Ignorance is bliss, or perhaps not

One of our regular contributors, Jake, has drawn our attention to a story that recently appeared on the BBC web site.

Jake writes:

“The BBC website on 5 May carried an article entitled “Elderly people warned over alcohol consumption”. The comments below the article include the following questions and statements:

‘Why are they using “units”? No one has ever heard of “units”. A unit is 8 grams of pure ethanol, or 10 ml if you go by volume. It’s typical of the NHS to speak gobbledy-gook to the public and then whinge when they don’t feel their message is getting across.’

‘What is the unit of measurement of an “alcohol unit”? e.g. ounce, pint, milliliter, barrel?’

‘What’s a “unit”? If 49 units is about a bottle of booze, then a unit must be about a 1/2 oz of liquor.’

I thought it was interesting that the concept of a “unit” was being questioned, and found the statement that the NHS speaks “gobbledy-gook” to the public quite surprising.”

Another of our regular contributors, Martin Vlietstra, has already commented as follows:

“In recent times I have seen the definition of a unit written up more and more.  For the benefit of beer and cider drinkers, if the percentage alcohol in your favour tipple is X%, one litre will contain X units of alcohol. If you buy your drink by the half-litre, then you will be drinking X/2 units of alcohol.  If you buy your drink by the pint, then you will be drinking 0.568X units of alcohol.  For the record, I can easily divide a number by 2 in my head, but I struggle to work out 0.568 of a number.”

Jake goes on to ask if this indicates a problem with the way the NHS uses measurement units when interacting with the public. Or perhaps it is another example of wilful ignorance from a generation that is frequently reluctant to face up to change.


3 thoughts on “Ignorance is bliss, or perhaps not”

  1. Happy Wold Metrology Day 2018

    Constant Evolution of the International System of Units


  2. @Charlie P

    The article I commented on was posted on the BBC website on 5 May. Perhaps the following will help:
    “Older alcohol dependent drinkers urged to get help – BBC News
    Such third party cookies may track your use of the BBC website. … drinkers urged to get help. 5 May 2018 …. Elderly people warned over alcohol consumption.”

    But do you have a comment to make or do you just want to question the fundamentals of my original post?


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