The world is eating your lunch!



#22

Is the world eating your lunch? We cling to a mismated set of measurements instead of adopting the metric system. For example: a Swiss engineer was asked to calculate a spring and mass resonance. He converted all measurements to metric and solved it in one page. His boss insisted it could not be done in one page, took 3 pages and made 5 mistakes.
Math is being taught in a pen and pencil method in a computer world. I submit that algebraic calculator entry is hampering the teaching of math. Math is being taught with 19th century methods.
I would like to be able to give out beginners calculators with RPN to smooth the way. Allowing equation entry and SOLVE would answer the algebraic methods in the schools.


#23

Quote:
Allowing equation entry and SOLVE would answer the algebraic methods in the schools.
I´m an electrical engineer and I teach at the local university. I'm gonna be back to the class room as a student again, now to achieve a brazillian Doctor degree in Education (the second post-graduation level here: 'mestre', then 'doutor' and, if going ahead, 'pos-doutor'). Next year planning, though.

When I was a student, RPN thought me a new way of reasoning about a solution. My first calculator was a TI57 (still have it) in 1980. I simply stuffed it with keystrokes corresponding to the expression I wanted the result from. With the HP41, I had to understand what I was doing prior to press the keys. I had to analize the expression, find the inner operations, apply precedence myself... by using an RPN calculator, it enhanced my reasoning and I started to solve the expressions in my head first, fast and accurately. But it happened to me, cannot extend the concept to everybody else. I was told that ABACUS users do the same. And ABACUS have no [=] key... they are RPN adders.

I accepted the challenge of teaching math to students at pedagogy graduation this semester. They simply HATE math, the ugly-duck of the human-related field students. I do not abolish the use of calculators in the class-room, I actually emphasize it. I ask students to bring their calculators, if any, so they may learn how to use them. I feel that when the calculator is a curiosity, pressing buttons and see what hapens is an adventure, a game. If it is understood as a tool, it will be used only to perform arithmetic and transcendental operations.

I still go white-board with white-board marker. From time to time I use a datashow with some specific presentation or a particular movie (believe me, Olmos' 'Stand and Deliver' still causes debates, questioning and reasoning...). I tell them how the operations are performed, not why and when. I let them conclude the why and when. So far, the best reward was from a 28 Y.O. student who told me the following after the first math examination: "This is the first time I understand a math examination in my life. Thank you!" You see, she did not thank me for being able to answer the questions, instead to understand them.

She does not use calculators.

She did not use any.

A calculator would make no difference.

SHE made the difference.

Last week I read that Galileu once said: "One cannot teach anything to anyone. One can only help someone to find it (knowledge) by himself." (I read the Portuguese version, cannot be sure if the English version from the original would be like that).

I think I just did that. And I am getting myself ready to go ahead.

I'm 46 years young, I have so too many things to do I cannot stop right now and see what happens.

Cheers.

P.S. - one of the reasons I'm not lurking around here so too often is my current dedication to these educational, pedagogic subjects. It will probably get worse next year...


Edited: 14 Oct 2007, 11:57 a.m.

#24

Teaching RPN to kids is not the answer. Part of the answer is contained here.


#25

Quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Why are TI calculators so much more ubiquitous than are HP calculators among students? What is TI doing right that allows them to maintain their market share?
-------------------------------------------------------------------
From Egan Ford

TI went after the teacher and the textbook writer. My kid's textbook is written for the TI83+ (which I think is wrong, I'm still old school and believe the books should only be written for pen and ink). Students don't care, a calculator is a tool to get homework done and take tests with. My kid has so much more to worry about (sports, a social life, work, etc...). Learning to use a different device to get the same results is unimaginable. Teachers have always selected your textbook and now they select your calculator. Some schools even pick out your clothes.

This is the problem I was trying to adddress, in addition to the US using outmoded English measurements which even the English have eliminated. Sam


#26

Quote:

TI went after the teacher and the textbook writer. My kid's textbook is written for the TI83+ (which I think is wrong,


As a mid-life college student, most of my math(s) texts were
written for the TI-83+. Sidebars or margins show which keystrokes
are needed to enter the data.

I do not know of an instructor on this campus that even knows RPN.
(Hmmmm, I don't think the Accounting instructors know how to use an HP-12c).
If a student with a different calculator (even a TI-89) does not know
how to enter an equation, they will get almost no assistance from an
instructor because they only know the TI-83 family.

I now carry one of my HP48pv's (plain vanilla) just to challenge me
to think about any problem that arises (but currently I am not in a
math(s) course).


#27

Quote:
(Hmmmm, I don't think the Accounting instructors know how to use an HP-12c).

The popularity of the HP-12c among business people has very little to do with H-P, RPN and the stack. Rather, it has everything to do with the fact that from the keyboard the HP-12c reacts to entries very much like the old mechanical business calculators.

#28

Question:

Why are TI calculators so much more ubiquitous than are HP calculators among students? What is TI doing right that allows them to maintain their market share?

Answer from the H-P community:

TI went after the teacher and the textbook writer.

Actually TI did something much more customer friendly than that. They didn't give the education community a lecture on how to do their job. Instead, they asked the education community "How can we help you do your job?"


#29

Hi, Palmer;

Quote:
They didn't give the education community a lecture on how to do their job. Instead, they asked the education community "How can we help you do your job?"
We are living a very sensitive moment in some of the world´s safest education communities. Teaching/learning methods, evaluation significance, use of technology and others are topics being discussed in many places. I am following these events closer because I believe that if we are not already living an educational crisis, we are fair close to it.

I am aware of the fact that if current educational methods are under discussion it does not mean that they are no longer valid, instead that they may be reinforced to follow current minds and available resources. And it happens from time to time, as it happend to us when the computer became a reality. I had one specific subject in Engineering that simply did not exist six, seven years before I had it: 'Computer Application'.

I am not confident that following current educational models is SO FAR part of the solution. So, I am not sure that TI is actually doing right, instead that they are mostly taking the advantage of being able to follow the market. You also posted:

Quote:
Why are TI calculators so much more ubiquitous than are HP calculators among students?
With this I agree completely: they are ubiquitous among the students, and the teachers may have found support when students are solving a problem with guidelines partilally shown as keystroke sequences.

I'm trying my best not to be old fashioned here, but I remember having to find my own ways to use FORTRAN knowledge to solve some math problems, like writing my own Newton´s root finder code. Today students may use SOLVE and not be able to write a code for a single root finder. I did it as a workaround for the problem found in the first Platinun series (with no parenthesis, undo, back-space and LCD contrast control). They do not correctly compute IRR below 0.34%, so I wrote a single 29-step program with a linear approach that finds the correct answer. The listing was available at the HP site Brazil for some time, till the new Prestige was finally available. AFAIK, this was one of the very reasons the HP12C Prestige was introduced in Brazil: folks here stood against the HP12C Platinun and wanted only the regular HP12C.

As you see, the HP12C Prestige was just a way to rescue the HP12C Platinum image amongst customers. It is exactly the same as the new Platinum, but has not the same look, it is a Prestige. So I think TI is doing with students: "This calculator will not complicate your studies, instead will make them easier. Just let us know what a calculator should do to make it easier for you. I don't know, this looks like a walking bar for the ones who want to fake to be crippled. And they are not crippled, just were given walking bars.

My point of view, though. Can it be considered a 2¢ contribution?

Cheers.

Luiz (Brazil) (did not spell check, sorry for any errors...)

Edited: 15 Oct 2007, 11:17 p.m.


#30

Quote:
Hi, Palmer;
I had one specific subject in Engineering that simply did not exist six, seven years before I had it. Computer Applications.

I'll really show my age here. I had a course in how to use the RemRand 1103 computer (bigger than a house) at the University of Minnesota back in 1960. So, computer application courses are hardly new.

Quote:
I am not sure that TI is actually doing right, instead that they are mostly taking the advantage of being able to follow the market.

TI didn't just follow the market. They were instrumental in developing the market by being willing to respond to the wants of the education community. I do recognize that in this forum it is not a popular thing to say that TI has done anything right.

Quote:
I'm trying my best not to be old fashioned here, but I remember having to find my own ways to use FORTRAN knowledge to solve some math problems, like writing my own Newton´s root finder code.

Showing my age even more: When I was a freshman engineering student at the University of Minnesota back in 1946 I took the elective but strongly recommended class in Introduction to the Slide Rule. I completed the class getting one of the two C's I received during my undergraduate career. And, of course, I never read the manual. No self-respecting engineering student would admit that he had to read the manual. Calculator users are a lot like that today.

Quote:
Today students may use SOLVE and not be able to write a code for a single root finder. I did it as a workaround for the problem found in the first Platinun series (with no parenthesis, undo, back-space and LCD contrast control). They do not correctly compute IRR below 0.34%, so I wrote a single 29-step program with a linear approach that finds the correct answer.

Very interesting. Do you remember how Kahan's "Mathematics written in sand" savaged TI for the failure of the MBA to calculate IRR correctly in some cases?


#31

Hi, Palmer; me, again.

Quote:
I do recognize that in this forum it is not a popular thing to say that TI has done anything right.

Yes, you are correct; I did push too hard against TI, and I actually did not mean to. I have a TI55 (gift), a TI57, a TI58C (gift, with memory issues), a TI59, a PC100A and a TI82 (gift). I also have an interesting Casio FX7000GA, one of the first graphic pocket calculators.

About a year after having a TI82 as a gift, among others (the CX MB is still here, M.B.; will send it back soon, promise), I bought an HP39G+ (three, in fact). These are all algebraic-based, high-school students addressed, and they have the same helping-aid appealing. TI started earlier, and HP followed it as close as possible (HP38G; is it a coincidence the reversed numbering against the TI83?). One of the HP39G+ I actually bought for my daughter, but I gave up the idea of leaving it with her. I first tried to show her some single stuff, like the 2nd. degree curve changing with the change of parameters 'a', 'b' and 'c', but she did not feel as if it would help her. My approach failed, I guess.

I apply the same considerations to the calculators HP developed with the same purpose. Please, understand that I am not against the tools themselves, instead their primary purpose. I would like to have anyone of those when I was in the brazillian equivalent to the high-school (at the time I was there it was our 2nd. degree school), but I´d surely know what to do with them. Maybe this is the actual punchline: developers idealize tools they'd need, with the customer in mind. A hammer is a hammer anytime, anywhere, and it can be used by anyone who knows what is it for. One cannot apply the same reasoning for a calculator or a computer, their use is not based on a standard circumstance. Either the user or the usage may vary, and under the same circumstance, two users with the same expertise and need may or may not use a calculator to solve a particular problem. Opposedly, if they need a hammer, there is no way to get rid of it.

I'm afraid I did not make myself understood. Going further may not give me the true benefit of doubt...

Cheers.

Luiz (Brazil)

Edited: 17 Oct 2007, 5:09 a.m.


#32

Quote:

I'm afraid I did not make myself understood. Going further may not give me the true benefit of doubt...

Cheers.

Luiz (Brazil)


Luiz,
my comments do not directly follow anything you've written, so do not
take any personal offense to what I'm writing...

I think maybe another PLUS for TI is the hacker community that
has formed around it.

For instance, the various kits and plans for adding a PC keyboard
to the TI-8x calcs.
Or a perusal of TICALC.org shows various hacks for speed up, additional battery power or other things I'd be too scared to do
to a more expensive calc.

(I am aware of the speed up hacks and repairs to HP calcs found at this site, so I'm not saying ONLY TI has hardware hacking).

Also the various hacks which allow assembly language programs to be
written and downloaded into the Z-80 CPU's in the calcs.
TI may have grudgingly accepted having their calcs hacked (initially) but I don't think they're hunting down calc hackers
with legions of lawyers either (hackers can be good for business!)

And then there is the CBL (Calculator Based Laboratory) module which
allows the TI-8x calcs to become analog and digital data loggers.
(GeekyKeen!)

Ren
dona nobis pacem


#33

#34

Quote:
TI may have grudgingly accepted having their calcs hacked (initially) but I don't think they're hunting down calc hackers
with legions of lawyers either (hackers can be good for business!)

As one of the successful hackers back in the days of the TI-59 I can assure you that TI was less than enthusiastic about some of the things we discovered such as fast mode and hi resolution graphics. Their lack of enthisiasm was related to the earlier HP experience with the special effects which were discovered with the HP-97 and which, if improperly used, could fry the circuitry.

The TI-66 manual even had a sentence that indicated that there were no unannounced features in that device such as there had been in the TI-59. We found some in a few weeks.

#35

Quote:
I also have an interesting Casio FX7000GA, one of the first graphic pocket calculators.

I believe the Casio fx7000G was the first graphing hand-held calculator. I purchased mine on December 4, 1985. I still have it. It calculates properly but the display has deteriorated in a manner that makes it difficult, but not impossible, to read. I also have a Casio fx7000GA that my daughter used in high school advanced placement mathematics classes and in college. Unfortunately the display is broken. The two devices are very similar with some minor differences in construction. An important difference is that the bizarre random number generator in the fx7000G was supposedly fixed in the fx7000GA.

Quote:
A hammer is a hammer anytime, anywhere, and it can be used by anyone who knows what is it for.

As someone who earned his way through college by working in construction during the summers I simply can't let that pass by. If I did my construction supervisors would be spinning in their graves. While anyone can use a hammer, sort of, or a computer or calculator, sort of, not everyone uses tools effectively. One construction supervisor had a simple set of tests to determine whether an applicant knew how to use a hammer effectively. First, he asked the applicant to drive a nail and looked at how far the applicant's hand was from the end of the hammer. Then he asked the applicant to use a hammer to remove a nail which had only been driven part way in. A successful applicant didn't apply the claw to the nail head -- rather he used the sharp internal edges of the claw to grasp the shaft of the nail.

Palmer


#36

Another hammer test would be to have a hammer with the face ground
non-perpendicular (off-axis?) and see if the hammerer discovers
why they can't drive in a nail without it bending, or successfully
drives in the nail without bending by compensating for the hammer face! It doesn't take a lot of mis-alignment to throw a hammer off!

Or how to start a nail with only one hand (wedging the nail shaft in
the claw with the head of the nail up against the part of the hammer
head that surrounds the handle).

Hopefully, most of the members of HP Forum do not work on HP calculators with a hammer, or use an HP calculator AS A hammer!

B^)

Ren

dona nobis pacem


#37

Hi, Ren;

Quote:
Hopefully, most of the members of HP Forum do not work on HP calculators with a hammer, or use an HP calculator AS A hammer!
I'd not be so sure...
 d8^D
Cheers.

Luiz (Brazil)

#38

Quote:
We cling to a mismated set of measurements instead of adopting the metric system.

With the minor consequence of HP wasting 2 or 3 keys in the HP35s Scientific Calculator on conversions to and from a non scientific (English) unit system and the no so minor consequence of NASA loosing a space craft. http://plus.maths.org/issue10/news/mars/index.html

Regards, Thor


#39

maybe if NASA had done the entire project in unscientific English Units everything would have worked out fine :)


#40

maybe if NASA had done the entire project in SI-Units everything would have worked out fine :)


#41

Probability is higher in the latter case, because you have far less chances for errors :)


#42

I work in both metric and american. They each have their advantages, and their faults. Some things in SI are annoying and stupid, like Pa rather than simply N/m^2. Why name a derived unit after a DWEM? At least in American units, there's only one DWEM: Rankine. Maybe two, if you count Slugs :-) Oh, and Fahrenheit. I forgot about him.

Lots of U.S. engineering is done in metric and it is not difficult. In fact metric is the only units system officially sanctioned by congress, since the time of Jefferson. The foot etc is referenced to the meter.

In WWII my father over-ran German factories and discovered that the metric-unit machine tools, calipers, micrometers, feeler gages were made in Rhode Island and Connecticut.

Oh, and the US Federal Highway Administration has done all its engineering in SI since the 70s. When Reagan issued his "go back to inches" edict, they said "M5 you!"

Edited: 22 Oct 2007, 9:13 p.m.

#43

Sure, maybe, let's just keep on using the "Horse-Power" to pull the wagon instead of switching to the "Watt" engine, like Liberia and Myanmar do (the only two countries in the world I know besides the USA) and continue using this obsolete (English) system of measurements. The English system of measurements offers zipo, zero, nada, advantage over the SI system (and even less in the scientific field). The only reason we haven't switched is political.

Regards, Thor


#44

Probably another reason is cost. I guess no one really wants to expend the cost of having to retool and redesign (and print new stuff).


#45

Yes, you are correct it will cost money but if other countries (less wealthy than the USA) did it we can too. I still think the main reason has to do with politics. Look no further, did you see the reaction of dbMartinez and company? for them it is a matter of pride "we built this ship we built that space craft" (and they forgot the Russians, probably using the metric system, were first in space) and not of what it is better. Now, if these two guys frequent this board, I assume they have some type of scientic/technological training/understanding and they oppose a change, can you imagine a politician telling the populace about switching to a metric system, how long can he/she last?

Regards, Thor

Edited: 20 Oct 2007, 11:30 a.m.

#46

Forgive my bad memory but weren't the Apollo spacecraft and it's L.E.M. both built and navigated using archaic, unscientific and outdated English measurements? I believe that it got to the moon's surface and back 5 or 6 times. Metric is no better. There is nothing more scientific about measuring with a unit based on the distance between Paris and Santa Clause's house than one based on the length of some dead king's foot. I use either.


#47

db-

You express my sentiments exactly.

tm (Redwood City, CA)

#48

You know, I was part of a short but interesting and insightful little conversation today. Someone wondered about "pieces of eight" (the old Spanish currency unit so prized, apparently, by pirates and their parrots), and it turns out that it was so termed because you can break it into eight parts to pay for something that cost less than the whole piece of eight.

And then we tangented into why old monetary systems were so seemingly odd and almost randomly denominated while today's currency systems are resoundingly decimal. Many of the old systems were founded essentially on base six, or really, twelve, because twelve is a number than can be factored by a relative large count of integers- two, three, four, and six! This made it easier to make dividing up stuff to sell or buy or to charge for. So in a way, for it's own day and place, the old systems of units and measurements were quite utilitarian, appropriate, and sort scientific, then. (And, at least mathematically richer.)

But in our day, with our already fading industrial phase, burgeoning cybernetic and electronic (already fading with photonics crowning to society's pangs?) phase, and even laymen putting on scientific airs, the decimal systems seem more fitting and deemed more useful... at least easier to teach to the ebbing SAT scores crowd.

However, how really "easy" or "natural" or "fitting" is a decimal based units and measurements system when it gives birth to units like the farad, which is kind of astronomical, but is calculated in physics classes here on earth. How do astronomical units, parsecs, angstroms, or Avogadros fit into these systems? They do... like shims in a doorframe, or Scotch tape on black eyeglass temples.

Nah, loose units don't sink spaceships, stupidity kills.

(With all this fussing I can't add to my stature one cubit... or femtocubit.)


#49

Quote:

Nah, loose units don't sink spaceships, stupidity kills.

(With all this fussing I can't add to my stature one cubit... or femtocubit.)



But converting from English to Metric caused a Canadian passenger jet to
run out of fuel and make a forced landing in Gimli.
(Read the story on the Gimli Glider).

Ren

dona nobis pacem


#50

Well, I will admit conversions always have the potential to be tricky.

#51

Not sure what your point is, you are reminding me of space crafts we built using the English system of measurements, so what? The Egyptians built the pyramids using who knows what system, the Chinese the Big Wall of China, and so on. I suppose we/they could have used any system of measurement we/they wanted (the big foot, the little toe, etc.) to build them. But which one is better?

If there are many ways of solving a problem, which solution do you choose? I would choose the most elegant, the simplest one, and in the case of units system of measurements, it is the SI system (by many many kilometers).

Quote:
Metric is no better.

Just wondering, are you familiar with the metric system? the one you just divide by 10 or multiply by 10... I did not think so.

#52

Quote:
There is nothing more scientific about measuring with a unit based on the distance between Paris and Santa Clause's house than one based on the length of some dead king's foot.

You are absolutely right. Fully agreed.
Quote:
Metric is no better.

I disagree absolutely. Some good reasons were given above already. Just to add the crucial point IMHO: SI is a system. This makes the difference.

Nothing against Imperial units (or Chinese or Egyptian or Babylonic or ...) IF they build a system of units. But at least Imperial units fail to do so. We had this discussion here several times already.

HTH, Walter

Edited: 20 Oct 2007, 4:02 a.m.


#53

A US television comedy show of the late 60's to early '70's,
"Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In" on occasion would issue awards
of dubious distinction. One award was "The Flying Fickle Finger of Fate!" and another was the "Whoopee!"

Once(?) they awarded the US Congress because back
in 1895 they formed a Committee for the Standardization of Screw Threads, which had been meeting yearly (up to that point, maybe now)
and had (still) not accomplished their goal.

(One of the comedians commented that it was probably because they
sat around drinking Screwdrivers!)

(Maybe that is what inspired Monty Python's "Ministry of Silly Walks".)

And along those lines...

What is a Metric Screwdriver?

30cc's of vodka and 20cc's of orange juice! (rimshot)

Ren

dona nobis pacem

#54

Thor:

Quote:
Just wondering, are you familiar with the metric system? the one you just divide by 10 or multiply by 10... I did not think so.

If you ever land at the San Jose California airport or take State Highway 87 North or South from it, or drive on 101, 580, 80, 680, 4, 24, ride the train.......... you will use something I layed out in meters. Public money jobs here are all metric, and cost more. I just prefer to use decimal feet. The units are in useful human sizes. What I use two decimal places for; needs three in metric. What we use one for; metric units need two. Hand signaling centimeters to an equipment operator is a pain. Stakes loose clarity. My shoes are a foot long. My knuckles are a tenth. One pace (two steps) are 5 feet. Decks & slabs have two percent fall (i tell the carpenters it's a quarter inch per foot). Crossfalls on roads are designed the same: two hundredths per foot. From my nose to this here outstretched middle finger is three feet. What do you think I use my hp 41 for? Fractions?

Walter: You must work in the sciences. I see your point. Myself, being just a laborer with a real good calculator; I only have to think about distances and angles. Thank some deity that metric angles never caught on. I'd hate to have to learn to think in gons or grads or whatever.

#55

db, you're right. Of course, I can do the same game in metric: 1 step is 1m, my hand spread is 20cm (from thumb to middle finger), walking speed on even surface is 5km/h etc. Your decks and slabs are my favourites, however: 2% are simply 2cm per 1m, carpenter-proof! Life is easy going metric, and it frees some keys on your real good calculator :)

And angles are as time: we'll keep the Babylonian 60 forever. Don't be afraid, I didn't see anybody using gons in real life so far.

Continue enjoying California! Best regards,

Walter


#56

Of course a lot can happen in 20 years,

but when I was in the Middle East in the mid 80's, the UK ex patriots
still recited their body weights in "stone"!

Informally, they often used English measurements over Metric, but would use Metric when "the job" called for it.

While we are on the subject of measurements,
I just want to toss in this Internet born "system"

Firkins per Furlong per Fortnight

Ren

dona nobis pacem

#57

I'm sure that Feynmann would put the whole issue off being of "trivial" interest.

If you know what you are doing, it doesn't matter whether you are in kumquats or kilometers.


#58

lets see: 186270 enter 5280 x 12 x 60 x 60 x 24 x 365. that's a lota dam kumquats per year at the speed of light.

#59

While there is no great significance to the actual choice of a meter as the basic unit of measure the Metric meassure is a SYSTEM of measurements desined based on the initial unit.
English measure is a hodgepodge collection of measurements with no common basis. The gallon is not based on the foot as the liter is based on the meter. All english units are unrelated in definition, hence the many needless conversions. Try getting a nation using metric to use English measure! Would you rather have a disorganised
units.. sixteenths of an inch rather than decimal? The failure tto understand tthe interrelated systematic set of units hampers your calculations and your thoughts. Sam


#60

Quote:
Would you rather have ... ... sixteenths of an inch rather than decimal?

I admit that I deleted "a disorganised units" from your sentence to make my point which is that I wouldn't mind having sixteenths of an inch rather than decimal if that meant that we were on our way to a digital based (octal, hexadecimal, whatever) system.

In a digital age either an English system or a decimal system is a Luddite concept!


#61

Quote:
In a digital age either an English system or a decimal system is a Luddite concept!

Au contraire! In this age of high speed processors and cheap memory, a computer that forces me to work in _its_ natural system (base 2, 8, 16 or whatever) instead of _my_ natural system (base 10, since most of us have 10 fingers) is a tail-wagging-the-dog concept.

Stefan


#62

Quote:
Au contraire! In this age of high speed processors and cheap memory, a computer that forces me to work in _its_ natural system (base 2, 8, 16 or whatever) instead of _my_ natural system (base 10, since most of us have 10 fingers) is a tail-wagging-the-dog concept.

Stefan


If ten is such a natural system then why have there been so many other systems in use.

I could contend that octal is a natural system for me (in my genes, if you will) because of my Swedish heritage. Wikpedia tells us that Charles XII (1682 - 1718) became interested in octal through contact with Swedenborg. I recall seeing a reference somewhere that said Charles XII was so convinced of the superiority of octal that he tried to change Sweden from decimal to octal. It didn't happen because of resistanc to change.

Change is really hard to accept. Try getting an old set-in-his-ways RPNer to switch to the much more natural E.O.S. for work with equations.

My recollection is that in the post-World War II period American industry resisted switching from English units to metric units because all of it's tooling survived the war. Changing to metric was easier in a sense in those countries where industry had essentially been reduced to rubble by the war.


#63

Palmer,

Quote:
My recollection is that in the post-World War II period American industry resisted switching from English units to metric units because all of it's tooling survived the war. Changing to metric was easier in a sense in those countries where industry had essentially been reduced to rubble by the war.

FYI, the metric system was invented and introduced some 200 years ago after the French revolution (at a time when the USA were progressive and interested in the world outside). And yes, research confirms there were wars before "the war" ;)

Edited: 23 Oct 2007, 5:03 a.m.

#64

Quote:
In a digital age either an English system or a decimal system is a Luddite concept!

IMHO there are 3 separate points mixed in this discussion:

1) the number base (10, 8, 12, 16, or whatever) or numeric system for calculations,

2) the set of units for measuring,

3) the system built by a (carefully chosen) set of said units.

Ref. to 1): Various number bases were chosen in different civilisations (e.g. 12 in Babylon, 20 in Yucatan). Traditionally, these systems existed "stand-alone". However, growing long range trade pushed people to find a common system. Nowadays, the decimal system is accepted almost everywhere for serious calculations done by humans, and the binary system for the same done electronically. Of course, there are some exceptions (the most popular is found counting time between seconds and years). But no serious people are up to replace the decimal system today by another one.

Ref. to 2): Various units were chosen in different civilisations (as above). Traditionally, these units existed "stand-alone". Meaning, units to measure an area had nothing to do with units to measure a length. Often, even different units for the same physical quantity were living separated (look e.g. at some Imperial units of length). Again, growing trade pushed people to find common units. But the push was softer than above, since you can easily live in e.g. a world of acres as long as this unit is suited well to the areas you are interested in, and you don't want to deal with much bigger or smaller surfaces (living in a sufficiently secluded place).

Ref. to 3): Unlike the other points, the need for a *system* of measuring units arose from science. As you know, scientist are those strange folks interested in everything from the very small to the very large. And even worse, they search for links between everything! And still worse, they found such links between many fields which were so neatly separated before. Thus, "stand-alone" units had to be caught and grouped into systems. When I started my studies, two of them were still found in European textbooks (called "cgs" and "mksA", the latter becoming the basis of "SI"). Meanwhile, pushed by growing international science, AFAIK "SI" is the only surviving system.

By all this, it should be obvious there once has been an "English monetary system" based on the number 12, and there still is an "English set of units", but there never was anything like an "English system of measuring units".

HTH,

Walter


#65

A suggestion was made of the cost of going metric as being prohibitive. I submit that the cost of NOT changing is worse.
England changed. Somebody has to stand up for it. One British lady referered to the decimal currency as metric. I gave a real example of a Swiss trained engineer solving a spring and mass problem by first changing the data to metric and solving it in one page. His boss said it's not that simple: did his own calculation on 3 paqes and made 5 mistakes. Are we to be the last bastion of backwardness just because of NOT INVENTED HERE ? Sam


#66

I belive UK never did actual change... The EU had given em a deadline to actual change, but recently read they had given it up... More reachable goals such as stability at Balkan and so trivial stuff (compared) has to be addressed...

#67

Well, it might or might not hamper your calculations (it shouldn't though--for every door opened by decimal there is also a door closed. Division by 2s is effective for rapid work in the head, if you learn the old ways).

It shouldn't hamper your thoughts. Understanding F=Ma is not affected by units. IF you understand what mass is, and force is, then it doesn't matter! Only if you don't actually understand the principles do the units get you confused.


#68

(This response is not just to Bill; it's not just to this thread... it's to the whole site!)

What a great forum this is!!

#69

Taking your expression F=Ma, what English units would you use?
Did you have to look it up? I submit having a SYSTEM of units is efficient and productive. Sam


#70

Sam, your are the man!

#71

Ha ha. "Did I have to look it up." Of course not.

Force = Mass time acceleration.

Consistent units:

lbs = Slugs times feet/sec^2

or you can do

lb{force} = (lb{mass}/32.2ft^s2)times feet/sec^2.
We also have poundals as a weight unit (the weight of 1 lbm is 32.2 poundals), if you want to get rid of the 32.2 division--but they aren't used universally.

This is no different than Metric. Just different names, and a "convention" inverted (we tend to use the standard force measure for mass, i.e. lbm, whereaas the kg world tends to use the mass measure for force in conventional thinking, i.e. kgf is what you "weigh" in metric. People don't say "I weigh 700 N." Essentially, in the U.S. we tend to use the gravitational unit approach, whereas in S.I. the default is an absolute system. But beware that metric is not always absolute, and in America we can work in absolute, too if we find it convenient! It is common to find the metric gravitational system of units as well, where the *force* is kilograms, and the mass is kilogram-seconds.

In either *system* there is a consistent set of units. I think it is the metric-only crowd that has the problem of understanding :-) After all, American engineers are bilingual units-wise: as with language in general, this leads to improved understanding.


#72

Hi, Bill,

Quote:
It is common to find the metric gravitational system of units as well, where the *force* is kilograms, and the mass is kilogram-seconds.

Where did you find such a mess? Certainly not in a *system*. And for sure not in SI. BTW: Please do not mix SI with anything anybody sold to you as "metric", while it may be only decimal or whatever. Please see my post above for some definitions.
Quote:
In either (read: any) *system* there is a consistent set of units.

Exactly, per definition :) Thus, so far I don't see any living *system* besides SI anymore. Maybe small sets of linked units in a limited area of application, but no *system*. However, I'm willing to learn :)
Quote:
I think it is the metric-only crowd that has the problem of understanding :-) After all, American engineers are bilingual units-wise: as with language in general, this leads to improved understanding.

Ooooh, here you choose a *very* dangerous picture! Did you think about it carefully? Do you really want to stress US-American bilinguality? (Bilingual families by origin don't count!) Feel free to withdraw ;)

Edited paragraph 1 but found you replied faster. Sorry for interfering :)


Edited: 23 Oct 2007, 12:21 p.m. after one or more responses were posted


#73

Well, of course I'm 1/2 kidding and 0.5000 serious. It's all trivial anyway, but what I have noticed is that all of us in my generation here have no "problem" with metric, but if I give slugs per cubic foot to a European subcontractor, they are utterly lost.

An amazing thing happened when one of my former employers was taken over by a Norwegian firm. The new company insisted that we all take a "metric" course. Of course it was total WOT and the instructor was baffled as to why she had to teach us for 20 hours! Evidently, the Norwegians had been hearing too many stories on MoHPC;-)

Why don't I convert totally to metric? Because (a) it is unnecessary and (b) all the previous work that is comparable is in U.S. customary. On other projects, where the reference work is metric, or there is no reference work, or where systems are primarily metric, I use SI. If it is a modification job, I use the units that were used in the original construction. Why waste time converting merely for pedantic reasons?

#74

Quote:
Understanding F=Ma is not affected by units

True, but calculations in English units is affected by inconsistencies therefore that equation of force in the SI system would simply and nicely look like this (units are shown in square brackets):

F [N] = M [kg] a [m/s^2]

while in the English Engineering "system" would look like this:

F [lbf] = (M [lbm] a [ft/sec^2])/gc

where "the fixer" gc = 32.1740 [lbm-ft/lbf-sec^2]

so, if nothing else, it WILL slow down your calculations (and this same thing will happen with Kinetic and Potential Energy, Pressure at Depth, etc.)

Quote:
Division by 2s is effective for rapid work in the head

More effective than moving the decimal point to the left? I doubt it


Edited: 23 Oct 2007, 8:49 a.m. after one or more responses were posted


#75

:))

Hi folks, it's great fun to follow this discussion coming to the beef! Go on!!


#76

Sorry I had to edit my post after you posted but while typing the equation in the English units I lost consciousness for 1/16 of a second and I forgot to remove the stuff about the door of fractions slamming one's behind :-)

Regards, Thor.

Edited: 23 Oct 2007, 3:13 a.m.

#77

Quote:
:))

Hi folks, it's great fun to follow this discussion coming to the beef! Go on!!


I hope the vegans in this forum aren't offended!

While I grew up with "English" measurements, Metric was also taught in
school, and I look forward to the "day" when the US is Metric.
(Although the transition will be painful!)

The local clinic (Mayo) currently uses the metric system for patients,
(Kg's, cc's, mm's, etc.)

And when my 3 y.o. daughter empties my toolbox, it is so much easier
to restore the metric wrenches and sockets to order!

Ren

dona nobis pacem

#78

This is great...another 2¢s: A pint's a pound the world 'round.

tm


#79

Quote:
another 2¢s: A pint's a pound the world 'round.

Yes, if by "the world" you mean "the United States of America"; that's the only place I know of where a pint is 16 fluid ounces. Here in Britain, for example, a pint is 20 fluid ounces.


#80

That's one reason I'm enjoying this thread.

tm

#81

This "fixer" as you call it is present in all gravitational units systems, including *metric* gravitational systems. It isn't a matter of "see, see, metric is better!"


#82

Quote:
This "fixer" as you call it is present in all gravitational units systems

No it is not. The "fixer" gc is a conversion constant such as 12 in the conversion factor between feet and inches. It has the same numerical value as the standard acceleration of gravity but it is not the local gravitational acceleration g (g=32.2 [ft/sec^2] English, g=9.81 [m/s^2]) and it is needed because the units of pound-mass and pound-force are as different as the units of feet and gallons and they can not be canceled. The Metric system (SI) being fully consistent does not need it.

Quote:
It isn't a matter of "see, see, metric is better!"

You are right, let the equations speak for themselves

Edited: 23 Oct 2007, 9:37 a.m.


#83

I heard on TV that firres consumed so many acres. I didn't know what exacttly an acre was. Wikipedia says it was a furlong by a chain. Furlong ewas explaineed by long furrow. So the English measure is kind of like Topsy, it just growed. Mom used to tell of a proud mom watching a parade "Oh, look, everyone is out of step but Johnny." The US is the only one out of step. Sam


#84

BTW...look at the great debate the astronomers had (are having?) about astronomical distances. Some like the "parsec", but most of them are using the "light year". Both are based in different ways on the orbit of the Earth!

tm


#85

Not really a "debate." Astronomers use them interchangably in the sense that none of us has to stop and think which is which (and we all know that a parsec is 3.26, or about 3, light years).

Both of them (light year and parsec) are big - part of astronomers (and many other scientists) efforts to make the size of anything you measure about one.

Parsec is also somewhat similar to the discussion above about things like "feet" i.e. a unit based on some size with which most people are familiar and comfortable. For those who don't know, "parsec" is short for "parallax of 1 second (of arc)" and refers to how far away something would be so that its apparent position in the sky would shift by 1 (actually 2 - referring to the Earth's orbit diameter rather than radius) second of arc, back and forth, as the Earth goes around the sun in the course of a year. Hence, when you look at the sky and measure in arcseconds how much a star seems to move, you have directly measured (well, you've measured the reciprocal) its distance in parsecs. No conversions needed!


#86

Quote:
For those who don't know, "parsec" is short for "parallax of 1 second (of arc)" and refers to how far away something would be so that its apparent position in the sky would shift by 1 (actually 2 - referring to the Earth's orbit diameter rather than radius) second of arc, back and forth, as the Earth goes around the sun in the course of a year. Hence, when you look at the sky and measure in arcseconds how much a star seems to move, you have directly measured (well, you've measured the reciprocal) its distance in parsecs. No conversions needed!

Thanks, I didn't know the definition of a parsec, but I did think
is was amazing that Han Solo used it as a unit of measurement long,
long, ago in a galaxy far, far away...

Since the earth's orbit is elliptical, the parsec changes depending
on the days of the year the measurement is taken?
B^)


#87

I believe they use the major axis of the ellipse.

tm

#88

Quote:
I heard on TV that firres consumed so many acres. I didn't know what exacttly an acre was. Wikipedia says it was a furlong by a chain. Furlong ewas explaineed by long furrow.

I think that you're using a TI keyboard, Sam...

One square statute mile is 640 acres, as can be inferred from an HP-28.

The corresponding metric unit for medium-sized property areas is the "hectare" (100 m)2 = 10000 m2, which is about 2.47 times as large.

The units library is my favorite feature of the HP-28C/S.

-- KS


#89

I like to think of it as roughly 70 yards by 70 yards, or exactly 70 paces:-)

#90

Quote:
One square statute mile is 640 acres...

A bit of trivia.

Here in Denver Colorado, many of the city blocks are 1/10 mile long by 1/16 mile wide. This gives 160 city blocks per square mile or exactly 4 acres per block.

I have long wondered if this scheme is commonly used in other US cities.


-- Richard

#91

Furthermore, 1.25 miles by 1.25 miles is exactly 1000 acres. Here in Ontario, Canada, when it was first being settled, roads were laid out on a 1.25 x 1.25 mile grid, and the land in each square was divided up into ten 100 acre parcels.

Regarding whether city blocks are laid out the same, the nearest city I live near (Kitchener-Waterloo) doesn't seem to have a straight road or rectangular block in it.

Stefan


#92

Quote:
One square statute mile is 640 acres, as can be inferred from an HP-28.
Quote:
Furthermore, 1.25 miles by 1.25 miles is exactly 1000 acres.
You might not come to these conclusions if you were using an HP48, HP49, or HP50.


In this case, 1_mi^2 = 639.997440003_acre.

And (1.25_mi)^2 = 999.996000004_acre

However, 1_miUS^2 = 640_acre.

And (1.25_miUS)^2 = 1000_acre.

In the US, there are two legally recognized definitions of the "mile", just as there are two legally recognized definitions of the "foot". According to NIST, the "acre" is based on the older "survey mile" (or 1_miUS on an HP48), not the more widely used "international mile" (or 1_mi on an HP48).

The difference between a survey mile and an international mile is about 3.2_mm.


Edited: 28 Oct 2007, 3:47 p.m. after one or more responses were posted


#93

Hi, Norris --

Quote:
The difference between a survey mile and an international mile is about 3.2_mm.

Hmm... its that all? I'd never figured out the difference, but believed that it was a bit more. I'm sure that the definition of 1 inch = 2.54 cm is the basis of the slight difference.

This statement could use a minor edit:

Quote:
1_miUS = 640_acre.


#94

Quote:
I'd never figured out the difference, but believed that it was a bit more.
Your HP calculator will tell you that 1_miUS - 1_mi = 0.000002000004_mi, or about 2 parts in a million, or about 3.2 mm

Quote:
I'm sure that the definition of 1 inch = 2.54 cm is the basis of the slight difference.
Formally, the difference is in the definition of the older "survey foot" vs. the newer (since 1958) "international foot". Both are defined relative to the meter, but slightly differently (fraction vs. decimal):

1 survey foot = 1200 / 3937 m exactly ( ~ 0.304800609601 m)

1 "survey inch" = 100 / 3937 m exactly (~ 2.54000508001 cm)



1 international foot = 0.3048 meters exactly

1 "international inch" = 2.54 cm exactly

Quote:
This statement could use a minor edit: 1_miUS = 640_acre.
Quite so. It's been fixed above.


Edited: 28 Oct 2007, 4:11 p.m.


#95

Quote:
Your HP calculator will tell you that 1_miUS - 1_mi =
0.000002000004_mi, or about 2 parts in a million, or about 3.2 mm

Or looking at it the other way around, my calculator tells me that
1_mi-1_miUS=-2.000000002E-6_miUS (that is, .000002000000002_miUS).

For the RPL models, converting from one unit to another unit
involves first converting to the base unit, and then from the base
unit to the desired unit, giving two opportunities for rounding.

The calculators' conversion factors to base units are extended
real (15-digit mantissa) numbers. For example, for _miUS, the
conversion factor (to _m) is %%1.60934721869444E3, and for _mi,
the conversion factor is %%1.60934400000000E3.

For doing a (UserRPL) conversion or other mathematical operation
with unit objects, the (12-digit mantissa) real number components
are converted to extended reals, extended real operations are used
internally, and the result is converted to a real.

Of course when doing a series of UserRPL operations, the value is
converted to a real at the end of each UserRPL operation.

Actually, 1_mi=.999998_miUS exactly, and 1_miUS is slightly more
than 1.000002000004_mi (feel free to work out the exact
decimal number notation).

Working it out by hand (but with _ftUS and _ft):

1_ft=(3048/10000)_m
1_ftUS=(1200/3937)_m

Given the above exact relationships:

1_ft/1_ftUS=(3048/10000)_m/(1200/3937)_m

The _m units cancel out, so:

1_ft/1_ftUS=(3048/10000)/(1200/3937)
1_ft/1_ftUS=(3048/10000)*(3937/1200)
1_ft/1_ftUS=(3048*3937)/(10000*1200)
1_ft/1_ftUS=11999976/12000000
1_ft/1_ftUS=499999/500000
1_ft=(499999/500000)_ftUS
1_ft=.999998_ftUS

Of course it can be shown that 1_ftUS=(500000/499999)_ft, but that
doesn't have a nice short decimal notation equivalent.

Of course the same relationships hold between _ mi and _miUS, inch
and the previous "US inch", and all other length units that have
both an "old US" and an "international" definition.

Regards,
James

Edited: 31 Oct 2007, 3:33 a.m.

#96

Quote:

Regarding whether city blocks are laid out the same, the nearest city I live near (Kitchener-Waterloo) doesn't seem to have a straight road or rectangular block in it.

Stefan


Waterloo, being not only the location of a very fine engineering school also adheres to non-Euclidean geometry. Weber and King streets, both nominally north-south intersect twice!

Cheers from nearby Caledon who has let his 108,900 sq ft (2.5 acres) run wild and is looking forward to the pond being frozen so we can all go skating.

#97

Quote:
One square statute mile is 640 acres, as can be inferred from an HP-28.

My dictionary says that an acre is 160 square rods, 4840 square yards, or 43,560 square feet.

When I was growing up back in Minnesota in the 1940's an acre or a fraction of an acre was sort of a city measurement -- something one uses to measure the size of lot or of a garden. Rural people were more familiar with the section (a square mile), a half section, or a quarter section -- measurements which could define the size of a sustainable farm, and approximately related to the amoount of land required to yield a certain amount of grain.


#98

I prefer:

1 km^2 = 100 hectare (= 100 hm^2) = 100 x 100 are (= 10.000 dam^2) = 100 x 100 x 100 m^2 = 1.000.000 m^2.

#99

DN;

A furlong is 660 feet. A (gunters) chain is 66 feet. There are also 100 links in a chain. You might notice a decimal relation in there somewhere. These measurements were adopted by Thomas Jeferson as the units of the public land surveys in the US about 200 years ago. We still use them, along with the French "arpent", the various Spanish & Mexican Vara & Smokes, and the meter because we retrace surveys (at least on paper) by "following in the footsteps of the original surveyor". There's about two and a half acres in a hectare.

BTW: an acre is also defined as what one man with one ox can plow in one day. That indeed makes it a

Quote:
long furrow.


Doesn't everyone love this Forum! It makes my day all the time. Open, civil, learned discussion and much, much more. It offers more than just reviews and repair help for HP calcs which of course is very important. But I also enjoy that these ideas are coming from all over the world.

tm

Some clarity is needed here. In physics there are three quantities: length-mass-time, there are no others. The problem of "fixer" terms arises because of the use of non-rationalized systems of units. For example: Meter-Kilogram-Second and Foot-Slug-Second are "rationalized" systems of units but Inch-Lbm-Sec and cm-gram-second are not rationalized systems of units. The choice of a non-rationalized system of units will always result in "fixer" terms. This was only discovered some 60 years ago and that is why cgs is no longer used in physics papers, as a matter of fact, physics papers no longer specify systems of units because it is assumed that a "rationalized" system will be used.


Quote:
In physics there are three quantities: length-mass-time, there are no others.

If you want to do electricity problems, you need another unit, usually an amount of charge (i.e. coulomb)

I think cgs is still around, especially in theoretical papers. In fact, some of those guys go so far as to make c (the speed of light) and h or h-bar (Planck's constant) equal to one, for ease of algebraic manipulation (of course, they have to put the units on to get the right answer!).


This thread was started when "Design Nut" wrote:

Quote:
Is the world eating your lunch? We cling to a mismated set of measurements instead of adopting the metric system. For example: a Swiss engineer was asked to calculate a spring and mass resonance. He converted all measurements to metric and solved it in one page. His boss insisted it could not be done in one page, took 3 pages and made 5 mistakes. Math is being taught in a pen and pencil method in a computer world. I submit that algebraic calculator entry is hampering the teaching of math. Math is being taught with 19th century methods. I would like to be able to give out beginners calculators with RPN to smooth the way. Allowing equation entry and SOLVE would answer the algebraic methods in the schools.

I would like to suggest that we go back and identify some areas where the world has indeed "eaten our lunch" and then ask "To what extent was failure to adopt a metric asystem involved?" We could begin with a technology such as automobiles.

My impression is that the Japanese gains in automobile design and manufacture had little to do with metric measurements and everything to do with quality control. I also doubt that the use of algebraic calculator (or computer) entry was a hindrance. After all, the dominant computer language for engineering at the time was FORmula TRANslation.


Excellent points, Palmer.

I can not answer Palmer's question on a large scale because I'm simply not having the appropriate data. I can only tell for my own decision I recently made: I bought the HP 35s. But I very nearly left it on the shelf because of the conversion functions so prominently using many keys. Here in Europe I have absolutely NO need for those. I could imagine many people who are not crazy about HP design calculators will just not buy the 35s for this very reason.


I don't know what happened to the metrification program in the USA. When I was in middle school, 1968-1970, most of our time in science class was spent learning the metric system because this country was planning to switch over to the metric system in short order and they wanted to make sure that kids grew up knowing it. It was no fun going through the workbook page-by-page and doing *all* the problems to learn this, but I figured that our bit was to learn the metric system and the rest of the world would learn English. An even trade I thought that would help to unite the world.

Wow, was I naive. Now I'm finding that I need to learn Spanish and you're finding metric conversion keys on the HP35S. :)


Quote:
I don't know what happened to the metrification program in the USA.


Have a look here!

In response to Katie's question "What happened to metrification?" you directed us to a discussion in Wikpedia. It was interesting reading but I was bemused by the section on the construction industry which stated in part

Quote:
Dimensional lumber still comes in standard nominal inch widths and depths (e.g., "2 by 4"). Lengths are given in feet.

and I note that at some point the standard nominal widths and depths were changed such that "new" lumber was smaller than "old' lumber. This change plays havoc when someone tried to repair a house built with "old" lumber. It's as bad as when one tries to repair something put together with metric hardware and only has inch-dimensioned wrenches.

Somewhere I faintly remember something about "rough 2x4's" vs. "four sides sanded".

tm


Yeah, but sanding doesn't take off half an inch! That's about how much is missing from the "2x4" size (in both dimensions!) when you actually measure it! At least they really are 8' long when you buy by length.

Quote:
I don't know what happened to the metrification program in the USA. ...

Nor do I. During college in the 1940's there was some discussion of the need to convert to metric. My recollection is that the discussion was more prevalent in physics and chemistry classes than in engineering application classes.

I remember when we talked about converting highway distances from miles to kilometers and seeing some signs with both, but for the most part highway travel is still measured in miles in the USA. My 2006 AAA Atlas uses miles for the USA and kilometers for Canada with both scales shown somewhere on each map. The upper scale is in miles on USA maps and in kilometers on Canadian maps.

Coca-cola comes in the traditional 12 ounce aluminum cans but in "16.9 FL OZ (1.06 PT) 500 mL" plastic bottles.

For many grocery items the traditional packaging has been eliminated but has not been replaced with metric packaging. Consider coffee where the traditional 16 ounce packages have gradually been replaced with 13 ounce or 11.5 ounce (326 gram) packages. But that is a "fool the customer" issue not a conversion to metric issue.

Hi, Katie:

Katie posted:

    "Now I'm finding that I need to learn Spanish [...]"

      Why would you do that ? Just curious ...
Best regards from V.

V-

Quote:
"Now I'm finding that I need to learn Spanish [...]"

Why would you do that ? Just curious ...


I said this half in jest, but only half. I live in suburban NY City and in my zip code there is certainly more Spanish spoken than English. I have a hard time communicating with my once-in-a-while housekeeper and other people that I need to converse with on occasion. Personally I feel like one should learn the language of the place that you're living in, but that doesn't seem to be a universally held belief. Besides, it's not even clear that English is the language of this area given how many official documents are printed in Spanish and English and how most phone call centers tell you to "press 1 to continue in English".

-K


Edited: 26 Oct 2007, 10:20 a.m.


Katie wrote:

Quote:
Personally I feel like one should learn the language of the place that you're living in...



Wikipedia says:


Quote:
New York was inhabited by Algonquian, Iroquois, and Lenape indigenous people at the time Dutch and French nationals moved into the region in the very early 17th century.


Depending on how far you would want to go back, you could choose between French, Dutch or even some Iroquois dialect ;-)

Well into the 20th century, some significant areas of the U.S. spoke German, carried on town business in German, ran the public schools in German. These areas included much of the land outside Philadelphia, and parts of the upper midwest.

The U.S. has never had an "official" language and has never needed one: Usually in time, all tends to English, but other languages serve where it is expedient. My own college was founded by German-speaking people around 1880. The first president spoke fluent English, and the other board members chose him partially for that reason. They wanted their new college to have a broader support.

Edited: 26 Oct 2007, 1:58 p.m.

Hi again, Katie:

    Katie posted:

      "I live in suburban NY City and in my zip code there is certainly more Spanish spoken than English."

        I fully understand you. I visited NY City (and state) back in 1994 for the first time, and I was eager to try my rudimentary English in a fully-English environment. Boy, was I wrong ! :-)

        I stayed there for 3 whole days, and not-even-once had I to speak even a single English sentence. Everyone would speak to me in Spanish, from the hotel clerks, to all taxi drivers, to the people attending tourists at such places as the Empire State Building, to each and every clerk in every shop I entered to buy something. Even people selling things in the streets would speak to me and barter with me in Spanish and tell me they had relatives living in Spain.

        To top it all, when I was returning home, a police woman at the airport did also address me in Spanish as well about a metallic object which was a Kodak film case. Not once did I have the opportunity or need to speak English while I was in NY City. Even the shop displays were always in Spanish as well. I still remember the shock I felt when I read a 5th-Avenue shop banner saying "Españoles, más barato que en la Gran Vía" (i.e., "Spaniards, buy here cheaper than in (a very large Madrid's street)". Actually the banner was right, I felt no difference than if I were actually shopping in Madrid, which wasn't what I expected or wanted.

      "Personally I feel like one should
      learn the language of the place that you're living in"

        I fully agree. Me, I think that the ideal situation would be everyone knowing their native language, plus, once you're 3 years old, start to learn English as well. This way, everyone would be essentially perfectly proficient in two languages, namely his/her native one, plus English, so you would be able to travel to any country and to communicate with every person in the planet as if it were your neighbor next door.

        But I think this rational view will never be adopted for a number of reasons. Most essentially, most politicians and governments would be opposed to it, as it would undermine the "us-versus-them" paradigm so useful to keep in control.

      Myself, I used that strategy with my daughter and now she's 15 and speaks both Spanish and English at the native level, certainly much better than me. It has enhanced her education and overall living experience immensely.

Best regards from V.

Quote:
... Me, I think that the ideal situation would be everyone knowing their native language, plus, once you're 3 years old, start to learn English as well. ...

Do you know that in the 1950's much of the world was somewhat like that, that is, if you consider the Americanized version of English to really be English. In Japan students would sit beside me on the train and volunteer to explain the passing countryside if I would talk with them, and as a result, help them with their conversational English.

It was the time that some historians derisively describe as the heyday of the almighty dollar. I found that shopkeepers in diverse places such as Japan, the Philippines, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Greece and Italy were conversant in English. France was another matter.


Hi, Palmer:

Palmer posted:

    "[...]if you consider the Americanized version of English to really be English.

      Actually, I consider Americanized English to be the
      "real" English nowadays, because a language has to be a living thing, expanding, adapting, growing, evolving, and I see more of that in American English than in older traditional versions.

    "In Japan
    students would sit beside me on the train and volunteer to explain the passing countryside if I would talk with them, and as a result, help them with their conversational English."

      Yes, it's been my experience too that, for some reason, Japanese people find English extremely difficult to learn.

    "I found that shopkeepers in diverse places such as Japan, the Philippines,
    Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Greece and Italy were conversant in English. France was another matter."

      And Spain yet another. Until very recently, most Spanish students would learn minimal English, if at all. Matter of fact, most Spanish people do not speak even passable English, let alone understand an actual conversation, a song's lyrics, or a movie.

      All English-language movies and TV series are routinely dubbed, with the horrific side effects that lip movements are never synchronized with what you're hearing, and you get to hear the same male and female voices for all characters in all series over and over again, which completely ruins the excellent vocal abilities and nuances of the original actors, replaced by some mediocre, over-acted, over-emphasized dub which quickly gets boring to the point of nausea.

      This being so, it's been many years since I decided to listen to all movies and TV shows in their original English versions, never listen to a dub anymore. Even for japanese anime and movies, I always listen to the japanese-language original with English subtitles (which will hopefully soon get away as well when my Japanese improves :-), even if an English-language dub is available.

    Frankly, I would advice anyone trying to learn a new language to absolutely forget about those courses they're always announcing here and there, whether quick or exhaustive.

    The one and only way I've found to really, really learn a new language is the hardest one, i.e., total immersion: either you travel to the country and stay there on your own for a long while (>1 year), or else you make a point of only reading and listening to publications in that language, initially enabling subtitles and focusing in simple things such as comics, participating in forums related to some hobby of yours, reading web sites and newsgroups, etc., to the point that you'll find yourself immersed in the language for at least 2 hours or more each and every day. Also, the younger you begin the better.

    It'll be hard, but as the descriptive Spanish proverb says: "El que quiera peces, que se moje el c***" ("You wanna fish, you gotta get your a** wet"). :-)

Best regards from V.

Buenas dias, Valentin,

Quote:
Me, I think that the ideal situation would be everyone knowing their native language, plus, once you're 3 years old, start to learn English as well. This way, everyone would be essentially perfectly proficient in two languages, namely his/her native one, plus English, so you would be able to travel to any country and to communicate with every person in the planet as if it were your neighbor next door.
Agree with you almost. This is a first step in the right direction. But (so called) global languages change. While "the civiliced world" communicated using Greek some 2500 years ago, it turned to Latin some 500 years later and kept it for 1600 years, turned to French then for about 300 years, and now uses English for 100 years. In parallel, major parts of the world speak Spanish or Chinese natively. BTW, the world tends to adopt grammatically simpler languages every time, so there are good chances to see Chinese as the next global language.

So it would be fair for everybody knowing his mother tongue to learn (at least) one of the global languages in addition. This would foster Chinese learning e.g. English and “English” (yes, also Americans!) learning Chinese or Spanish as a second language. Of course, everyone is free to learn more, but this should be minimum acceptable. BTW, I write this being in Hongkong, enjoying that a country with 1.3e9 inhabitants speaking and writing another language cares to write most signs in another global language, i.e. English, too.

As usual, these are just my 20 Milli-Euro.


Quote:
BTW, I write this being in Hongkong, enjoying that a country with 1.3e9 inhabitants speaking and writing another language cares to write most signs in another global language, i.e. English, too.

1.3e9? You must be referring to all of China. The reason why Hongkong in particular displays English signs goes back to 1842...;-)


Just putting in my tuppence worth...


Edited: 28 Oct 2007, 8:10 a.m.


Hallo nach Mainz (wie heißte eigentlich?) -- Meenzer,

Quote:
The reason why Hongkong in particular displays English signs goes back to 1842.

I know this, of course, but forgetting it for a while did allow me to present this as an example of visitor friendlyness ;) Noli turbare circulos meos!

Gruß / regards,

Walter


Hi, Walter B:

Walter B posted:

    "Noli turbare circulos meos!"

      Actually he said "moi mou tous kyklous tarate" (rendered in standard ASCII characters).

      I don't know how his circles ended but as for himself ... :-( ...
      You don't get no respect in this world ! :-)

Best regards from V.

Quote:
Actually he said "moi mou tous kyklous tarate" (rendered in standard ASCII characters).

Old Archie allegedly said it to a Roman soldier - so he maybe was speaking Latin. We couldn't determine the language A. used by the cruel ending, though: the Roman guy might have killed him BECAUSE he understood him or because he did NOT understand him. ;-)

Damn, I wasn't able to show off Greek letters either.

Quote:
So it would be fair for everybody knowing his mother tongue to learn (at least) one of the global languages in addition.

I've long thought it important that everyone learn a second language -- any language -- simply as a means of gaining new viewpoints. Learning another language is an excellent way to discover that other people think differently, not just about different things, but in different ways. I'll never forget the surprise and sense of wonder I felt in high school French class (36 years ago!) when I first discovered that French wasn't just English with a different vocabulary. It had never occurred to me that there was more to learning a language than memorizing a dictionary. It wasn't just the obvious differences in grammar and syntax, but more subtle things. For instance, I might say, "I am cold," but a Frenchman would say, "It is cold to me." Or in talking about the weather, I might say, "It is beautiful today," whereas the Frenchman would say, "It makes beautiful today." (And then there's that whole business of using "my little cabbage" as a term of endearment. :-)

A few years later, when I studied ancient Greek, I was again surprised at how many more differences there were compared to English and French. Later, Latin and Old English surprised me not just with those differences, but with the similarities to Greek and to each other. It fascinates me that people see the world around them in so many different ways. Modern English has a pretty standard subject-verb-object word order; but in many languages (including Old English) subject-object-verb is common. What does the position of the verb in a sentence say about the relative importance of the action and the doer of the action in the speaker's mind? Does last place in the sentence indicate more importance, or less? And what about highly inflected languages that allow words to be placed in almost random order without obscuring the meaning? What does the choice of word order say about the (perhaps unconscious) attitudes of the speaker toward what he's saying?

I think everyone should study languages other than their own for the same reason I think artists should study science, and scientists should study literature and philosophy, and in fact, everyone should study a little bit of everything: It gives us more windows onto the world and how other people see it. Language gives us direct insights into how other people think.

-- 
Þæs ofereode, ðisses swa mæg. ("That passed away, this also can.")
from "Deor," in the Exeter Book (folios 100r-100v)

Quote:
... I think artists should study science, and scientists should study literature and philosophy, ...

When I applied for admission to the engineering school at the University of Minnesota engineering was a four year course. When I started school in September 1946 they told me that engineering had become a five year course where the extra year was to be used to take courses in the liberal arts part of the university. At graduation I had 9 credits in psychology, 16 credits in sociology, 9 credits in humanities and history, and 3 credits in preparation for marriage.

In one of the humanities courses the professor was rhapsodizing about how wonderful it was that engineering students were having their education broadened. In those days the arts college offered a course called Physics without Mathematics. How in the world does someone teach that? I suggested that it might be a good idea if the arts college students would be required to take mathematics through calculus so that they could study physics with some mathematics. He saw no merit in that idea.

I received an A in Preparation for Marriage. I didn't get married until I was 35. My friends frequently asked how I got an A when I obviously hadn't learned anything.


Palmer, Wayne, ugh! Those horrible courses- physics with enough math so the students who didn't want to be there in the first place but have to be don't jump out the windows (and the similar chemistry one) really are wretched things. Oh, and these students had very little math in their backgrounds. It wasn't easy, as they didn't understand any more math than a four-banger could do (the four banger had better memory retention and stayed on longer than they could stay up), and it's hard to explain things without equations.

Anyhow, I majored in a physical science at my (private) college. But they had rigid humanities and unrelated fields subjects requirements and though I found myself at a distinct disadvantage in grad school, I will admit to being very glad now that I took those nontechnical courses. They literally broadened my tiny little horizons. Literature and philosophy courses should be a must for any serious college student, especially if they are science or engineering majors.

If you are young and have a scientific bent, you can pick up more math, chemistry, physics, engineering, programming, etc. courses with a lot less trouble than a scientist, engineer, or programmer, etc., later on can begin to appreciate art, music, literature, etc. beyond what the art teacher in the third grade showed with a box of crayons and kindergarten teacher showed with picture books.

Edited: 28 Oct 2007, 10:58 p.m.

Quote:
I received an A in Preparation for Marriage. I didn't get married until I was 35. My friends frequently asked how I got an A when I obviously hadn't learned anything.

Well, I hope that at least you learned not to marry the wrong person.

If you decide to respond, keep in mind that it will be available for the whole world to read indefinitely into the future.

Regards,
James

Edited: 29 Oct 2007, 7:55 p.m.

Palmer,

being about two generations (*1966) and a whole Atlantic Ocean and some land mass (Germany) separated from you, I'd truely be interested what "preparation for marriage" courses (at a university!) are like and if they still exist.


Quote:
Palmer,

being about two generations (*1966) and a whole Atlantic Ocean and some land mass (Germany) separated from you, I'd truely be interested what "preparation for marriage" courses (at a university!) are like and if they still exist.


My memory is not all that it could be these days but my recollection is that there was not a lot about sex but a lot about such things as making a budget, buying a house, raising children and the like. There was a textbook. I discarded it long sgo.

I do not know if such courses still exist. They may not be as useful as they were in those days. At that time a relatively large number of college graduates married during te summer following their graduation and had little or no experience in such concepts as managing money. That isn't so true today.


Thank you very much for this insight.

I feel like this kind of course should be mandatory at high school level. People get all kinds of education but not in the skills that virtually all of them are needing most: how to manage a relationship and how to raise children. Society seems to just assume that these are natural skills that everybody has - reality shows the contrary to be true.

Quote:
In physics there are three quantities: length-mass-time, there are no others.

The SI base units are


Name Symbol Quantity

meter m length

kilogram kg mass

second s time

ampere A electric current

kelvin K thermodynamic temperature

mole mol amount of substance

candela cd luminous intensity

I once ran afoul of one of my bosses on this issue. I was solving a problem that involved accelerations and dynamic behavior, and so I used a rationalized mass-unit system (slug ft seconds) but the boss shook his head and started trying to explain to me that I didn't need to go to all the "trouble" of using slugs. He was correct, but still wrong in my mind. Habits, even rather unfortunate ones, can be hard to break, even in rational people (who use irrational systems!).


So Bill,

How many garden pests (slugs) make a kilogram?

B^)

Ren

dona nobis pacem

p.s. around my place it's "The slugs is/are eating your lunch!"

Edited: 26 Oct 2007, 11:24 a.m.


Ah, but slugs are suckers for Milwaukee's finest beer!


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