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November 21, 2021

Go Metric (not)

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Change has come to boj and I bet nobody's noticed.

What it is: no more getting out my calculator or asking Google for conversions from the metric system to U.S. units.

The penny dropped the other day: why have I been doing this for 17+ years?

After all, as I've noted here repeatedly, I'm the laziest person on the planet, always looking for a shorter/faster/easier way to do anything.

I've always told myself that doing the conversions would make things easier for U.S. readers, who comprise about 3/4 of my audience.

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No más.

If the U.S. hasn't converted to the metric system by 2038 — 17 years from now — I'll reconsider.

November 21, 2021 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


@Bill Yes, sourdough is exact if you are going for an exact hydration level. For my whole wheat formula I have worked out for a specific flour, in this case whole wheat bread flour. A scale makes it much easier and they are cheap, ~$10. Humidity isn't much of a factor or so they say. I only add flour when I'm shaping the loaf, and just let the dough pick up enough so that it doesn't stick. It goes into a dutch oven for cooking rather than a bread pan.

Posted by: Greg Perkins | Nov 23, 2021 7:59:06 AM

Bill Ridge
"[A] “meter” [is] based on a fraction of the imagined circumference of the [Earth]"

The French invented the metre (note spelling) and defined it as 1/10,000,000 of the distance from the North Pole to the equator on a line passing through Paris. Of course through Paris.
None of the Frenchmen who invented the metre had ever journeyed to the North Pole or had any desire to go there. So they came up with a WAG.
A century later, the French immortalized the WAG in a bar of platinum-iridium alloy.
Then came the Superman definition.
In 1960, the French changed the definition:

The metre is the length equal to 1,650,763.73 wavelengths in vacuum of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the levels 2p10 and 5d5 of the krypton 86 atom.

Now the French define the metre as a fraction of the distance light travels in 1 second, but it is a worthless definition because they define a second as the time it takes light to travel that distance. Stick with Superman.

Greg Perkins
Evidently you use a scale. Most Americans do not have a scale so they use volume measures: cups, tablespoon, teaspoons, and fractions of teaspoons. In baking, volume measures work as well as weight because the product is imprecise anyway. When you dust a surface with flour to knead or roll the dough, how many grams have you added? Does the egg you added today weigh the same as yesterday's egg? Do you always use precisely 280g of water or do you adjust when it is raining?

In truth, all measurement systems are arbitrary. Metric measures made my life easy in physics (MKS and CGS). Metric measures are convenient because they are decimal. And everything relates to everything else. I prefer the metric system for some things: an hour's march at quick time covers 5km; at slow time, 4km.

I have had clothes tailored in Korea and Hong Kong. The tailors used inches.

AFAIK everyone measures horses in hands. American horse racing tracks are measured in furlongs.

Why are English (or Imperial or America-Burma-Liberia) measures so complicated? 'Cause they were never meant to be used as we use them today. Tailors use inches but do not care about feet. They do, however, care about yards. Jewelers care about carats even in metric countries. Even in France. Oddly, aviation fuel is measure in pounds . . . and kilograms. (At least it is in jets.) Thrust is measured in pounds or Newtons and that makes a difference in how you measure the weight of the aircraft.

I yearn for the return of the cubit. MITMOAT.

Posted by: antares | Nov 22, 2021 4:35:49 AM

My baking life is better using grams. 400g flour, 280g water, 80g sourdough starter, 8g salt = delicious bread the next day. So much easier to scale up/down.

In ounces, it would be 14.3 10, 2.9, .3.

Posted by: Greg Perkins | Nov 21, 2021 9:43:58 PM

When someone explains why a “meter”. based on a fraction of the imagined circumference of the earth, makes more sense than a foot or inch or yard, all of which we all carry around with us, maybe I would consider it. Til then, I would lobby for a duodecimal system, for which we already have the words - eleven and twelve

Posted by: Bill Ridge | Nov 21, 2021 7:58:13 PM

By law, the US is a metric country. All contracts with the national gov't must use metric measures. But the law limits its reach. States, private companies, and individuals may use what measurements they choose.

I never understood why we abandoned the cubit. It is the measure used for the longest period in human history.

Posted by: antares | Nov 21, 2021 5:51:07 PM

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