# Meters, Yard, Same Thing . . .

• AP report published on my local news station's Web site about the explosion in Oslo:  http://www.katu.com/news/national/126012068.html

"Witness Ole Tommy Pedersen was standing at a bus stop about 100 meters
(yards)
from the high-rise at around 3:30 p.m. (1330 GMT) when the
explosion occurred."

I dunno, somehow I expect more from AP.  That's probably the real WTF.

• 100 meters has 1 significant digit. When converting, what is the point of saying 109.36 yards, when the distance is clearly a rough estimate anyway? I would say that using an inappropriate conversion is worse.

•  The parenthetical note makes it sound like the author didn't even try to do the conversion or know any difference between the units.  "100 meters (about 110 yards)" would've done fine.  Or even saying "100 meters (110 yards)" would have been close enough.  But the way it's written makes it sound like the two units are synonymous.

•  A yard is a meter, to about plus or minus ten percent. A very useful conversion. Also a liter is a quart.

Here's one for you: Which is heavier? A ton of steel in Boston, or a ton of steel in Bangkok?

The ton of steel in Bangkok is heavier, because it's a metric ton, 1000 kilograms, 2200 pounds. A ton of steel in Boston is only an archaic ton, 2000 pounds.

• @AndyCanfield said:

A yard is a meter, to about plus or minus ten percent. A very useful conversion. Also a liter is a quart.

Here's one for you: Which is heavier? A ton of steel in Boston, or a ton of steel in Bangkok?

The ton of steel in Bangkok is heavier, because it's a metric ton, 1000 kilograms, 2200 pounds. A ton of steel in Boston is only an archaic ton, 2000 pounds.

So once again, about ten percent.  As a resident of the last great bastion of real-world weights and measures, I'm comfortable with thinking of a meter as "a funny kind of yard", a liter as "the name foreigners use for a quart", and a tonne as "a ton measured on a sloppy scale".

• There's only 1 significant digit (well, that we can be sure of.) It so happens, while it looks wrong, it's actually correct in this case.

• @gramie said:

100 meters has 1 significant digit. When converting, what is the point of saying 109.36 yards, when the distance is clearly a rough estimate anyway? I would say that using an inappropriate conversion is worse.

@AndyCanfield said:

A yard is a meter, to about plus or minus ten percent. A very useful conversion. Also a liter is a quart.

Here's one for you: Which is heavier? A ton of steel in Boston, or a ton of steel in Bangkok?

The
ton of steel in Bangkok is heavier, because it's a metric ton, 1000
kilograms, 2200 pounds. A ton of steel in Boston is only an archaic ton,
2000 pounds

@blakeyrat said:

There's only 1 significant digit (well, that we can be sure of.) It so
happens, while it looks wrong, it's actually correct in this case.

Okay, I can see all your points and I understand that I'm the one that misinterpreted the way it was written. But is there some other way this could have been written so that it didn't prompt the same knee-jerk-y type reaction that I had?  Suggestions?  I still like the idea of "100 meters (about 100 yards)" because at least that looks like a little thought was put into it.

• @nonpartisan said:

@blakeyrat said:
There's only 1 significant digit (well, that we can be sure of.) It so
happens, while it looks wrong, it's actually correct in this case.
Okay, I can see all your points and I understand that I'm the one that misinterpreted the way it was written. But is there some other way this could have been written so that it didn't prompt the same knee-jerk-y type reaction that I had? Suggestions? I still like the idea of "100 meters (about 100 yards)" because at least that looks like a little thought was put into it.

Maybe the problem's on your end, not theirs.

Here's a suggestion: "100 meters (a football field)". HUH? HOW DO YOU LIKE THAT ONE, HUH? SMARTY-PANTS! STICK THAT IN YOUR MAW AND CHEW IT!

Or... something.

Edit: the real problem is that there's no way to tell the different between 100 (1 significant digit) and 100 (3 significant digits) in our writing system. You just have to kind of eyeball it and think to yourself, "eh, I guess he probably wasn't getting out a tape measure while bombs were going off..."

• @blakeyrat said:

Edit: the real problem is that there's no way to tell the different between 100 (1 significant digit) and 100 (3 significant digits) in our writing system. You just have to kind of eyeball it and think to yourself, "eh, I guess he probably wasn't getting out a tape measure while bombs were going off..."

1.00x102

• I agree that the actual amounts are close enough not to matter, but it is a silly way of putting it. I'd suspect that there was some local (metric using) person who first recorded the information, and the addition of yards was some editorial markup done at the last minute, either adding it or removing verbiage saying (about 100 yards).

TRWTF is that the AP didn't stick to its style book.

• @gramie said:

100 meters has 1 significant digit. When converting, what is the point of saying 109.36 yards, when the distance is clearly a rough estimate anyway? I would say that using an inappropriate conversion is worse.
+1 for your big sexy brain

• @Lord abletran said:

@blakeyrat said:

Edit: the real problem is that there's no way to tell the different between 100 (1 significant digit) and 100 (3 significant digits) in our writing system. You just have to kind of eyeball it and think to yourself, "eh, I guess he probably wasn't getting out a tape measure while bombs were going off..."

1.00x102

Which would get cut-and-pasted into the final article as "1.00x102".

• @da Doctah said:

@Lord abletran said:

@blakeyrat said:

Edit: the real problem is that there's no way to tell the different between 100 (1 significant digit) and 100 (3 significant digits) in our writing system. You just have to kind of eyeball it and think to yourself, "eh, I guess he probably wasn't getting out a tape measure while bombs were going off..."

1.00x102

Which would get cut-and-pasted into the final article as "1.00x102".

Which would then be converted to 111.548556 yards

• @da Doctah said:

@Lord abletran said:
1.00x102

Which would get cut-and-pasted into the final article as "1.00x102".

Duh. That's why you write it 1E2. And then people wonder why the pedantic dickweeds at the AP can't use numbers like normal people?

• The difference between yards and metres in this case is probably also much less than the difference in ways you could measure the distance between an explosion and a bus stop (which may consist entirely of a shelter with no fixed post to measure from).

• @gramie said:

100 meters has 1 significant digit. When converting, what is the point of saying 109.36 yards, when the distance is clearly a rough estimate anyway? I would say that using an inappropriate conversion is worse.

It was actually 9.36 yards from the near edge of the explosion to the far edge.

• Common or not, 100. is the the correct way to write one hundred with three significant figures. But I reckon the only people who would know and care would rather see it in scientific notation anyway.

• Making a point of getting the difference right between 100 regular meters and 109.36 imperial meters is just another way for us to be pedantic.

• I figured whomever wrote this meant to write "100 meters ([put conversion here] yards)", but got distracted and forgot to go back and put the conversion in.

• @lolwtf said:

I figured whoever wrote this meant to write "100 meters ([put conversion here] yards)", but got distracted and forgot to go back and put the conversion in.
FTFY

• @da Doctah said:

So once again, about ten percent.  As a resident of the last great bastion of real-world weights and measures, I'm comfortable with thinking of a meter as "a funny kind of yard", a liter as "the name foreigners use for a quart", and a tonne as "a ton measured on a sloppy scale".

Whoa, a meter can't be measured in the real world? That's new to me!

• @dtech said:

a meter can't be measured in the real world? That's new to me!

Indeed: it's easy to measure a metre (as it's correctly spelt). All you need to do is visit the BIPM in Sèvres, France.

• @dtech said:

@da Doctah said:

So once again, about ten percent.  As a resident of the last great bastion of real-world weights and measures, I'm comfortable with thinking of a meter as "a funny kind of yard", a liter as "the name foreigners use for a quart", and a tonne as "a ton measured on a sloppy scale".

Whoa, a meter can't be measured in the real world? That's new to me!

Meters have historically been defined in terms of things like the wavelength of an atom of some rare element pulsating between a particular pair of subatomic energy states.

Yards, on the other hand, were historically defined in terms of the distance between somebody's nose and the end of his outstretched thumb.  Feet were defined in terms of (duh!) the length of somebody's foot.  Inches were defined based on the length of three barleycorns laid end to end.  Real-world stuff, not theoretical extrapolations from airy-fairy experiments in some underground lab behind six thicknesses of lead shielding.

• @da Doctah said:

Meters have historically been defined in terms of things like the wavelength of an atom of some rare element pulsating between a particular pair of subatomic energy states.

A meter was originally defined as one-tenthousandth of the distance from the equator to the north pole through Paris. Given that the Earth is approximately round, that means that the circumference of the Earth is approximately 40,000 meters. Because the circumference is 360 degrees, one degree of latitude is about 111 kilometers.One degree of longitude is also 111 kilometers, but only at the equator; it gets shorter as you go towards either pole.

Both yards and meters are currently defined precisely by physical constants such as the wavelength of cesium light.

• @AndyCanfield said:

@da Doctah said:
Meters have historically been defined in terms of things like the wavelength of an atom of some rare element pulsating between a particular pair of subatomic energy states.
A meter was originally defined as one-tenthousandth of the distance from the equator to the north pole through Paris. Given that the Earth is approximately round, that means that the circumference of the Earth is approximately 40,000 meters. Because the circumference is 360 degrees, one degree of latitude is about 111 kilometers.One degree of longitude is also 111 kilometers, but only at the equator; it gets shorter as you go towards either pole.

Both yards and meters are currently defined precisely by physical constants such as the wavelength of cesium light.

Boredom, on the other hand, is defined by your explanation of meters.

• Worse than boring, my post was inaccurate. A meter was defined as one ten-millionth, not one ten-thousanth, of the distance from the equator to the north pole through the Paris longitude. Only off by three orders of magnitude.

Lucy: The world is getting smaller!

Linus: Yes, the telephone and jet airplane have made the world much smaller.

Lucy: That's not it! It's people! They're walking all over it and wearing it down!

• @AndyCanfield said:

Here's one for you: Which is heavier? A ton of steel in Boston, or a ton of steel in Bangkok?

The ton of steel in Bangkok is heavier, because it's a metric ton, 1000 kilograms, 2200 pounds. A ton of steel in Boston is only an archaic ton, 2000 pounds.

... but what about the local variations in the earth's gravity field?!

• Local variations in the Earth's gravity field are far outweighed by Bangkok being closer to the equator than Boston, and thus spinning at hundreds of miles per hour faster than Boston. A metric ton of steel in Bangkok would weight slightly less than a metric ton of steel in Boston due to the Earth's "centrifugal force". How slightly? I don't know.

• @Anonymouse said:

@AndyCanfield said:

Here's one for you: Which is heavier? A ton of steel in Boston, or a ton of steel in Bangkok?

The ton of steel in Bangkok is heavier, because it's a metric ton, 1000 kilograms, 2200 pounds. A ton of steel in Boston is only an archaic ton, 2000 pounds.

This is of course nonsense.  A ton in Bangkok weighs exactly the same as a ton in Boston.  A tonne in Boston weighs exactly the same as a tonne in Bangkok.  Of course, a tonne in any location does not weigh the same as a ton in any location, but that is not what you asked us!

@Anonymouse said:

... but what about the local variations in the earth's gravity field?!
Irrelevant.  He asked about weight, which is a measurement of the force of Earth's gravity on a given mass.  A ton weighs the same in any gravitational field, but in Boston (elevation 43m) you will need slightly more mass of steel to weigh a ton (or a tonne) than in Bangkok (elevation 2m).

• @AndyCanfield said:

Local variations in the Earth's gravity field are far outweighed by Bangkok being closer to the equator than Boston, and thus spinning at hundreds of miles per hour faster than Boston. A metric ton of steel in Bangkok would weight slightly less than a metric ton of steel in Boston due to the Earth's "centrifugal force". How slightly? I don't know.

I do.  Precisely zero.  Unless you live in a universe where a force that is perpendicular to the local gravitational field can somehow produce an impulse at an angle of 90 degrees to the direction in which it is acting in order influence the measured weight of an object.

• @da Doctah said:

Real-world stuff, not theoretical extrapolations from airy-fairy experiments in some underground lab behind six thicknesses of lead shielding.

You forgot to point out which of the two you think is better:

- The inaccurate real-world intuitive one.
- The accurate nonintuitive one.

• @DaveK said:

This is of course nonsense. A ton in Bangkok weighs exactly the same as a ton in Boston.  A tonne in Boston weighs exactly the same as a tonne in Bangkok.  Of course, a tonne in any location does not weigh the same as a ton in any location, but that is not what you asked us!

Actually, what he said makes sense to me. In the US, tonne is a foreign word:

@NIST said:

With regard to the
metric ton, this is the name to be used
in the United States for the unit with
symbol t and defined according to 1 t =
103
kg. (The name ‘‘metric ton’’ is also
used in some other English speaking
countries, but the name ‘‘tonne’’ is used
in many countries.)

Or are you foreigners just biased against word play riddles like that? It's like asking which weighs more: an ounce of gold or an ounce of feathers?

• @DaveK said:

@AndyCanfield said:
Local variations in the Earth's gravity field are far outweighed by Bangkok being closer to the equator than Boston, and thus spinning at hundreds of miles per hour faster than Boston. A metric ton of steel in Bangkok would weight slightly less than a metric ton of steel in Boston due to the Earth's "centrifugal force". How slightly? I don't know.

I do.  Precisely zero.  Unless you live in a universe where a force that is perpendicular to the local gravitational field can somehow produce an impulse at an angle of 90 degrees to the direction in which it is acting in order influence the measured weight of an object.

Centrifugal force is an effect of anything that is rotating; it tends to throw you away from the axis of rotation. For both Bangkok and Boston the rotation period is 24 hours. In both cases the centrifugal force is perpendicular to the axis of the earth, which means that the angle between the centrifugal force and the horizontal is equal to the latitude of the location.

For Bangkok, which is near the equator, the centrifugal force is nearly vertical, and the radius of rotation is almost the radius of the Earth. So Bangkok is moving around the circumference of a circle of nearly 40,000 kilometers in 24 hours which is about 1600 kilometers per hour.

For Boston, which is halfway to the pole, the centrifugal force is perhaps 45 degrees from verticle, and the radius of rotation is noticably less than the radius of the Earth. So Boston is moving aroud the circumference of a circle of considerably less than 40,000 kilometers, but again in 24 hours, which makes it's speed less; perhaps 1300 kilometers per hour.

At the north pole, the centrifugal force is 90 degrees from verticle, but the radius of rotation is down to zero. So the north pole is moving around the circumference of a circle of zero meters each 24 hours, which makes it's speed zero.

This is why they locate satellite launch pads as close to the equator as they can; because launch pads near the equator are moving faster than they are further north or south. That's why the space shuttle was launched from Florida, not Maine. It's also why it takes more power to put a satellite into a polar orbit; because the launch pad is not moving at all in the direction of the orbit.

I'm from America; we spell ton TEE-OH-EN. I just took a vote; searching Google for "ton" gives "About 727,000,000 results"; searching for "tonne" gives "About 32,000,000 results". So the vast majority of computers spell it T-O-N.

• @AndyCanfield said:

I just took a vote; searching Google for "ton" gives "About 727,000,000 results"; searching for "tonne" gives "About 32,000,000 results". So the vast majority of computers spell it T-O-N.

Bearing in mind that you have to subtract the ones where "ton" has some other meaning.  The estimated count has gone to "About 761,000,000 results", but on the first page I see:

• "IEEE/ACM Transactions on Networking" (any guesses what acronym appears in that page?
• two Dutch guys with the first name "Ton"
• a guy from India with the last name "Ton"
and if I dug a little deeper, I'm sure I'd find a few Japanese menus offering "ton katsu" in serving sizes much smaller than two thousand pounds.

• @da Doctah said:

@AndyCanfield said:
I just took a vote; searching Google for "ton" gives "About 727,000,000 results"; searching for "tonne" gives "About 32,000,000 results". So the vast majority of computers spell it T-O-N.
Bearing in mind that you have to subtract the ones where "ton" has some other meaning

Valid point. Also I did not allow for web pages not in English; perhaps "ton" is a valid French word.

• @da Doctah said:

@AndyCanfield said:
I just took a vote; searching Google for "ton" gives "About 727,000,000 results"; searching for "tonne" gives "About 32,000,000 results". So the vast majority of computers spell it T-O-N.
Bearing in mind that you have to subtract the ones where "ton" has some other meaning.

No. Google Fight results are always beyond doubt. Do not try to cloud our minds with your sorcerer's tricks!

• @AndyCanfield said:

Also I did not allow for web pages not in English; perhaps "ton" is a valid French word.

Perhaps?!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_ton_beau_de_marot

I could understand if it were some obscure piece of literary fluff, but this is Doug Hofstadter!

• @AndyCanfield said:

A yard is a meter, to about plus or minus ten percent. A very useful conversion. Also a liter is a quart.

Here's one for you: Which is heavier? A ton of steel in Boston, or a ton of steel in Bangkok?

The ton of steel in Bangkok is heavier, because it's a metric ton, 1000 kilograms, 2200 2204.6 pounds. A ton of steel in Boston is only an archaic ton, 2000 pounds.

FTFY.

I'd rather figure out which is heavier based on local gravitation.... Besides, if referring to the volume unit "displacement ton", both would weigh 2239.6 pounds (1015.9 kg) (1.0159 metric tonnes) (1.12 short tons) (0.9998 long tons). That's a ton of tons.

• @da Doctah said:

So once again, about ten percent.  As a resident of the last great bastion of real-world weights and measures, I'm comfortable with thinking of a meter as "a funny kind of yard", a liter as "the name foreigners use for a quart", and a tonne as "a ton measured on a sloppy scale".

Who are you calling sloppy?

Andy's nearly got it right but the flattening of the poles is stronger than the centrifugal effect. The poles are closer to the centre of the Earth than than sea level at the equator. One revolution per day doesn't give much centrifugal force.

Do we have an answer on the ounce of gold/feathers question? I suspect it's another case of different units - Troy ounce and Sterling ounce or somesuch.

• @Qwerty said:

I suspect it's another case of different units - Troy ounce and avoirdupois ounce or somesuch.

There you go.

•  My toddler was given a Mickey Mouse plastic ride-on car for his first birthday. It says on it "max weight 25kg" - he is now 18 months old and 13kg and almost crushing it. I'm thinking it was originally "max weight 25lb" but Walt forgot to actually convert the units when changing the symbol. I'm thinking this even more because I just got him a more sturdy car and it reckons it can only take 20kg. I'll need to take some photos to show you guys, I can't find anything similar on Google Image Search.

• @boomzilla said:

It's like asking which weighs more: an ounce of gold or an ounce of feathers?
That was always my favorite one in school.  An ounce of gold weights slightly more than an ounce of feathers . . . 1 troy ounce = 1.097 "regular" ounces . . .  but a pound of gold weighs less than a pound of feathers because 1 troy pound = 12 troy ounces = 13.16 "regular" ounces.

• @nonpartisan said:

AP report published on my local news station's Web site about the explosion in Oslo:  http://www.katu.com/news/national/126012068.html

"Witness Ole Tommy Pedersen was standing at a bus stop about 100 meters
(yards)
from the high-rise at around 3:30 p.m. (1330 GMT) when the
explosion occurred."

I dunno, somehow I expect more from AP.  That's probably the real WTF.

I do know. Guess what, they wrote the only correct and reasonable thing they could. "about 100 meters" is "about 100 yards". It is definitely not about 109 yards nor 110 yards nor anything similar. Because "about 100 meters" means "well, more than 30 and not like 300". That's not what you want to call "about 110 yards".

• @DaveK said:

A ton weighs the same in any gravitational field, but in Boston (elevation 43m) you will need slightly more mass of steel to weigh a ton (or a tonne) than in Bangkok (elevation 2m).
Did you notice that whooshing sound just slightly above your head? Oh well, never mind. Still, if you have to be picking nits, you could at least try to get it right. Even if the popular usage keeps conflating "weight" and "mass", you seem to be aware of the distinction - except you got it right only halfway. A "ton" is not a unit of weight (even if everyone and their grandma keeps calling it that), it is a unit of mass (a multiple of either kilograms or pounds, depending on whichever definition you use). Weight is measured in Newtons and is a force depending on an object's mass and the strength of the local gravity field. So a ton (of mass) does weigh a different amount (of Newtons) depending on the circumstances.

• @Anonymouse said:

A "ton" is not a unit of weight (even if everyone and their grandma keeps calling it that), it is a unit of mass (a multiple of either kilograms or pounds, depending on whichever definition you use). Weight is measured in Newtons and is a force depending on an object's mass and the strength of the local gravity field. So a ton (of mass) does weigh a different amount (of Newtons) depending on the circumstances.

Back up a step.

A pound is a unit of weight corresponding to the "slug" as a unit of mass.

A pound is a unit of mass corresponding to the "poundal"as a unit of weight.

You're supposed to make up your mind before you start which way you're going to play it; it's like an ace in blackjack that can count either one or eleven depending on your need.

• @da Doctah said:

You're supposed to make up your mind before you start which way you're going to play it.
I'm from a country that does not use the body parts of long-dead dudes to measure stuff, so I'm more familiar with the metric tons and kilograms which are always units of mass.

• @Anonymouse said:

I'm from a country that does not use the body parts of long-dead dudes to measure stuff, so I'm more familiar with the metric tons and kilograms which are always units of mass.

And I'm in a country that uses metric, and every weight scale in the nation; hey, every weight scale in the CONTINENT (Asia), is calibrated in kilograms and/or grams and/or tons. Never in Newtons.

A kilogram (of weight) is normally taken to be the weight of a kilogram (of mass) in Earth's gravity.

Oh, hey, as long as we're nitpicking,  the kilogram is shrinking: http://www.physorg.com/news108836759.html

• @AndyCanfield said:

Oh, hey, as long as we're nitpicking,  the kilogram is shrinking: http://www.physorg.com/news108836759.html

You think so?
[quote user="Pickiweedia"]There is the distinct possibility that all the prototypes gained mass over 100 years and that K21, K35, K40, and the IPK simply gained less than the others.[/quote]

• @Lord abletran said:

@blakeyrat said:

Edit: the real problem is that there's no way to tell the different between 100 (1 significant digit) and 100 (3 significant digits) in our writing system. You just have to kind of eyeball it and think to yourself, "eh, I guess he probably wasn't getting out a tape measure while bombs were going off..."

1.00x102

"Witness Ole Tommy Pedersen was standing at a bus stop about 1 hectometre (100 yards) from the high-rise at around 3:30 p.m. (1330 GMT) when the explosion occurred."

• @Faxmachinen said:

"Witness Ole Tommy Pedersen was standing at a bus stop about 1 hectometre (100 yards) from the high-rise at around 3:30 p.m. (1330 GMT) when the explosion occurred."

You have to convert the time, too: "at around 3:30 p.m. (50 kiloseconds past midnight)".

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