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Americans realize the worthlessness of a system where 20 degrees might require a light jacket but 25 is t-shirt weather: the granularity is insufficient.
Funny how often this about granularity comes up in the C/F discussion, and almost never in other cases!
I have tried to point out to USAians the finer granularity of km over miles (the difference is in the same range as F vs C); it doesn't stick. I have pointer out the lack of granularity of the US dollar compared to numerous other currencies (in particual before the Euro was introduced), and the USAinas protest: But we have got cents! Sure you have. And I have heard US weather forcasts claiming that there is a 57.14 percent chance of rain tomorrow (I am serious! Two fractional digits in a percentage of probability), so you sure can handle decimals! If you really need four digits precision in the chance of rain, then you certainly could handle fractional degrees as well. All my electronic thermometers (I've got at least six or eight) can be switched to F degrees, and they all have a resolution of 0.1 F. If whole F-degrees were sufficient, there should be no need for any fractional part!
Here in Norway, we often refer to half-degrees (it is twenty and a half outside right now), and we always did. That is better resolution than whole F degrees. Regardless: The level raise of the mercury or blue-colored spirit column, or movement of the arrow, is exactly the same for a given temprature change; the difference lies only in the distance between the tick marks next to it.
And then: Set two cheap thermometers (of two different makes) side by side, and after they have stabilized, compare the reading. They may differ by far more than even a centigrade! (More expensive, newer thermometers may be more exact, but not the ten and twenty year olds you find around in your parent's house). Maybe they are fairly stable, the one always showing 70F while the other shows 68F, but you don't know which corresponds to the weather forecast predictions.
Furthermore: I have never met any person who can tell if the air is 68F or 69F, without any refernce point or thermometer. (If that was a common ability, why would we need thermometers to tell us what whe can feel anyway?) Wind, humidity and the temperature in the envionment we came from makes far more change than a couple of degrees.
Actually, this "granulatity" argument for F-degrees is rather artificial; you don't really need or make use of it. Except when you need an argument for keeping things the way they have always been, rejecting any change.
That is quite typical: If you simply don't want to change, you make up arguments that you never consider otherwise. That is not particular to USAnisans; everybody does. But it becomes quite visible in the case of changing units.
An old story (quite a few people even claims that it is true) from Norway is when the hymnal used in the protestantic church was to be replaced by a new version: In one of the parish councils, one prominent memeber stood up and declared that he certainly welcomed the new hymnal, but out of respect for the all the old people who had grown up with the old one, the introduction of the new versioun should wait until all the old people had died. ... As we say in Norway: If it isn't true, it sure is a good lie! It perfectly illustrates how we mindlessly can use almost any argument to resist a change we don't want.
You raise some very valid points about people everywhere being unwilling to change. Nonetheless, the primary question remains: in what way will the change benefit those whom the change is being forced upon? Was it easier to find a particular hymn in the new hymnal? Or was it simply that everyone should change due to a particular person's whim?
In a country where everyone understands Fahrenheit and statute miles, what advantage is provided to citizens by changing to Celsius and meters?
Not that it matters for the principles discussed here, but to fill in the details:
The old hymnal, dated 1870, was an attempt to merge three older hymnals (the oldest one from 1699) into a common one for all congregations of The Church of Norway. Consider it a "beta release": Which hymns would actually be used, when a much richer selection was provided? A number of hymns were translated from German and Danish into Norwegian for the new hymnal (Danish and German had been 'church languages' for ages, but were being displaced by Norwegian.) Writing new hymns was a popular activity among poets and composers. So, in 1926, a revision was published, with the never-used hymns removed and a lot new hymns added. It was left to the congregations when to switch to the revised hymnal, some clung to the old versions for 10, 20 or 30 years. So, the benefit of the new hymnal was to have all the hymns being used in a single volume, and not too many obscure, forgotten hymns.
Advantages of metric system? The obvious one: Everybody else is using it. The question of convenience: Regularity. If the road measures 34 mm on a 1:1000.000 map, how many kilometers is that? If it measures 1 3/8 in, how many miles is that? What is the speed of light, measured by furlongs per forthnight?
The majority of scientific values, such as density of some matter, temperature etc. is stated in units that can be processed directly within the metric system. Temperature differences are stated in Kelvin, of the same granularity as Celsius; absolute temperatures in Kelvins above absolute zero. You never have to multiply by arbitrary factors of, say, 3 or 7 or 12, because of the choice of units (obviously, a given matter has properties like water requiring 4.2 kJ for heating 1 kG by 1 K, but the 4.2 factor is not from how units are defined).
One specific example (from my own house remodeling project): In building construction, the heat flow through a wall, a window etc. is indicated by its U value. Norwegian regulations require U < 0.18 for walls of new residental houses. How much is the heat loss through a wall of 2.50 by 4 meters when the temperature outside is -30C and the indoor temperature is 20C? U * area * deltaT, 0.18 * (2.5*4) * (20-(-30)) = 90 W. (Measure that wall in feet and inches, and state the temperatures in F, and see if the calculation is that simple!) -- The U values is per surface unit. For a given insulation, the 'lambda value' is specified: Multiply it by the thickness of the insulation to get the U value - whether you measure by mm, cm, or m. You just move the decimal points; the digits are unchanged.
Simple multiplication/addition of well known values, with no 'magic factors', no 1/8-of a unit, no 'how many yards to a mile?', no units that depends on what you measure... The metric calculations are so much more transparent and non-magic; you can grasp them easily. And you can relate to them. Even though I cannot off hand tell you how large a soccer field is in square meters, if you tell me that it is 100 by 60 meters, I immediately relate to it as 6000 square meters, which is five times the size of my garden lot. If some area is specified as the size of ten football fields, neither I nor very many others immediatly know how much that is in square foot or acres; it isn't transparent in the same way.
As long as a given unit is used alone, never related to other units (say, inches never related to miles) and the reading is used 'as is' and that is is, then any unit that 'everyone understands' is fine. The great advantage of the metric system is when you combine different measures. If you want to saw that new football field with grass seeds, and the seed vendor tells you to use so-and-so many grains (as a weight unit) of seed per square foot, how many pounds of seed will you need? In principle, you make the same calculation as with metric units, yet it involves a fair number of extra factors that you will have to know of.
Imperial units has one great value: You have to make so many extra multiplications and divisions that you really learn to do those operations - moving the decimal point doesn't give you nearly as much math drill. But you have this advantage only if you actually make the calculations regularly, such as measuring on the map in 1/8 in units to determine the distance in miles, and the time to drive that distance at a speed of x furlongs per forthnight. If you just read the value and to not convert it, you loose this advantage.
As far as the hymnal, one thing that NEEDS to be recognized is that there WAS a loss: some hymns were dropped. Perhaps that was better for the many, but just perhaps not for the particular holdout congregation.
The rest of your narrative is written from the perspective of someone raised in the metric system. For you, it is simple. For me, it is simple; I did a lot of metric calculations in college physics, but thirty-five years later, not so much. I think for anyone it is simple, but that simplicity is irrelevant in light of requiring EVERYTHING to change.
In USA, we do not do many conversions from inches to miles. Things that are smaller area are measured in feet: carpeting, hardwood flooring, etc., is normally priced by square feet, occasionally by square yard. The sizes of the numbers, however, rarely cause mental anguish when that division by 9 must occur. Large distances are by miles. Maps are normally something like 1/8" is equal to one mile, and with today's technology, the electronic maps will tell you without looking at a printed map anyway.
It is entirely possible that it is a uniquely American thing that we don't really need such precision. If I am taking a 100 mile trip, I don't care about that last inch and a half. In fact, we don't really get too precise on the number of miles. I can't tell you if the closest major city to my home is 88 miles or 109: it's about a hundred. It will take more than an hour to get there, but probably no more than a hour and a half.
Our culture has specialists who deal with their particular units of measure. For example, some people sell carpeting; tell them how big your room is, they quote a price. Check around with a few such experts and pick the best deal. If you are moving across country, you check with several moving companies, you get several price quotes and again, pick the best deal. The American system is all about capitalism; create a product or service cheap enough that someone will pay you rather than do it themselves.
Changing the status quo to metric just because "everybody else is using it" is simply not going to fly; there is no ADVANTAGE to change for the average American. In a capitalist world, "if there is no advantage for me, I am opposed to it." That is, in essence, America. It is a different perspective, I think, from European attitudes, but hopefully that let's you know why it will probably never occur.
But why? Why not we fix this in peoples minds and make them follow a unified type.
Same reason as any dispute in history - people disagree. I view the format from the perspective of importance. I care more about what relative day it is (Mon-Sun) than literal day and place more value on the month (year is obvious) so MM-DD-YY makes more sense, but many would disagree with this because they place value elsewhere.
As Jochen said, ISO 8601 is the standard - and it insists (correctly) on four digit years, not just two. Remember the Millenium Bug problem and the amount of work that caused?
Just use yyyy-MM-dd and it'll be right.
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Some of it was profiteering, yes - but a lot was behind the scenes and wasn't.
I spent a lot of time, effort, (and money) in late 90's making sure that all the systems in company I had just joined as Technical Manager (i.e. responsible for everything more complicated than a mains plug) were going to work on Jan 1st 2000, and replacing those that wouldn't. And that meant exhaustive testing on the Unix box that ran the company accounts (Accounts software: fail. Accounts system OS: fail. Accounts system hardware: Oh , Oh , Oh , fail, fail, fail. Can I get it back up by Monday?) followed by new software selection, implementation, data transfer, training, and parallel running as well as new software to produce management accounts summaries in a format they could understand.
The reason very little failed on Jan 1 worldwide was that a huge amount of effort went into making sure they wouldn't ...
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Yes, there was an awful lot of genuine work involved but equally there were an awful lot of "consultants" lining their pockets by spreading the fear.
For my part, I did very well out of it working on a project for a very large organisation to temporarily migrate their ERP system for the two years across the millennium because SAP were reluctant to guarantee millennium compliance. Was that money well spent? I rather suspect that any problems arising from not doing it could have been sorted out by a bit of overtime for the finance team. Either way, I was rather glad that developers of yore were so short-sighted and/or strapped for disk-space!
As I remember it (and it does seem like an awful long time ago, now!), they were a bit slow off the mark in making any guarantees - at least in the UK. I'm pretty sure that they eventually did but by that time our client had already committed to take the route that they did - running through the timeline in my head, I suspect the decision was made sometime during 1995.
I also ended up correcting a fair number of serious bugs in my company's software related to this issue. Regrettably, no profiteering on my part, since I was salary. Maybe next time, in the unlikely event its still necessary, when the original 32 bit Unix clock runs out in 2038
YYYY-MM-DD is great for historical context but not so great for day-to-day. When you read a date, what is the most important portion of that date to you?
As someone who natively reads a left-to-right language, I believe the most critical portions should be farthest left. I know, currently, it's Tuesday where I live. Maybe I've been super busy for two weeks and missed that May rolled over into June. For me the most important portion is the month. With that single value alone I can immediately orient myself in time - Tuesday, early June, 2018. Viewing only the year, or only the day, can you claim the same?
EDIT: I'm honestly curious (open discussion to anyone). I'm not set on any given methodology; this one just makes more sense to me. Anytime I bring up my reasoning in other discussions I'm dismissed as an American yet they provide no sensible argument to the contrary.
Treat dates likes numbers: The most important parts are the higher digits.
Treat dates like times: The most important part is the hour.
The ISO 8601 format is logical (always a good argument for scientists, engineers, programmers etc) and has not been used before by any culture (avoiding the discussion about which of the existing formats is the best).
I've heard and understood that logic in the past - it makes a lot of sense from a purely logical point of view. The huge fallacy with this is that humans aren't machines. Generally speaking we remember things in relative terms. You don't remember easily what you did on 29/5/2018 but if I said Tuesday two weeks ago you'd immediately recollect.
This is my entire point (which may be cultural I admit). I remember what I did on a relative day of the week (Mon-Sun) and relative to the month (week 1-4). If you asked me what I was doing 3 weeks ago on a Monday I could immediately tell you. If you asked me what I was doing on 21/5 I wouldn't have a clue. This is exacerbated by the fact months have differing numbers of days on top of leap years being a thing.
This relativism lends itself to the month being the most important factor since it is the "anchor" by which you relate the weeks and days (Mon-Sun).
EDIT: Another way to look at it. You have five criteria for determining absolute date: relative day, relative week, day, month, year. Year is obvious so let's exclude it. I can determine the exact date from relative day, relative week, and month (no need for day). Relative day is universally known - you know whether it's Monday or Friday. Relative week is a bit sketchier but the alternative is absolute day. I would argue more people at least have an idea about the former, but can you tell me the relative day and week of the latter without looking at a calendar?
You do realise that you are talking about time spans now?
Sorry for being pedantic here.
I see your point but being an engineer and developer I have switched to the standardised formats long time ago even in "real" life (e.g. when signing papers requiring also the date).
If you want to target users from all over the world, you have to use a general format understood by (hopefully) all of them. Everybody has to use something new from time to time. I'm not an American but understanding the ISO date format should be no problem compared with the changings to the metric system.
As a developer you are free to provide such data in any or multiple formats. An example might be the posting dates here at CodeProject which are provided as time spans for short periods (hours ago, yesterday) and the date for older posts.
Dates themselves are no more than a span of time relative to your current. The bigger question is who these time spans are important to. If it's a computer than UNIX time is superior to any of the aforementioned formats. If it's a human then you need to account for human ways in which they judge and measure the format. My argument is precisely that.
It's slightly a goal-post move but to hit on the ISO mention: just because something exists doesn't inherently mean it's right.
EDIT: Off-topic but it's worth mentioning that even though I use the Imperial System for measurement (you have to in the US), I actually vehemently agree with the Metric System being more reasonable.
You get used to yyyyMMdd. this is often what gets spat out of systems like SAP in text files. It's consistency. I like it as it is readily sortable when held as a string (Not that we should, but it does happen). In particular if I have a bunch of folders, putting yyyyMMdd enables them to be sorted. Trying to find notes embedded in a list of folders formatted either of the other two ways is difficult.
Also, the Japanese use yyyy/MM/dd as their standard format - I am in Japan right now, so I see it all the time. I have it in mind that South Africa does as well.
おはようございます. IIRC it must be super early for you. My argument doesn't stem from common practices but what makes sense from how humans interpret time. YYYY-MM-DD is great for historical records or things intended to indicate an exact point of time over a long period of time (> 1 year). But people don't remember Monday as 11/6 and today as 12/6. They remember Monday as Monday and Tuesday as Tuesday. This relativism lends itself against pure logic as I mentioned in my other post.[^]
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