Metric Pioneer

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Month: January, 2014

Subjugation and Freedom

Life relies on competition in its quest to survive and self-replicate. Members of a species compete both against other species and against their own members. Nations employ elaborate survival tactics, yet an objective conceptualization of this process escapes most of us. A genuine self-analysis requires delving deeper than our petty, shallow thoughts.

Some individuals are content living their lives under subjugation; others feel the need to break free from subjugation. The Arab Spring spreads throughout the Middle East resulting in civil war and deadly turmoil. Much of Eastern Europe had broken free from Soviet domination and joined the European Union. People in Ukraina engage in national protest to break chains of Russian subjugation. The United States broke free from Britain in a hard-fought War of Independence, yet Americans naively cling to Imperial measures inherited from their one-time enemy. Most Latin America nations gained independence from their colonial overlords, yet indigenous people still speak the European languages that were imposed upon them and adhere to religious dogma acquired through forced conversion centuries ago.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, consists of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Union Jack was an attempt to incorporate several banners, yet Wales was left out of the Union Jack, which is a composite flag:



Britain had subjugated so much of the Earth that it would boast that the Sun never sets on British soil, but that empire is all but lost now, and to add insult to injury, there is even a referendum scheduled for September 2014 on whether Scotland should become an independent country once again and break its union with Britain. Scotland has been part of the United Kingdom since 1707, but before that, the Kingdom of Scotland had been a sovereign state for over 800 years.

The Union Jack would no longer accurately represent Britain if Scotland were to break away. I think Britain would do well to consider ridding itself of the Union Jack altogether and adopt a much simpler two-colour flag based on a Welsh scheme. Instead of a convoluted, superimposed combination of one saltire over another, harkening back to days of ritual and heraldry, perhaps Britain would do well to consider something similar to the flag of Ukraina or of Cascadia and adopt a simple flag representing Earth and Sky:


Some may argue that Britain has given the world much grief, but Britain has also given us the English language. Owing to the assimilation of words from many other languages throughout history, modern English contains a very large vocabulary. The Oxford English Dictionary lists more than 250,000 distinct words.

Thank la France for giving to the world the SI (the International System of Units) and the most beautiful language on Earth.


As one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, Britain would do well to set a good example for other nations and consider abolishing its monarchy and state-sponsored religion.

Thanks, Britain, for giving us the English language, but please consider relegating your Imperial measures to the dust bin of History because we no longer need them.

Put your predicament into perspective, America. Wake up and realise that naively clinging to outdated Imperial measures only enslaves you to a globally competitive disadvantage. As one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, America should be a proactive example, not a measurement laughing stock. America should have been a measurement leader by persuading other nations to undergo metrication right after passing the Metric Act of 1866 instead of being dead last to slowly come around. Yes, America has the right to continue its struggle with miles and yards and ounces and gallons, but just because you can does not mean you should. Stubbornness for its own sake is not necessarily a good thing. Some people resist change, but sometimes change is a good thing. We add a star every time a state joins our Union:


America should join the world community of nations by completing its metrication efforts. Begin with yourself right now. Visit and begin to measure wisely and teach others to measure wisely.

Long Scale and Short Scale: How much is a billion? It depends where you live.

No person is a foreigner when you consider Earth your home. One might hope that all people on Earth probably have a lot in common with each other. We have divided ourselves up into two hundred or so nations, but we find ways to resolve our differences through our United Nations organization. We speak hundreds of different languages, but people rely on widely used languages such as English, French, Arabic, Spanish et cetera as common languages for international dialogue. Mathematics is clearly important to all people, so one might think that mathematics is surely universal common ground for all humanity, and for the most part it is, but when someone in Denmark for example uses the word billion, it means something very different in Hong Kong for example, because people around the world either use the Long Scale or the Short Scale or some other scale that is different from these two scales.

Seventy-four English-speaking nations and twenty-five Arabic-speaking nations are Short Scale users while twenty-seven other nations use a modified version of the Short Scale. Greece is in a category all its own.

Twenty Spanish-speaking nations and twenty-one French-speaking nations and eight Portuguese-speaking nations and five Dutch-speaking nations and twenty-eight other nations are Long Scale users.

If this is not confusing enough, Canada, Mauritius, Seychelles, Vanuatu, Namibia, South Africa and Puerto Rico use both scales. Eighteen countries have their own numbering systems and use neither short nor long scales.

How much is a billion? A billion could be one followed by nine zeros or it could be one followed by twelve zeros; it depends where you live.

How much is a trillion? A trillion could be one followed by twelve zeros or it could be one followed by eighteen zeros; it depends where you live.

How much is a quadrillion? A quadrillion could be one followed by fifteen zeros or it could be one followed by twenty-four zeros; it depends where you live.

Surely there must be a way of measuring that avoids the use of the words billion, trillion, quadrillion, quintillion, sextillion, septillion, octillion, nonillion, decillion, undecillion, duodecillion, tredecillion et cetera all the way up to centillion because we invite the potential for misunderstanding when we use these words that have different meanings in different places on Earth.

A mile is the longest imperial unit and an inch is the shortest imperial unit, so a billion miles or a billionth of an inch is clearly a problematic way to measure anything in an international context. I think it is a mistake to limit our usage of SI units to this tiny range. That is, I think it is a mistake for people to refuse to take advantage of SI units larger than a kilometer and smaller than a centimeter; clearly, those people have enslaved themselves into thinking in scientifically outdated imperial units.

The beauty of the International System of units or SI after its French initials is that one has the option to dispense with ever having to use any word for any number higher than thousand on the scale, which thankfully has only one definition everywhere on Earth.

Using the SI, one can measure everything from the width of a tiny neutrino at 1 ym (one yoctometer) to the diameter of the observable universe at 880 Ym (eight hundred eighty yottameters) without ever using words for numbers that have different values in different places on Earth.

Here are some other examples: Our galaxy is about one zettameter in diameter. The Rosetta Nebula is about 1.2 Em (one point two exameters) in diameter or 1 200 Pm (one thousand two hundred petameters). The average orbital distance of Saturn is about 1.4 Tm (one point four terameters). The average orbital distance of Earth is about 150 Gm (one hundred fifty gigameters). Earth circumference is about 40 Mm (forty megameters). The author of this blog is 181 cm tall (one hundred eighty-one centimeters).

Measuring is the path to knowledge and understanding, so pick the appropriate unit for what you measure. Let us blow the dust off those rarely used SI units and measure wisely so that any Earthling can understand us no matter where we live.

Do you really want to get involved? You can register as a member at to interact with others who are enthusiastic about American metrication.

You can also take the Terran System Exam at

Complete the Language of Mathematics – American Competency Survey:

Finally, you can challenge yourself with this Math Test: