Metric Muddle on Mars

October 1999; it's official! Mars is no more compatible with metric measures than the earth is. The loss of the space probe to Mars was caused by "a major blunder" in the lack of co-ordination between the various contractors working for NASA, some of whom are using the traditional units of measurements and some of whom are attempting to convert to metric.

The question that must be asked is, why change to metric at all when NASA has been so phenomenally successful over the past forty years or so?
Does the use of Imperial measures present some sort impediment to the future of space exploration?
Has the use of Imperial measurements been a handicap up to now?
The Moon landings and the development of the Space Shuttle among other things would suggest not, so what is this insurmountable difficulty in using Imperial which can only be overcome by changing to the use of metric? The answer is that there is no difficulty; NASA's record speaks for itself and changing to metric would bring no discernible benefits but would definitely be very costly, as we have now seen. As that well known saying has it "if it ain't broke don't fix it!"

The change would appear to have more to do with bureaucratic vanity than with sound science. This view is confirmed by the comments of Lorelle Young, president of the U.S. Metric Association, who said the loss of Climate Orbiter brings up the "untenable" position of the United States in relation to most other countries, which rely on the metric system for measurement. In other words the US should conform regardless of whether it is a good idea or not and regardless of whether it is beneficial or not, which it clearly wasn't in this case.

Britain's foremost astronomer, Dr. Patrick Moore, described the loss as an awful blunder "It just shows the dangers of creeping metrication." He urged the continued use of Imperial measurements which have served NASA so well in the past.

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That's beside the point!
by Lance Haward

The wholly unauthorised attempt (unauthorised, that is, by any democratic process) to detach future generations from their cultural heritage by imposing an educational blanket of ignorance on them was surreptitiously put in train by Harold Wilson's government long before the European so-called Union pointed its bulldozer in our direction. From Shakespeare to the idiom of the football terraces, from the food we eat to the occupations of our leisure hours and the very map we move across, fathoms and cloth-yards, pints, inches and ells, ounces, miles and groats are the very stuff of our existance.

In this matter, the effects of Waterloo have been overturned at a stroke. The French may lament (as we also may) the rampant triumph of 'Franglais', but finally it is we who are the victims of that Gallic irrationality which is responsible for laws more bizarre than anything concocted by the Medes and Persians. It seriously believes that the basic unit of measurement is "the length of the path travelled by light in a vacuum during a timed interval of one 299,729,458th of a second."

Now the virus has crossed over into our bloodstream. An alternative definition has found its way into English statute law, compared to which the above is as simple as Do Re Mi. Here the metre is (hang on tight): 1,650,763.73 wave-lengths in a vacuum of the radiation corresponding to the transition between two specific but quite inexplicable levels of the Krypton 86 atom. Note that the one element common to both these definitions is the vacuum, which, as we all know, nature abhors. Whereas, if you want to define a yard, you don't even have to catch a 'bus to Trafalgar Square': all that's necessary is to lay hold of the nearest bystander of average build, stretch one arm out to one side, measure off a span of cloth or piece of string from his nose to his finger tip, and - for practical purposes - that's it. People who work in the optics industry tell me that the severely pragmatic Germans, world-leaders in the trade, while paying lip-service to metrication as required by European law, converted all their actual blotting-paper calculations back into sensible imperial.

The sheer folly of metrication is certainly expressed in its megalomaniac assumption that every form of measurement under the sun qualifies for decimalisation, where the reality of both nature and universal human practice gives that proposition the lie. The figure 12 and its derivatives are imprinted upon the natural order itself. The passage of time has, arguably since 159 BC, been calculated in two phases of twelve hours each, with all subdivisions of the hour calculated in multiples of twelve. The very globe and space we inhabit have, from time immemorial been measured in multiples of six squared. Is the structure of crystals decimal? Is the structure of snowflakes decimal?

I believe that all the major calendars throughout history, other than the Mayan, have instinctively opted for a system of twelve months as the most natural progression of the seasons. No less august a document than Magna Carta promises that 'there shall be one width of dyed cloth throughout the realm, namely of two ells within the selvedges." I bet that's being transgressed every day.

The limitations of the French system are revealed at every turn. On the athletics track, neither is the 800 metres half the distance of the 1500, nor is the 4x4OO relay equivalent in distance to the 1500, in the way that the quarter/half/mile are inter-related, nor is there any relation between the 1500 and the 5000-metre events as between multiples of miles. All useful comparison of relative times, speeds and distances collapses. The lunatic obsession to reduce every quantity to tens is not just intellectual slovenliness: it also impinges on life and convenience in ways which, even when not positively disruptive, are always bizarre. How soon before it becomes impossible to buy a dozen red roses or we have only 'Ten Days of Christmas'?

I'm now prevented from replacing the damaged lock on one of my doors without first gouging out an entirely new hole, as manufacturers no longer produce locks that match hitherto-standard sizes. Thus the alien norms that have been foisted upon us unheralded, uninvited and unvoted-for, bring about wholly unnecessary obsolescence, destruction and waste. As always, of course, big business gets rich on the carnage - a motivation blatant for decades in pronouncements by the British Standards Institution.

Our daily measurements should, as our ancestors recognised, have an observable scale and proportion and relationship to external reality. 'XYZ recurring' of the distance from the Equator to the North Pole when the Sun's in Libra and sanity in the balance represents only the apotheosis of the insubstantial. The pity is that, having long since dumped the silliness of Brumaire (the second month in the decimal calendar that lasted from 1793-1806) and depersonalised playing cards (only ace to ten with no face cards!) and other figments of the disordered, revolutionary mind, the successors of Fabre d'Eglantine haven't yet dumped the silliest of the lot as being - in a word - pointless!

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Back to the Dark Ages?

Keith Vaz MP, a Minister for Europe recently commented that "..the whole world is metric. Please don't drag us back to the Dark Ages [of imperial measures]"

It may come as a shock to Mr Vaz to learn that metric itself is a product of the mentality of the dark ages, a product of the fear and superstition which fuelled the Inquisition. The fear, in fact, of those who were skilled in the art of mathematics and geometry. During the Reformation in England, the monasteries as well as the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge were "cleansed" of all books and manuscripts which contained any sort of reference to these subjects. Meanwhile the Inquisition in Europe, instead of burning the books, rounded up the writers of these books and burned them instead. Galileo came perilously close to suffering this fate. What was it about mathematics and geometry that terrified them so much? You will not find the answer in the history books for they too have been exorcised of any unpalatable truths. The answer is magic; what was known as Mathematickall Magick and Natural Magick. It was believed that those who were learned in numbers were able to manipulate those numbers in (unspecified) ways which would draw down the forces of nature and these forces could be used to undermine (or indeed reinforce) the power of the Church or the Crown. Numbers used as the basis of measure were related to the natural world and, as the author John Michell has demonstrated, the foot was applicable to and unified mankind, the earth and the cosmos. This unification occurs in the mind of course and produces a harmony of thought and feelings and a general ease with the world.

Revolutionary France was so fearful of Natural Magick and Mathematickall Magick and those who practiced it that they invented a system of measures which could not be used in this way; using base ten instead of twelve and creating a basic unit of length, the metre, with no readily identifiable reference point in the natural world, they wished to completely divorce themselves and everyone else from nature. Don't forget that these are the same people who gave us the murder and mayhem of 1789 and the subsequent Terror, who tried to abolish the Christian calendar as well as Christianity itself as being a relic of the dark ages when men believed in a power other than their own.

So what is this Natural Magic which angered and frightened the Age of Reason? Paracelsus(1483-1581) explains thus:-
"The exercise of true magic does not require any ceremonies or conjurations or the making of circles, or signs; it requires neither benedictions nor maledictions in words, neither verbal blessings or curses; it only requires a strong faith in the omnipotent power of all good, that can accomplish everything if it acts through a human mind who is in harmony with it"
It is the "true and perfect science of the natural combination and proportion of known parts" in other words it is nothing more than attempting to live in harmony with the natural world; an idea which has become extremely fashionable in the last quarter of the 20th century. Using the non-natural decimal measurements introduces a discordant note into this search for a more harmonious life. This is a psychological thing. The discord is created in our minds, in our patterns of thought in much the same way that we walk past a piece of modern architecture and feel uneasy without quite knowing why.(Modern architecture has lost its sense of proportion, that is why.)

What constitutes the Dark Ages? When was this era? Pharaonic Egypt, Classical Greece, the Roman Empire or maybe the age of the Cathedral builders in mediaeval Europe? The legacy of these civilisations still permeates our souls. All of them lived with nature, all of them used natural measurement systems and extemely accurate ones, more accurate than the French decimal one. It could be argued that the past two hundred years have seen us enter a new Dark Age for it was the age of reason and science which divorced itself from, even declared war upon, the natural world. It is a truly Dark Age whose accomplishments, including metric measurement, can generate so much dis-ease in the world.

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