Metrology humour


A History Lesson

IN THE BEGINNING was created the Imperial Ton
= 2240 pounds (lbs.)
= 20 Hundredweight (cwt)    i.e. 1 cwt = 112 lbs.
AND YEA, when the Pilgrim Fathers landed on Plymouth Rock, they said
VERILY: One Hundredweight should be one hundred pounds and one Ton should be 2000 lbs.
BUT SORELY DISPLEASED were the merchants and traders when they became aware that the colonials were making 10% on the side.
THUS IT CAME TO PASS that the British traders did declare that their galleons would, in future, also use measures of 2000 lbs, and declared that this measure should be named the Short Ton.
MANY MOONS PASSED, and the tribes of Europe did send their high priests to council one with the other, whereupon they begat the EEC (EU).
THE TRIBES OF THE CONTINENT did pour scorn upon the Ton and the Short Ton, and being more in number than the Britons did ordain that all nations should obey The New Commandment: Thou shalt worship the Tonne which equates to 1000 kilograms (kg).
THIS DID SORELY DISPLEASE THE BRITONS, since this new measure did contain 2205 lbs., but it came to pass that more tribes came to join the EEC and the Britons were obliged to pay homage to the Tonne.
THE EEC DID COMMAND that tablets of stone be carved, on which was writ:
1 IMPERIAL TON = 2240 lbs.
1 SHORT TON=1 US TON = 2000 lbs.
1 TONNE = 1000 kg = 2205 lbs.




Honesty is the Best Policy during Audit

The commercial importance of complying with "standards" has, over the past thirty years, led to a common experience shared by many.... being subject to a quality assurance or technical competency audit.

And you know the two lies most often told during audits, don't you?

The auditor says "I'm here to help you."   To which the auditee replies "We're glad you came."




Understanding the Metric System

1 million microphones = 1 megaphone
1 million bicycles = 2 megacycles
52 cards = 1 decacards
1/2 lavatory = 1 demijohn
2000 mockingbirds = 2 kilomockingbirds
3-1/3 tridents = 1 decadent
10 monologs = 5 dialogues
2 monograms = 1 diagram
1 millionth of a fish = 1 microfiche
10 rations = 1 decoration
10 millipedes = 1 centipede


Are You a Manager, or an Engineer ?

A man is flying in a hot air balloon and realizes he is lost. He reduces height and spots a man down below. He lowers the balloon further and shouts: "Excuse me, can you tell me where I am ?"
The man below says: "Yes you're in a hot air balloon, hovering 30 feet above this field."
"You must work in Customer Support", says the balloonist.
"I do", replies the man, "how did you know ?"
"Well", says the balloonist, "everything you have told me is technically correct, but it's of no use to anyone."
The man below says "You must work in management."
"I do", replies the balloonist, "but how did you know ?"
"Well", says the man, "you don't know where you are, or where you're going, but you expect me to be able to help. And you're in the same position as you were before we met, but now it's my fault."


Managers versus Metrologists

A group of managers were asked to measure the height of a flagpole. They fetched a ladder and tape measure and headed to the flagpole to perform their task. They weren't having much luck because they kept dropping the tape measure and falling off the ladder.

Observing what they were attempting to do, a metrologist approached them and offered to help. He pulled the flagpole out of the ground, laid it down flat, measured it from one end to the other, gave the measurements to one of the managers and walked away.

After the metrologist had gone, one of the managers turned to the others and said, "Well, isn't that just like a metrologist? We're looking for the height of the flagpole and he tells us the length."


Military Standards Live Forever

The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 ft, 8 1/2 in. (1.44 m).
That's an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used?
Because that's the way they built them in England, and the US railroads were built by English expatriates.
Why did the English build them like that?
Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used.
Why did "they" use that gauge then?
Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools as "they" used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.
Okay! Why did the wagons use that wheel spacing?
Well, if they tried to use any other spacing the wagons would break on some of the old, long distance roads, because that's the spacing of the ruts.
So, who built these old rutted roads?
The first long distance roads in Europe were built by Imperial Rome for the benefit of their legions. The roads have been used ever since.
And the ruts?
The initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of breaking their wagons, were first made by Roman war chariots. Since the chariots were made by or for Imperial Rome they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing (ruts again). Thus, we have the answer to the original question. The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 ft, 8 1/2 in. derives from the original military specification for an Imperial Roman army war chariot.

Supplemental Note: The British trade paper Electronics Times published this same story but with an additional ending which answered the question of why the Roman chariots had the wheel spacing they did. It seems that this is traceable to the width of the back-ends of a pair of horses. So, the next time someone expects you to meet an "impossible" specification, you can rightly question from which horse's #@*# it originated !


It's Simple Mathematics....

Prove the proposition: $marketing>>$metrology
...or Why Marketing is Much Better Paid than Metrology

We've all heard the expressions knowledge is power and time is money. Given the basic definition:-

Power = Work / Time

and substituting the aforementioned equivalencies, we get:-

Knowledge = Work / Money

Of course, in the proposition we're trying to find Money so, by simple transformation:-

Money = Work / Knowledge

Therefore, as Knowledge tends to zero, Money increases. With no Knowledge, it doesn't matter how much Work is done for infinite Money!!! But actually, I'm not really having a go at Marketing.... they're pretty smart cookies, which we can prove using a hybrid of the first equations:-

Knowledge = Work / Time

An elegant math demonstration of the fact that the less time they spend working, the more clever they are!

QED [Latin -- quod erat demonstrandum meaning "which was to be demonstrated"]


The First Thing we should do is to Standardize the Language

The intent of international "standards" is to facilitate consistency and common interpretation, so it's amusing that documents written using British English have to be "translated" into American English when they're adopted over there. We need a standard language. Mark Twain believed many problems would be overcome by eliminating the redundancy in the construction of the English language. After all, do we really need 26 letters in the alphabet? In doing so, his resultant language sadly typifies the way many people view and understand "standards" today!

Caution: If any variety of English is not your native tongue, you may find this difficult to follow. Even native Brits find it difficult.....

A Plan for the Improvement of English Spelling
by Mark Twain
  • In Year 1, that useless letter c would be dropped to be replaced either by k or s, and likewise x would no longer be part of the alphabet. The only kase in which c would be retained would be the ch formation, which will be dealt with later.

  • Year 2 might reform w spelling, so that which and one would take the same konsonant, while Year 3 might abolish y replasing it with i and Iear 4 might fiks the g / j anomali wonse and for all. Jenerally then, the improvement would kontinue iear bai iear with Iear 5 doing awai with the useless double konsonants and Iear 6-12 or so modifaiing vowlz and the rimeining voist and unvoist konsonants.

  • Bai Iear 15 or sou, it wud fainali bi posibl tu meik ius ov thi ridandant letez c, y and x -- bai now jast a memori in the maindz ov ould doderez -- tu riplais ch, sh and th rispektivli.

  • Fainali, xen aafte sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi wud hev a lojikl, kohimt speling in ius xrewawt xe Ingli-spiking werld.



The Importance of Understanding the Test Procedure

In a recent issue of Meat & Poultry magazine, editors quoted from Feathers, the publication of the California Poultry Industry Federation, telling the following story....

The US Federal Aviation Administration has a unique device for testing the strength of airplane cockpit windscreens. The device is a gun that launches a dead chicken at the windscreen at approximately the speed the aircraft flies. The theory is that if the windshield doesn't crack from the carcass impact, it will survive a real collision with a bird during flight.

It seems a British company were very interested in this and wanted to test the windscreen on a brand new, high speed train they were developing. They borrowed the FAA's chicken launcher, loaded the chicken and fired. The ballistic chicken shattered the windscreen, broke the driver's chair and embedded itself in the back wall of the cab. The British were stunned and asked the FAA to recheck the test to see if everything was done correctly.

The FAA reviewed the test thoroughly and had one recommendation:
First, thaw the chicken....




World Standards Day

From the pages of Open Systems Today - October 13, 1994:

"The International Standards Organization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) designated October 14 as World Standards Day to recognize those volunteers who have worked hard to define international standards.... The United States celebrated World Standards Day on October 11; Finland celebrated on October 13; and Italy celebrated on October 18."

No further comment about the global state of "standardization" is necessary !


Stranger than Fiction

Sometimes the truth is less believable than lies. Here's one of those examples that proves the point…. Based on the, then pending, EC legislation concerning the use of metric-only measures in trade, our office jape for April Fool's Day 1999 centered on the (mythical) outlawing of any item capable of being used to measure in Imperial (English) units. Folk were encouraged to deposit six and twelve inch rulers in a special recycling bin after being warned that the company feared punitive fines for even possessing them !

Implementation of the law on January 1st, 2000 has produced a number of outraged articles in the British press as so-called metric martyrs vow to defy "Europe's attack on our cultural heritage", as the British Weights & Measures Association have asserted. The following appeared in The Mirror newspaper on 24th March 2000....

Scales of Injustice

Butcher Keane Fletcher could be prosecuted for displaying his grandfather's old weighing scales. Under EU law Keane is banned from having the imperial measure scales on show, even though he uses metric. But after customers voted in favor, he has decided to defy the law.
Keane, 36, of Rotherham, South Yorks, said: "The scales are part of the shop and were handed down to me."
Trading Standards Officer David Palmer said: "It is an offense for a shopkeeper to have them in his possession."

So, be warned if you've still got one of those rulers in your drawer!


Measuring Language

Metrologists spend so much time numerically quantifying physical phenomena, that the opportunity to consider the language used to actually quantify may be a welcome diversion. We start by assigning values to some comparative terms.

But how many is some ? Perhaps six or seven ? Well, it's probably more than several, so let us assume that several is four or five. And how many is a few ? Most consider it to be less than several and therefore certainly less than some. But it's more than two, since two is definitely a couple. By these terms a few must be three or four.


Reference to a handy Oxford English Dictionary reveals that some is "an appreciable or considerable number". Surprising since, conversely, sometimes isn't generally felt to be very often. Indeed, the OED defines the frequency of sometimes as "at one time or other". Seemingly, some has a serious lack of stability, having the duality of being both a large and small quantity at once. Given this, you'd need to be quite an optimist to ask for some apple pie.

Which leads us to wonder about that quite qualifier. Quite, when relating to a lot (many) diminishes the lot; quite a lot clearly being less than a lot. Similarly, quite big is smaller than simply big and also, quite good being rather poorer than good.

However, quite when used to qualify virtue, increases the degree of trueness; quite correct being more right than just correct. Likewise, probably is more probable when it is quite probably. And on the subject of confidence, just right attributes a higher degree of perfection than something that is only right. By reversing the phrase and with only an additional pause, as in "right... just", it's possible to convey a sense of barely satisfying the requirement.

A more interesting observation concerns opposites which we came upon quite by chance and which is, evidently, more extraordinary than doing so by chance. Consider valid. Quite valid is marginally less valid than valid but quite invalid is far more invalid than invalid. At the same time, quite true is truer than true; quite untrue more untrue than untrue.

By combining the foregoing propositions we can address the question of how many is quite a few? It seems to be more than a few and, alarmingly, this may then encroach on the ground occupied by several. Since quite several is nonsensical whereas quite some is more than some (albeit colloquially for emphasis, as in "That is quite some building"), it stands to reason that several misses out a bit (a bit being less than quite a lot but more than nothing).

The entire discussion serves to illustrate the imprecision of language; it has uncertainty. But to what degree? Well, certain suggests definite (=100%) but uncertain doesn't mean impossible (>0%), so maybe tends towards 50%. If certain equates to 100% and uncertain lies in the range 30-70%, might risky reflect 5-30%? But what is something having higher confidence than uncertain but not the absolute assurance of certain? Hmmm... language guardbands are required. Some metrologists are quite certain of that, surely?

And you thought the language of measurement was difficult !


Unconfirmed Minutes of a Meeting of the International Organization for Standardization, Held on the First of April 1994


"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God." And the German delegation lodged an official objection, claiming that this was a circular definition and was too verbose. The German head of delegation cited a previous agreement giving the Editing Committee responsibility for grammatical problems, and therefore asked for the text to be deleted and replaced by: "Section 1, Clause 1.1, Sub-clause 1.1.1: God".

And Norway voted "No". They felt that the scope of the Universe was too broad, and asked for clarification before they could vote "Yes". On the contrary, the Swedes wanted the scope to be broadened to include the words "and similar premises". The Danish delegation firstly disapproved, but then approved on condition that "national regulations applied" and that no federalism was involved. The USA announced that they doubted the technical feasibility of Darkness, which led the discussion into complete confusion.
Then a dinner took place and it was the end of the first day, except for the lobbying in the bar afterwards.

On the second day, the Japanese tabled a new contribution entitled "Let there be right." Except for the Russian delegation, who saw this as contrary to democratic socialism, there was no objection (as the document was in Japanese), but later, someone realized that in fact, owing to a typographical mistake, its title was "Let there be Light". And so Light became a technical requirement.
Then a cocktail party took place and it was the end of the second