a defence of non-metric units

so jan misali just put out a video on this topic, and covers it way better than me. except they say that metric is better, and i'm not convinced. (i am convinced that metric is useful for scientific purposes and consistency wise, of course). anyways, go check it out!

people love to shit on non-metric units for being confusing. i think that's kind of mean! this isn't meant as a definitive and foolproof defence, just some points and rambling that i think make more sense than the standard "there are a thousand grams in a kilogram it's simple" and "yeah but fahrenheit is a percentage scale for humans".

see, i realised a while ago that quite often i talk about things as "two or three centimeters". as "about thirty centimeters". a "glass full". they're useful measurements, decent approximations. and also correspond to an inch, a foot, and a pint.

these measurements aren't designed to be confusing. in fact, they're not designed at all. they're pragmatic standardisations of sizes we as humans find useful.

in scientific contexts, sure, maybe it makes sense to use composable units. but that's down to making it easier to perform calculations simply and with less mistakes. most of us, most of the time, work vaguely. "a bit under six foot". "a pint and a half". why require the same set of units for weighing different things, if we're never going to weigh them against each other?

some people comment on the fact that it's easier to learn one set of units than several. i think this isn't the case. firstly, sets of imperial units tend to have internal consistency. second, most disciplines where you'd require a set of units are themselves quite complex; the units are simply a part of the mise en place for learning something new. this in itself doesn't stand up as a strong critique, but i think there are plenty of other things that are also part of the mise en place that people don't comment on so much. for example, recipes frequently take for granted knowledge of culinary terms that could be more simply written in english, but are not in order to distinguish between some nuance from the standard english translation, or to highlight the fact this is a cooking instruction and not anything else. perhaps you think this is also a weak argument. i personally think that prior knowledge of a discipline can make it more rewarding and feel more complete.