Myths, misinformation and fallacies (1) – Are imperial units “natural”?

The claim is often made by last-ditch defenders of miles, feet, pints and acres that “Imperial units are natural whereas metric units are artificial”.   In the first of an occasional series of articles on “myths, misinformation and fallacies” used by opponents of completing metrication, we examine this claim.

A list of such myths is summarised in a webpage on UKMA’s main website at this link entitled “Briefing note for UKMA representatives”.  This note arose from a discussion at UKMA’s 2012 annual conference about the abysmal standard of debate heard on local radio phone-in programmes.  The original intention was (and remains) to help UKMA members and supporters to make the case in radio and television interviews, in newspaper correspondence and online.

In the coming months we shall be discussing particular arguments from this list and opening them up to readers of MetricViews.  This week we look at the claim that:

“Imperial units are natural whereas metric units are artificial”

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What do imperial traffic signs cost?

One of our regular readers, John Frewen-Lord, a quantity surveyor, has attempted to answer this question. In this article J F-L refers to the junior Education Minister’s suggestion that there would be more teaching of imperial units in the future school curriculum (subsequently played down by Department officials as “no significant change”).

UKMA regards the Minister’s suggestion as a political stunt to appease Eurosceptic critics (not that it has anything to do with “Europe”).  It has still to be formally consulted upon and is unlikely to get any further.  Nevertheless, John’s analysis is a useful demonstration of the order of possible costs of the DfT’s obstinate refusal to join the rest of the world and permit metric units on the UK’s road signs.  This is what he wrote:

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A UK metric time line from 1980

In June last year, we published a time line up to 1980 showing progress towards the adoption of a single, simple, logical and coherent measurement system in the British Isles. We now bring this story up to date.

Continue reading “A UK metric time line from 1980”