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The only good explanations I've heard for the imperial system is for temperature. Metric temperature is based on water. (Makes sense. It's everywhere and is essential to life AFAWK). 0 F is the temperature of an icy brine solution. (⅓ ice, ⅓ water, ⅓ salt idk if by weight or volume), 32 F is the freezing point of fresh water, 96 the temperature of the human body and 212 the boiling point of fresh water. These were all definable things without much else. Wherever you were, you had your body, your probably had water, heat and you probably had salt. I guess they were supposed to just have ice delivered from the Arctic. The units were divisible by a factor of 2 and I think 32 was the only one that fit all the points. Later with more precise measurements body temp was 98.6 F. The foot was, well about a foot. Hands were also a common length used. A yard was about a stride which was about 3 feet. Common smaller measurements were just divisions of 2. Easy enough. Just fold it in half.

@mas2de, actually, imperial is a very well thought out system if your society hasn’t yet incorporated fractions into daily life. Those numbers are there for a reason, but you have to know a bit of math to understand why they were chosen. Take a foot: 12 inches in a foot, right? Now factor the number 12: 1,2,3,4,6, and 12 Now factor 10: 1,2,5, and 10 12 can be divided up evenly in more ways, which is very useful if you don’t have access to calculators to handle fractions for you. Now factor 5280: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12, 15, 16, 20, 22, 24, 30, 32, 33, 40, 44, 48, 55, 60, 66, 80, 88, 96, 110, 120, 132, 160, 165, 176, 220, 240, 264, 330, 352, 440, 480, 528, 660, 880, 1056, 1320, 1760, 2640, 5280 Verses 1000: 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 10, 20, 25, 40, 50, 100, 125, 200, 250, 500, 1000 Hopefully you can see the obvious utility in having so many more ways to evenly divide a unit of measurement.

@Hot Coffee, I think the fractions are very useful actually. Because you don't have to do much math, you can just fold something into equal pieces. Fold it in half 5 times and you're at 32nds and mix and match those fractions to add them up and get to the measurement you need. Very reliable way to get the same measurement. I don't think common people a few hundred years ago knew how to factor. I don't think most common people today know how to factor lol.

@Hot Coffee, but factoring isn't more advanced than fractions? And factoring has been understood by the general populous longer than fractions? Source? The ancient Egyptians used and taught fractions to others at least as early as 1600 BC while factoring wasn't figured out until around the 4th century by the ancient Greeks. The Babylonians used fractions before that. There are many times I've used fractions in daily life and far fewer times I've used factoring. I can't think of any use for factoring when building homes or plotting land, etc but I can think of several reasons for using fractions in the same instances. I seriously doubt that factoring was widely used before fractions. "...fractions as we use them today didn't exist in Europe until the 17th century?" Fractions existed and were used long before that. Factoring is taught in the 4th grade in the US while fractions are taught in the 1st or 2nd. Thus fractions are a simpler concept than factoring which involves multiplication.

@mas2de, yes. Factoring is basically counting and counting is a very concrete aspect of mathematics. Fractions are a good deal more abstract. Another aspect of the development of agricultural measuring systems is you can build things up to arrive at standards, like over time you recognize that buying 12 of something means you are much more likely to be able to distribute what you’ve purchased evenly to a small group of people. This is explained by factoring, but you don’t have to consciously factor numbers to come to this conclusion. This is so fundamental that we even have unique named numbers up to twelve (at least in English)! You have to make it to 100 before the next unique named number occurs.

@Hot Coffee, I think the same thing can be said for fractions in the same way that you have common names for factorable numbers, you have common names for common fractions. Half, quarter, 3 quarters, etc. But 5/8 is not a common fraction. The same way you can distribute the 6 fruits you bought to your family easily, you can distribute the loaf of bread you have evenly between you, your spouse and teenager if you split it into 3rds.

@mas2de, quite right, a rudimentary understanding of fractions is present in agrarian cultures, but it was (and still is) rare to approach commerce with an intent to purchase less than a single unit of an item. The real one exception I can think of is volume based products such as milk or flour, but most folks wouldn’t think of a pint as 1/8th of a gallon, they’d just think of it as 2 pints in a quart which isn’t really thinking in fractions practically, despite it being fractions functionally. I’m not entirely certain why fractions are harder for societies to develop, but historically they are.

@Kareem Abdul Ackbar, no it's because metric has very little relation to the human experience while imperial is all about it. A foot is about the size of a foot. 100 F is very hot, 0 F is very cold and can kill you; 100 C is long dead, 0 C is a little cold but t manageable. We weigh things with weight not mass like metric which is a small difference but is more relevant unless you're going to space or something. We also have various useful liquid sizes aside from large but not super large liter to the absolutely tiny milliliter

@Kareem Abdul Ackbar, US didn't transfer because when it was proposed it was made optional, iirc by state. Option A; keep using a system that works well for every day civilian use, or Option B; spend money to switch signage and standards and risk being inconsistent with other states. No one wanted to spend the money for what was a small benefit at the time or risk being the odd duck. Switching now would be costly, and most professions that want metric use it anyway, so the government just doesn't bother.

@Davrial, I can say that imperial has little to do with the human experience because Fahrenheit is an arbitrary number and who the hell knows how big the correct foot is. It just depends on personal experience. That being said metric is way better for measurement conversion and using numbers that aren’t needlessly large

@Prince super Vegeta , actually, imperial is a very well thought out system if your society hasn’t yet incorporated fractions into daily life. Those numbers are there for a reason, but you have to know a bit of math to understand why they were chosen. Take a foot: 12 inches in a foot, right? Now factor the number 12: 1,2,3,4,6, and 12 Now factor 10: 1,2,5, and 10 12 can be divided up evenly in more ways, which is very useful if you don’t have access to calculators to handle fractions for you. Now factor 5280: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12, 15, 16, 20, 22, 24, 30, 32, 33, 40, 44, 48, 55, 60, 66, 80, 88, 96, 110, 120, 132, 160, 165, 176, 220, 240, 264, 330, 352, 440, 480, 528, 660, 880, 1056, 1320, 1760, 2640, 5280 Verses 1000: 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 10, 20, 25, 40, 50, 100, 125, 200, 250, 500, 1000 Hopefully you can see the obvious utility in having so many more ways to evenly divide a unit of measurement.

@Prince super Vegeta , possibly, but the metric system is so sterile. I like miles, feet, pounds, yards, inches, ounces, etc. Sure, base 10 units and measurements based on earth at sea level pressures is nice but it is just as arbitrary. If we raised kids to count in base 2 it would make machine coding super easy. The real travesty is when some moron writes a book set in an agrarian, preindustrial setting and uses the metric system. It just sounds stupid.

@Hot Coffee, like I said, for daytoday life I prefer imperial too but only cuz I grew up with it. Now for physics calculations, I’m sure you’d agree using base 10 is much easier than using an arbitrary numbering convention. It is an expensive feat to switch over to metric but eventually I believe it will be required because 70% of the world uses metric. Also, as a fellow engineer, you must see the obvious advantage of using a base 10 system over something that is arbitrary and based on the “human experience” right? I mean we use base 10 mostly because we have 10 fingers and it’s easier to think this way

There is a lot of discussion about where various units of measure originated (precise measurements were refined over the centuries). Here are the ones I remember: The mile was one thousand paces (every other step, or strikes of the left foot) of the marching Roman Army. A foot was a common method of measurement for trade, but disputes over varying body sizes lead to it being standardized to King Charlemagne’s foot length. Fahrenheit intended to make 100 degrees the standard for human body temperature, but simply was off a bit. 0 degrees was the coldest salty ice water he could make. The metric system is that 10,000,000 meters is the distance from the North Pole to the equator (1/4 the surface circumference of the Earth). Then, all mass and temperature/energy measurements were based on the characteristics of 1 cubic cm of pure water.
Wasn’t distance measurements based on like the kings of England actual feet or something?