Sunday, 19 October 2008

Elephants and A Boeing 747

In a recent pub quiz (in which I had the dubious role of being question master) one of the trivia type questions was this –

A Boeing 747 weighs approximately the same as how many African
elephants ?
25, 55, 125, or 225 ?

Yes, I know – a rather silly question that not many people need to know the answer to, except perhaps someone who has the task of transporting a couple of African Elephants on a Boeing 747 – but this was a pub quiz remember.
Anyway, great consternation went around the room together with a discussion on what one elephant might possibly weigh (Ok, there was also discussion on whether the question master had gone totally doollally, but that’s a different blog topic)

Some people said they had no idea and couldn’t even give a wild guess. Others started talking about what could they relate the weight to - how many “average” men/women would be the same weight as one average elephant? Could we translate this into how many people would be the same weight as a plane and work it out that way? There was much debate (not to mention a little light hearted abuse aimed at the questioner)

It was easy for me – I had the answer in front of me, but what interested me was the fact that the majority of people were discussing weight in ounces, pounds and stones and that not every one was over the age of comprehension of the metric system. Even my own children who were taught metric maths at school, were attempting to remember the tables of 16 ounces = 1 pound, 14 pounds = 1 stone etc. My helpful input, for what it was worth, was that coal used to be delivered in hundred weight (cwt) sacks (112 pounds) and that there are 20 cwt in one ton – which used to be a “load”. This was actually useful as it turned out.

So, what’s my point here, apart from that I can remember some of my “tables”?

Well, at last the government is going to act to end the prosecution of traders who continue to sell goods using only imperial measures – traders who were labelled as “metric martyrs” (they say this, anyway) New guidelines are going to be issued to local authorities to encourage "proportionate" action. This means that the councils who are continuing to take action against people using imperial measures – as ruled legal by the EU last September – will need to use some common sense for once in their dealings in this matter. Even after this ruling from the EU some councils continued to prosecute traders who used only imperial measures and did not display the equivalent in metric.
Whilst most of us know that the words “council, local authorities and common sense” do not often bear well within the same sentence, at least this seems as though we are stepping in the right direction , that is, BACK to what we knew was common sense in the first place. If we want to talk in kgs, metres and litres, why not wait till we visit countries that have always done so ?

So now I am off to the shop, about 2 miles away to buy a pint of milk, 5 lbs of potatoes and a quarter of chopped pork. On the way back I may get a few gallons of petrol and when I return home I may paint the living room which measures 5 yards x 4 yards. I might even have to ask my son to clear some rubbish into the bin for me, which is “a ton weight” - though whether it weighs 20cwt or 1016.05 kgs, I do not really care.

(for anyone really interested – the answer to the elephant question is 55, and I am sure if you Google “weight of a Boeing 747, you will be able to check if this is correct. I reserve the right to be incorrect on this answer as I got the question for the quiz off the internet !)




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