Blight on marine life education

Following on from the story of the Rock Reef flyer last week, we look at the chaotic use of mixed measurements at an educational attraction, in stark contrast to the metric education that youngsters get in school.

When I was in Bournemouth, I went to the Oceanarium attraction. This attraction aims to educate the general public about marine life. It contains high quality of information and graphics that describe various aspects of marine life as well as living sea creatures in aquariums. You can learn a lot about the sea world by visiting the Oceanarium.

One thing that is no good is the seemingly random mix of metric and imperial measures across the venue. This makes it awkward to compare different measurements and make sense of the sea world.

The Amazon River poster shows kilometres followed conversion to miles in brackets. In other parts of the venue, miles and kilometres are used without any conversions, even when describing the same topic. For example, here is a description of the Amazon on another poster:

“The Amazon is the world’s largest, most powerful river, and is one of the last untamed natural wonders of the world. 4,500 miles, long, the Amazon basin holds more than 1,100 tributaries (smaller feeder streams) in an area covering in excess of 2.5 million square miles, approximately the size of Australia.”

Another poster describing Africa only uses kilometres:

“Africa covers over 30 million square kilometres, making 20% of the Earth’s surface.

The Sahara desert in Africa is the world’s largest desert, covering 8 million square kilometres. The desert is expanding southwards at a rate of 0.8 kilometres a month.”

Further on in the same poster, it says:

“The Rift Valley is 6436 kilometres long, stretching from Syria to Mozambique.”

In the left poster above, the description states that the Tiger Shovelnose Catfish can grow to at least 1.5 metres and that many species of giant catfish in the Amazon reach over 6 feet in length.

In the right poster above, metres and kilograms are used to describe the length and weight of the Black Pacu respectively.

These posters show the lengths of different species in centimetres using a graphical ruler. Stones are used to describe how much a black pacu can potentially weigh. Compare this with the weight in kilograms used in the other poster about the black pacu (see previous image in this article).

There seems to be no co-ordination to provide consistency in measurement units and standardise on the use of one measurement system. Apparently, different authors were given freedom to use any measurement units they fancied and mix and match imperial and metric units as they saw fit. It is an obstacle to visitors to make sense of the modern world. For an educational venue, this is disappointing.

2 thoughts on “Blight on marine life education”

  1. Disappointing is not the word I would use. As a product of a failed education system myself I do take this issue very seriously.
    Lazy, uninterested and/or ill informed educators making a total hash of even the most basic facts. True it can, and is argued that ‘we’ (I guess that is supposed to include me) should understand both and that is the country we live in. I do not buy into the excuse that it is for international flavour.
    However, the blame still lays firmly at the feet of successive governments, the current being the worst as they intend to make it an even more ‘official’ muddle.
    The media, if they had any interest at all could end this mess at a stroke by insisting on SI only.

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  2. It’s obvious the various posters were made by different people with no one person acting as a guide or authority figure to make sure certain standards are met, such as all measurements are to be in metric. So, you have one series of people who prefer metric and use it throughout their work and in other posters you have another series of people who prefer imperial and use it throughout. Thus the result is the muddle you see. It won’t end as long as you permit people to have a choice into which units they want the rest to see.

    In response to Brian, the media is an inanimate object that can’t make a decision. The decision has to come from a person who is authorised to make a decision on which units to use. Unfortunately they can make the wrong decision.

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