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Making Sense Of Measurements

How big is the screen you're reading this on? Is it 4 inches—or 10.16 centimeters? The answer depends on where you are geographically. If you're using inches, odds are you're in the U.S. and applying the principles of U.S. customary units—a form of measurement used little elsewhere in the world. In fact, more than 95 percent of the world's population subscribes to the metric system, officially known as Le Système International d'Unités. This is a measurement system built on multiples of 10s, as opposed to the system in place in the United States, which is based on the perhaps nonsensical and out-of-date imperial system.

So what is the reason the U.S. does not use the metric system? Is it time to convert, or is the current system in practice in the United States a better system? Learn more about the evolution of measurement systems throughout the world, and why different parts of the world hold their system so dear.

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. Three barleycorns equal one inch. 00:34

  2. One nautical mile equals 6,080 feet, which is much different from a standard mile. 01:06

  3. A line is the same length as a poppyseed, and four poppyseeds equal one barleycorn. 02:28

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. A "dash" of an ingredient in cooking is exactly 1/8 of a teaspoon. 00:37

  2. A "hogshead" is a unit of measurement for wine, which equals 63 gallons. A "butt" equals two hogsheads. 01:55

  3. An "oxgang" is a unit of measurement used to measure an area of land approximately equivalent to 15 acres. 06:30

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