## Metric howlers – Times hat-trick

When converting metric units into imperial units, journalists (or more likely sub-editors) are apt to make mistakes, especially if they are dealing with subjects with which they are not very familiar. On the 9th December 2006, The Times managed a hat-trick of blunders. [article contributed by MV]

Page 8 – Airlines should pay full cost of their pollution

The penultimate paragraph contained the text “[Boeing and Airbus] Aircraft use an average of four litres of fuel per 100 km”. This sentence should have raised the alarm bells – a consumption of 4 L/100 km is what one would expect of an economical car such as the Smart Car. (The imperial equivalent is 70 mpg!). If the writer used metric units when driving they would have spotted this howler.

Page 43 – Why the Dead Sea is dying

The fifth paragraph contains the phrase “to suck 1,900 million cubic metres (2.1 million cubic yards) of water”. This phrase contains two howlers. Firstly, a factor of 1000 seems to have gone missing. Secondly, the writer appears to have used a factor of 1.1 to convert cubic metres to cubic yards when the correct factor is 1.1 x 1.1 x 1.1 (which is equal to 1.331).

Page 44 – Spend a penny, but it make you think of a tenor

The third paragraph contains the sentence “The block, in Calcutta, is spread over 3,000 square metres (3,300 square yards) and is “. Here, the writer used a factor of 1.1 to convert square metres to square yards. The correct factor is 1.1 x 1.1 (which is equal to 1.21).

## Football going metric?

Viewers of “Match of the Day” on 9 December had the unusual experience of hearing football commentary in metric. Was this an aberration or a straw in the wind? (asks Robin Paice)

There was an interesting exchange on “Match of the Day”
recently.

Three football pundits (Ray Stubbs, Alan Shearer and Mark Lawrenson) are discussing the “goal of the season” scored by Matthew Taylor for Portsmouth against Everton. Lawrenson is describing the volley, voice over an action replay: “straight as an arrow, like a rocket, dipping – here’s the measurement [screen shows 42 metres]. Similar thing at Sunderland last season, like an arrow, goalkeeper on his six yard box [sic] didn’t stand a chance [screen shows 39 metres], not quite so far but still a very good goal. He won’t score many better than that. 42 metres …

AS: By the way, I work in yards.

ML: [slightly condescending] It’s 42 lots of 39 inches.

AS: [to RS] Carry on then.

ML: It’s about 45 and a half yards, give or take.

RS: Have you just worked it out that quickly?

ML: No, I’ve been practising all day.

[All fall about laughing].

Football tends to be militantly imperial despite the fact that as the sport is relatively unknown in the USA, and despite the prominence of foreign players and managers in English and Scottish football, Britain and Ireland are the only countries in the world which still cling to expressions such as the “eighteen yard box” (meaning the penalty area). So it was encouraging, and perhaps we should thank Mark Lawrenson for introducing the footballing masses to the novelty of metric measurements – albeit it was treated somewhat light-heartedly – as though metres are not real measurements.

I would guess that the explanation for this unexpected foray into the world system was that the software used by the BBC in this instance was probably metric. It was easier to use it than try to amend it.

Anyway, thanks to Mark Lawrenson.

## “Animals in the womb: Mammals” – pioneering TV from Channel 4

This programme used a combination of computer graphics, physical modelling, and actual ultra-sound images to create stunning pictures of the foetus of a dolphin, an elephant and a golden retriever developing in the womb. There was a commentary, but for much of the time the amazing images spoke for themselves. [Article contributed by Derek Pollard]

## NHS use of kilograms

Although the NHS uses grams and kilograms, the media often dumb down the information, and politicians do nothing to help. [article by Roz Denny]

Last week I went to see the GP for my elderly father and she was pleasantly surprised when discussing his weight that she didn’t have to “translate” it for me from kg to stones. I am also of the generation of women who gave birth 28 years ago in an NHS hospital and was handed my little bundle at 3.1kg, no conversions. Thereafter my baby’s weights were entered in her clinic record book in kg, albeit with lbs in brackets. Since those heady days we’ve seemed to have gone backwards. Even to the extent that the media think all UK babies are weighed in lbs at birth particularly the babies of prominent politicians – Blair, Brown and Cameron.

## Suggested New Year resolutions

Suggestions, and a request for these to be forwarded on to the organisations and individuals. [article contributed by PB]

WEATHER PRESENTERS
For them to archive the F word and give temperatures only in degrees Celsius.

TV WEATHER PRESENTERS
For them to start showing wind speeds on their maps in km/h. Speeds in mph could be given orally for a limited time.

NEWSPAPERS INCLUDING WEB MEDIA for the UK
For them to start showing wind speeds on their maps in km/h.

COUNCILS
For them to adopt full metrication in all areas. This includes the metric pricing for allotment charges.

TRADING STANDARDS OFFICERS
For them to enforce metric pricing and ensure that market traders FULLY comply with the regulations.

I’m sure many more can be added to this list.

## Cooking Xmas turkey in metric

Here we go again, run up to Christmas and the food pages are full of useful hints and tips on how to roast the perfect turkey, giving people a timing of mins per 450g/lb. Not very useful when pack weights are in kg only! [article contributed by Roz Denny]

Working on this illogical logic, the ‘useful’ hint should start:

1. Get out your calculator.
2. Work out how many 450g there are in your pre-weighed (in kg) bird dividing by 0.450g
3. Multiply by the 450g units by time in mins.

Compare this to a useful timing of mins per kg:

1. Multiply the time in mins by the kg weight.

(However, if you are following an old recipe from a favourite cookbook for other birds e.g. goose or duck or a joint of beef/ham/pork, simply multiply the mins per 450g/ lb by 2.2 to get the kg weight timings).