Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Metric madness

I'm not a Little Englander by any means, I don't get excited about rumours of EU plots to ban British sauasges. But I do confess to having a problem with the metric system.

There's something organic about inches (the length of a thumb knuckle) - feet (doh - the length of a foot ) - or a yard ( the stretch of your arm or a stride). Alright - I know that these vary on different people but as rough 'rules of thumb' they work.

Which is why they have been around for a long time, in a lot of different places. Archaeologist Aubrey Burl notes that pre-historic structures in Europe, South America, the Middle East, India and China all seem to use multiples of roughly similar units of measurement taken from anatomical dimensions.

Metric measurements can seem to be more precise and scientific. But in reality they are only derived from an eighteenth century miscalculation of the earth's circumference. They do not of themselves make measurement any more accurate. In my own industry we managed perfectly well with points and picas for centuries. And the golden age of engineeing was built on sixteenths of an inch. In fact as far as Harley Davidson is concerned, it still is.

Which leads neatly to the outrageous news that obtaining a motorcycle licence in this country is about to become harder again.

Apparently the UK needs to comply with the rest of the EU in doing the emergency stop - which is a requirement of the bike test - from a speed of 50kph. Trouble is, that translates as 31mph and the roads used by test centres are generally those with 30mph limits. Consequently, for the sake of the 1mph difference, the bike test will now have to be taken only at special designated regional centres.

I'm not sure if this is a plot to push the dreaded kilometer at the expense of the mile. Or a plot to discourage motorcycling. Either way it's bollocks.

No comments: