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Wednesday, January 07, 2004
The Metric system

One of the most frequently broadcast programmes in Australia is 'The Simpsons'; several episodes are shown each week. During one recent ‘airing’ – and it may have been several years old – one character remarked that the metric system ‘…is a creation of the devil’. Neatly put, I suggest, for a programme aimed at US viwers. I wonder what the Aussies made of it. For many years, everything: weights, measures (including distances in kms), and volumes (litres) have been expressed in metric terms. The solitary exception I can find is the pint (600 ml instead of the more correct 538 ml).

Weather charts and forecasts never report in degrees Fahrenheit and all the Aussies I’ve spoken to – old as well as young – seem very happy to have given up the imperial nonsense. They always ask me when the UK is going to join the Euro. ‘As soon as possible, I hope,’ I reply, ‘but the traditionalists, a significant number, will delay or perhaps prevent our ever adopting it’. Just as Australia long ago realized that its future no longer lay with ‘The Mother Country’, so too all Britons ought to realize that their future lies with Europe and not with any other country/organisation.

Some years ago, during a metrication campaign in the UK (we’re half way there, I think), I saw a newspaper advertisement proclaiming ‘This is an advertisement in favour of metrication’. It had two columns: one of metric or partially metric countries. Virtually every country in the world was listed in this column. The second column contained two countries only: United States of America and US Virgin Islands. A pretty good argument, I suggest. The US may be the World’s major nation but it’s not more important than the rest put together.

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