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Comment: Re:who cares? (Score 1) 942

by Asterisk (#48041223) Attached to: David Cameron Says Brits Should Be Taught Imperial Measures

> quick, which is bigger, a 5/8 wrench or a 3/4 wrench?

I don't quite understand how there could be any confusion here. 5/8 and 3/4 are just numbers, and it should be quite obvious without much thought that 3/4 is larger.

> I just tried a 5/8 wrench on a bolt and it was slightly too small - quick, what's the next size up to try?

11/16 or 21/32, whichever you've got handy. Are you trying to say you can't count with fractions?

Comment: Re:Leave it to the Americans (Score 1) 942

by Asterisk (#48040899) Attached to: David Cameron Says Brits Should Be Taught Imperial Measures

He's not. He's rebutting the false correlation between using customary measurements and preferring things that are "stupid" posited by the AC coment above his.

In fact, one might regard use of customary units -- and resistance to unnecessary change -- as a marker of a bias toward practicality, which might in turn be characterized as "smart" in contrast to a correspondingly "stupid" bias toward abstract aesthetics and thinking in generalities in evidence among those who insist that everyone use metric units in all circumstances without exception.

Comment: Re:Advantages of non-10 based systems (Score 1) 942

by Asterisk (#48040677) Attached to: David Cameron Says Brits Should Be Taught Imperial Measures

It's also worth pointing out that the powers-of-ten prefix system isn't just not the advantage it's hyped up to be, but is a bizarre and superfluous gimmick: it's just a reimplementation of scientific notation that expresses the relevant power-of-ten factor via an arcane system of verbal prefixes that attach to the name of the thing you're counting.

If you have a truck that holds, say, 16,536 oranges -- setting aside the question of why you wouldn't just leave that representation intact -- why would you not just use "1.6536 x 10^3 oranges" instead of a bizarre construction like "1.6535 kilooranges"? Why would you ever use anything other than numbers to represent quantities?

Comment: Re:Probably the one thing I agree with Cameron on (Score 1) 942

by Asterisk (#48040607) Attached to: David Cameron Says Brits Should Be Taught Imperial Measures

> if you are wanting to supply your products globally it makes sense to have a single measuring system and metric is the easiest.

That's a bit absurd. It's like saying that if you want to supply your products globally, it makes sense to have a single language, and Esperanto is the easiest.

It's already necessary to do lots of localization work if you want to be globally competitive: you need to do translations, deal with diverse regulatory requirements, address differences in product demand due to cultural variation, etc. Doing a bit of arithmetic to convert measuring units is perhaps the most trivial aspect of marketing globally.

And if it were economically beneficial to use metric across the board, businesses would do so on their own volition, and there'd be no need to make a political question out of it. If they're not doing so, it's probably a good indication that the hypothesized benefits aren't actually there in practice.

Comment: Re:Unit Conversions (Score 1) 942

by Asterisk (#48040297) Attached to: David Cameron Says Brits Should Be Taught Imperial Measures

> memorized magic numbers and not proper derived constants.

Metric units involve far more magic numbers than customary units.

The meter is the distance light travels in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458 seconds, so defined to preserve magnitude of the meter despite being originally based on an erroneous measurement of the circumference of the Earth, itself an extraordinarily arbitrary value when measuring things other than the earth itself.

The kilogram is currently defined as the mass of a physical standard, that being the master kilogram held by the BIPM in its headquarters just outside Paris.

If we want to redefine units according to Planck lengths or something similar, let's do so, but we'll of course end up expressing units that are relevant and useful in the context of human-scale experience in Planck lengths, and probably end up keeping the same customary (and metric) units.

Comment: Re:Simple answer (Score 1) 942

by Asterisk (#48040031) Attached to: David Cameron Says Brits Should Be Taught Imperial Measures

> And what's the volume equivalent to a cwt

Volume relates to weight only by the density of the material you're measuring. It doesn't make sense to ask what the volume equivalent of a weight unit is in abstract terms.

> and how many of them to the ton (long or short)?

20, either way.

> And anyway should we measure volume in the ounce-derived system, cubic length units or acre-feet?

What are you measuring, and for what purposes? Use the units most suited to the task.

> 1 floz is the volume of 1 ounce of water

The US volume units are based on the traditional English wine gallon, so it's the density of wine rather than water that defines the fluid ounce. Wine's a bit less dense than water, so a US fluid ounce of water weighs a bit more than an ounce.

Comment: Re:who cares? (Score 1) 942

by Asterisk (#48039783) Attached to: David Cameron Says Brits Should Be Taught Imperial Measures
Keeping non-metric units is also an indicator of a preference for emergent, bottom-up order, in opposition to top-down impositions of abstract formulae. Imperial/customary units have evolved over time, refined by the limitations, instruments, and purposes that apply to the actual practice of measurement, whereas the metric system was designed by a committee and optimized for mathematical aesthetics over practicality.

I suppose the same people who agitate for the top-down imposition of the metric system would also favor replacing the common law with codified civil law and establishing a regulatory body for the English language as well. There is a cultural difference here, but it's more substantive than some generic concept of national pride: Anglo-American cultures generally do prefer emergence over design in a very significant way, where continental cultures tend in the opposite direction.

Comment: Re:What about a film polaroid (Score 1) 176

by Asterisk (#38001490) Attached to: Polaroid: This Time It's Digital

Most innovation consists of making marginal improvements to existing technology. Zink's particular implementation of the well-established technology of thermal dye-sublimation printing is a case in point.

Exclusivity in consumables is *not* protected by patents or copyrights on the device that does the consuming. Reverse-engineering for the purpose of creating compatible products is entirely legal. Some companies get around this by adding additional complexity which *can* be patented or copyrighted to the design of the consumables themselves. The patented technology in these cases is specifically the mechanism that creates vendor lock-in, and not something that contributes to the value-added function of the product for the customer.

I don't know if Zink's patent portfolio consists of these kinds of patents, or if they do indeed cover marginal improvements that make dye-sub printers smaller, cheaper, or more durable, but I do know that they didn't invent the underlying technology itself, and it's certainly plausible that they themselves are precisely "using everyone's work" to pursue a business model that relies on a captive audience for consumables. (Not to say they should be artificially stopped from doing so - just that if they decommoditize their consumables and charge too much for them, I won't use their products.)

Comment: Re:Social Spam (Score 1) 200

by Asterisk (#31942600) Attached to: Facebook and the "Social Graph"

I agree. I think modern social media have worked against the internet as a genuinely emergent social platform. The nature of the communities and the depth of the discourse on sites like Slashdot, HN, Ars Technica, even Reddit, the informal message boards and IRC channels, and many corners of the blogosphere, is giving way to the terse trivia of Twitter and Facebook.

It was a lot easier to deal with deliberate trolls and spammers than it is to sort the interesting and insightful from of mountains of genuinely stupid nonsense.

Tomorrow's computers some time next month. -- DEC

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