Yet another alert reader just sent me a link to this extremely
humorous blog. It’s not recent, but it’s silly enough that it’s worth pointing
out even now. I’m not one hundred percent sure that this isn’t a parody. Looking at
the blog as a whole, I think it’s serious. Pathetic, but serious.
According to scientists, The French / Eurotrash “metric” system is in a state of crisis today, as scientists discovered that the weight of the “kilogram” is flip-flopping faster than John McCain at an episcopalian rally.
The Kilo – a unit with an identity crisis: This is one of the approximately 30 standard kilograms stored in a French castle. The polished metallic pellet a the center of this contraption is made of an alloy of precious metals, provided at government expense. Only in Europe would government subsidize such folly!
Since Europe converted to the metric system a few years back, this could have a grave impact on that continent’s faltering economy. Imagine a situation where customers wishing to buy some meat, or fill their car with gas literally have no idea how much their goods will cost, simply because nobody knows the exact definition of a weight.
Jesus, the humble carpenter no doubt used a ruler to measure his wood every day, however the Bible clearly states that he had no need of the metric system.
How much simpler life would be if we only adopted the standard units of weights and measures mentioned in the King James Bible? Biblical measures are authorized by God, and like God are not tied down to fickle matter. This is yet another example of how Science only really makes sense when it is rooted in the Bible.
As you can see, the post is a fundie rant about the evils of the metric system. That is
something that has always struck me as strange. Even for biblical literalists,
I’ve never understood quite why units of measurement are such a big issue. It’s not
like even the most literal reading of the bible provides any precise definition of
measurement units – it mentions units at various places, but doesn’t
define them. And it’s a strangely blind and inconsistent
kind of demand for consistency. After all, they don’t complain about the fact
that the US uses dollars as a unit of wealth instead of shekels. They don’t
complain about how we use feet and miles for length, rather than cubits and leagues.
It’s just the metric system that’s a problem.
There’s just so much foolishness per word in this that it’s hard to know where to start.
How about “only in Europe would government subsidize such folly”? Every heard of
NIST? That is, the national institute of standards and technology? The guys whose
purpose is standardization of units, measurement, procedures, formats, etc? The guys
who maintain this official
list of standards for measurement? The guys who last year had a budget of nearly one billion
dollars? Somehow the cost of a 1 kilogram metallic cylinder hardly seems like such
a great folly in comparison to a billion dollars a year. And it certainly hardly fits under the “only in Europe” category – there’s probably not a government anywhere on earth that doesn’t have a standards authority like NIST. Certainly a quick web-search turns up authorities that standardize units of measure in the US, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, China, Japan, Nigeria, Egypt, Israel, Turkey, and Russia – among others.
Getting back to the main subject though, what’s the real problem that our buddy Tristan is mocking? Here is a link to a pop-sci article about it from the USA Today. When the metric system
was standardized, they produced a collection of incredibly carefully tooled metal cylinders. The careful tooling made the cylinders as identical as it was possible to make any set of objects. The mass of the master copy of these cylinders was the precise, official definition of the “kilogram” unit. In recent measurements, they’ve found that the mass of the master kilogram has varied by approximately 50 micrograms relative to the average of the masses of the copies. In fact, it appears that all of
the cylinders are drifting apart very slightly. Over the course of 120 years,
that means that the mass of the standard kilogram cylinder has apparently changed by
5×10-6 grams. The cause of this discrepancy is unknown.
The standard weight measure of the metric system has, therefore, potentially
changed by 5×10-7 percent – or one half of one one-hundred millionth of a percent.
Wow, I’m quaking in my boots about how on earth I’m going to know how much
meat I’m getting when I buy a half-kilo of steak!
I’m making light of it, but it is a cause for concern. When you multiply that
discrepancy by the billions of tons of things that are measured in trade between
different countries, it does add up. For example, doing a back-of-the-envelope
calculation, over the course of a year, it could add up to a discrepancy of several
hundred kilograms of oil in American imports. Oh wait… That’s really not a cause of
concern. It’s in fact far below our ability to notice – the precision of how we
measure oil has a larger margin of error of several kilograms per tanker;
we wouldn’t notice that much discrepancy in oil imports per day.
Of course, we’d naturally be much better off if we use biblical units. After all,
the standard cubit had a lot more precision than the meter. After all, a biblical cubit is
defined as “the length of Noah’s forearm”, which is clearly much more
precise and less subject to dispute that the definition of a meter.