Such as?

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Originally Posted by sotonsi View Post
And there are times when it doesn't matter - road signs are one of the latter cases. Should tens of billions be spent metricising the road network of the US (and the UK)? No - the benefits are too small, especially in the US.
That's true, which is why I don't think it will happen in the near future.

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Originally Posted by sotonsi View Post
Anyway, shall we change the 60-60-24 split of subdivisions of a day as they aren't 10 (and also change)? Then multiples of days are in 7, 28, 29, 30, 31, 365 and 366 (week, month, month, month, month, year, year). Why have all efforts to try and decimalise (or even logicise) time failed? Because the divisions are the right size - a tenth of a day is too long, a hundredth of a day too short to be the primary subdivision. 7 days is the right number for a week, varying months aren't that much of a problem (and are based on a fixed thing - moon rotations) and a year is fixed.
That's exactly the point - there are good reasons for time being expressed in such units, as you have listed. On the other hand, metric and imperial for length, mass, volume, etc. are nothing more than arbitrary scales, so it makes sense to use the system with easier calculations and fewer units. The multiple imperial units make about as much sense as the pounds, shillings and pence system.

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Originally Posted by sotonsi View Post
Metric is great for engineering, for calculations, however it's completely arbitrary - the metre started out life as 100 times 1 trillionth of the distance between the north pole and the equator through Paris - it is a completely random size. On the other hand, yards, feet, miles, cups, etc grew out of a need - they evolved/were designed to be a useful size, even though it meant annoying conversions between the different units...
Maybe so, but those needs are no longer foremost; needs have evolved since then. Imperial units are now no more useful than metric units. However, the multiple units, which were originally supposed to make things easier, have become a hindrance. Having fl oz, pints, quarts, gallons, cubic feet, etc. is redundancy at its finest.

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... there wasn't (and isn't) any need to convert between the units in everyday life.
You're not serious?
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Old February 26th, 2009, 04:54 PM   #277
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But that's just your personal preference. As for fractions, most people would find it far easier to calculate using decimal than mixed numbers or improper fractions. Also, most people would find measurements easier when only one unit is involved.
visualise, not calculate with fractions. Yes people find it easier when only one unit is involved, but people also find numbers that are quite big hard to understand - we can only really visualise numbers up to 12 - 20 at a push, so cm for height causes the problem of way too big numbers, and metres cause the problems of hundredths. It is my personal preference, but it is funny how metric has needed the removal of the choice to get accepted - metrication has only come by suppressing other units - put simply because it is not a better system, they are not better units - sometimes they are, sometimes they aren't.
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Such as?
people's heights, weights, recipes - not many things, but the things that many units were specifically designed to do. Shoe size in cm has never caught on outside Asia - that's another (though European sizes are in units of 2/3rd of a cm - the cm is too big, so they had to make up the 'Paris point', effectively a customary measure).
Quote:
That's true, which is why I don't think it will happen in the near future.
Or ever - if we were talking metric as a worldwide standard 70 years ago, we might have got it. I'm really surprised that the Anderson and Worboys UK signage changes in the early 60s didn't have metric units - I wouldn't care enough to demand that they changed back to miles and yards - there's not that much between the two really.
Quote:
That's exactly the point - there are good reasons for time being expressed in such units, as you have listed. On the other hand, metric and imperial for length, mass, volume, etc. are nothing more than arbitrary scales, so it makes sense to use the system with easier calculations and fewer units. The multiple imperial units make about as much sense as the pounds, shillings and pence system.
The Imperial system's units aren't arbitary - they could be called 'natural' units - they evolved and were designed for a specific purpose. The metre was pretty much a length plucked out of thin air. The multiple imperial units make far more sense than £sd (which made more sense when things were a lot cheaper, and you effectively either dealt with £s or sd, depending on class). Today the UK should really just be £s - 5p is about the same worth as 1p was when it became the smallest unit of currency (ie the loss of the half penny). Most European supermarkets don't deal in less than 5c when it comes to the final bill - effectively making it a £s type system (with prices in multiples of .2 of a 'shilling'). (note for non-Brits - £1 (pound) = 20s 1s (shilling) = 12d (pence, abbrev. from denari) - now £1 = 100p (pence))

Imperial units had specific functions - the roads need two units - miles and then either feet or yards. To the average person this is no different to km and m in terms of units (but k is really just a place marker prefix, short for x10^3). No one can visualise 1000 easily, so you have to know both what a metre roughly feels like and what a kilometre roughly feels like - it's pretty much the same thing.
Quote:
Maybe so, but those needs are no longer foremost; needs have evolved since then. Imperial units are now no more useful than metric units. However, the multiple units, which were originally supposed to make things easier, have become a hindrance. Having fl oz, pints, quarts, gallons, cubic feet, etc. is redundancy at its finest.
indeed, for calculations imperial is rubbish. Then again, hectares - what are they (I know - 100m^2 or, I guess, a square decametre)? And why do we have litres, when cubic metres will do? (1litre is 1dm^3)? Metric has had to rename quite a few units and insert these x10^2, x10 prefixes to give usable things. It's done the same kind of thing, just has kept them stuck on the 10 scale (1kl is 1m^3, 1ml is 1cm^3, or 1cc).

We, however are talking road signs, and mixed units don't come up, nor do conversions.
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You're not serious?
OK, you may have done it at the end, or had to convert at the beginning, if given a mixed unit figure. But even now we talk about 1500m or 1.5km and then stick with the unit. The easy conversions in metric also hinder us, because we calculate with metric we try to do the same things with imperial units and fail. But most of the time you'd stick with one unit - if there were humps for the next 220 yards, you don't need to know that that is 10 chains, 1 furlong, 1/8 of a mile - you'd just need to know it's 220 yards.

It is really worth noting that metrication has only happened by suppression of other systems. This is because, for some purposes, metric isn't best. Metric was for science and calculations - I won't deny it's by far the best for that. But for visualising, it's rather hard - what's a metre? The length of a metre rule. As road signs don't need calculations at the user end, then I would say that metric is at best equally as good as miles, etc. The only benefit of metric road signs is that there'd be a universal standard (provided the UK and Burma joined the US in converting). If the, far more important, warning signs are still different, then what's the point!
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Old February 26th, 2009, 06:39 PM   #278
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visualise, not calculate with fractions. Yes people find it easier when only one unit is involved, but people also find numbers that are quite big hard to understand - we can only really visualise numbers up to 12 - 20 at a push, so cm for height causes the problem of way too big numbers, and metres cause the problems of hundredths.
I can see why some people prefer to measure the height of a person using the imperial system. But for me personally, I visualise the tens, creating a "spread" of six (15X-20X) for the height of most people. Feet and inches have a "spread" of 24 values for the same range, making metric values easier to visualise - the difference between 5'6" and 5'7" means little to me. Either way, how important is the height of a person, for this topic?

The thing is, the metric system can be visualised using numbers between one and ten, as you can disregard the less significant digits. Such numbers in the imperial system vary depending on both the measurement and the values.

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The Imperial system's units aren't arbitary - they could be called 'natural' units - they evolved and were designed for a specific purpose. The metre was pretty much a length plucked out of thin air.
But how important are those purposes now? It isn't as though feet and yards have purposes which deserve separate units. More importantly, you're rarely working with just one unit. It doesn't make sense for all measurements to be burdened by the limitations of a system based on a few very specific ones.

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Originally Posted by sotonsi View Post
Imperial units had specific functions - the roads need two units - miles and then either feet or yards. To the average person this is no different to km and m in terms of units (but k is really just a place marker prefix, short for x10^3). No one can visualise 1000 easily, so you have to know both what a metre roughly feels like and what a kilometre roughly feels like - it's pretty much the same thing.indeed, for calculations imperial is rubbish. Then again, hectares - what are they (I know - 100m^2 or, I guess, a square decametre)? And why do we have litres, when cubic metres will do? (1litre is 1dm^3)? Metric has had to rename quite a few units and insert these x10^2, x10 prefixes to give usable things. It's done the same kind of thing, just has kept them stuck on the 10 scale (1kl is 1m^3, 1ml is 1cm^3, or 1cc).
That's true, but the likes of hectares and litres are exceptions; even so, conversion is still easier because of the factor of ten.
As for prefixed units such as cm and km, people find powers of 10 easy to visualise as well for calculations.

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Originally Posted by sotonsi View Post
It is really worth noting that metrication has only happened by suppression of other systems. This is because, for some purposes, metric isn't best. Metric was for science and calculations - I won't deny it's by far the best for that. But for visualising, it's rather hard - what's a metre? The length of a metre rule.
I don't see how imperial units are easier to visualise.

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Originally Posted by sotonsi View Post
As road signs don't need calculations at the user end, then I would say that metric is at best equally as good as miles, etc.
Agreed - I'm talking about metrication in general, but I wouldn't like to see a mixture of systems adopted in a country.

Last edited by deranged; February 26th, 2009 at 06:59 PM.
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Old February 26th, 2009, 07:48 PM   #279
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That's true, but the likes of hectares and litres are exceptions; even so, conversion is still easier because of the factor of ten.
As for prefixed units such as cm and km, people find powers of 10 easy to visualise as well for calculations.
Not easily - what's 1000m - it's 10 lots of 10 lots of 10 lots of 1m. If you can 'feel' how big a metre is, you can do 10, you can do 10 lots of 10m, you can then do 10 lots of 100m. It's easier to just be able to 'feel' how big 1km is than to work up in several stages.
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I don't see how imperial units are easier to visualise.
Smaller numbers, and in cases of feet, most people have two good guestimates at the bottom of their legs. Other things like cups (perhaps the best customary measure - a great shame the Brits don't use it) are nice and easy to picture.
Quote:
Agreed - I'm talking about metrication in general, but I wouldn't like to see a mixture of systems adopted in a country.
That's the only reason to do it - it's not worth the cost, though if there's a massive signage overhaul, go for it.

To sum up my argument:
  • the cost of metricating signs is rediculously high.
  • there is no real benefit to end users of having miles and yards over kilometres and metres and vice versa.
  • therefore it's really not worth doing - consistency with the rest of the world, other things is not worth justifying a massive cost
  • some things might justify it - a radical overhaul of signage perhaps
  • one possibility is have new signs have both miles and km on, then when those are replaced, have just km. The problem then becomes speed limits - Ireland had to do theirs overnight and each state would be the same.
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Old February 26th, 2009, 07:53 PM   #280
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I have to agree on the opinion that it's too expensive to justify the costs, especially the units used on road signs (feet, miles, inches etc). Switching from Gallons to Liters shouldn't be that big a problem.
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