Without measure…

The tirade of abuse (Letters 13 March) against Mike Batiste’s original letter in favour of metric measurements is very sad, but also very telling.

I am aghast at the ignorance and professional incompetence of those who rail against the need to understand both metric and imperial units (Letters, passim).

To take specific points from various correspondents, one states that the calculator has done away with the need to understand mental arithmetic and calculations. Such a view seems more appropriate to someone not entitled to a GCSE in mathematics, let alone to work in engineering.

Another says that we are in Europe, dealing with European suppliers. This is true, but we have other important customers and suppliers who are not metricated — even Michelin makes tyres with diameters in inches.

The French are clearly more outward looking and knowledgeable about imperial units than some readers of The Engineer.

Mike West

The tirade of abuse (Letters 13 March) against Mike Batiste’s original letter in favour of metric measurements is very sad, but also very telling.

It supports the widely-held perception of the engineering community in the UK (sorry, I know one of your correspondents distilled this to ‘England‘) as being conservative and parochial.

The year is 2006 and the MKS system has been in use for many years. As teenagers would say …get over it.

Dr Zara Iles

Chris Peers says ‘anybody can convert between metric and imperial as long as the conversion factor is known’ (Letters, 27 March).

This is a naive statement as is shown by Neil Hutton (Letters, same issue) who wrote: ‘Who says that their car delivered …12.5 kpl rather than 35 mpg’.

If Mr Hutton had taken the trouble to read any car ads, he would have seen that fuel consumption, when using metric units, is usually expressed in L/100 km. Furthermore, kpl has no place in the metric system — if he really meant kilometres per litre, he should have written ‘km/L’. And kilometres per hour should be expressed as km/h, not kph.

Martin Vlietstra

I disagree with Mike Batiste – the sooner we lose our Eurocentric approach to measurements and agree to work in the units our customers use, the better.

I work for a sucessful global company and throughout my early college years I was taught in both imperial and metric units.

Our markets for highly alloyed cast components order and specify their requirements in imperial. The standards they call for us to comply with (ASME, ASTM, API etc) are expressed in imperial units, albeit with metric units in parenthesis for the benefit of the few European enterprises still able to satisfy their requirements.

This does not only apply to the US but also Japan, China and other markets influenced by, or trading with, the US.

Chris Slemmings

I take issue with T Morgan’s view that we should use metric units because we deal with European suppliers (Letters, 27 March).

It may be true in his case, but my employer deals with suppliers and customers worldwide and converses with them in whatever units they are used to working with. This includes understanding the local shorthand.

It would be interesting to see Mr Morgan’s design after receiving a call from a US customer setting out a requirement in ‘mils’ without him realising that it really meant thousandths of an inch.

Nigel Hay
East Sussex

Many thanks to all our readers who have aired their views, whether for or against metric. The subject is now closed on these pages, but the great debate continues on our website www.theengineer.co.uk

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