17 February 2009

He who cast the first kilogram

BBC Online recently polled its readers on the vexed topic of displaying metric weights of rugby players in its sport commentary graphics, rather than the old-fashioned imperial measurements of stones and pounds. This was in response to the comments of the Tory member Philip Davies MP, who the BBC reports, ‘claims most people who follow Six Nations rugby on TV would better understand the weight of players and packs if the figures were shown in stones and pounds rather than kilograms’.

Obviously this is a matter of negligible importance, and as some of the commentators on the BBC site point out, the MP might be concerned that this comment establishes his public profile as an elected representative with rather too much spare time on his hands. But it does remind you that despite Britain having gone metric in 1971, there’s still a great many people who haven’t caught up. The nonsensical tabloid campaign in favour of ‘metric martyr’ shopkeepers is one example, but I suppose this is just a symptom of the half-hearted approach taken to the metric system in Britain: road signs and speed limits were omitted from the change-over, so drivers still operate in miles rather than kilometres.

As an aside, Wikipedia notes that while 'traditional units are still used in many places and industries', only three countries have failed to officially adopt the metric system: Burma, Liberia and the United States.

- Source: BBC Online, 16 February 2009

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