On Fri, 16 Jul 1999 10:11:18 +0100 Rob Harris Cen-IT <Rob.Harris@bournemouth.gov.uk> writes:
>BTW, You mention this naming convention inconsistency - I've noticed a
>lot>of this in science, it's bloody annoying. Consistency, if nothing
>else,>should be provided by the scientific community as a prerequisite,
>don't you>think? Makes sound inference possible.
Here in the US, we commonly use two measuring systems - metric and 'English' (inches and ounces, etc.). I used to be annoyed by the failure to settle on one system (preferably metric), but I have since decided to stop worrying about it. I realize that I can convert a measurement in one system to the other using a calculator, and let it go at that.
The inconsistencies are mostly rooted in the historical development of physics. When people call something by a particular name for years, it's hard to change. Back in the 1960s there was a big worldwide push to replace 'cycles per second' with 'hertz'. Now, years later, that has finally been successful. But I think it is in large part because many people who used to say 'cycles per second' have simply died, and been replaced by others who were taught to say 'hertz'.
Every so often, physics tries to purge itself of inconsistency. Historical electromagnetic units, for example, come in several systems which are unbelievably convoluted and confusing and which make the whole subject difficult to understand. Some years ago, the 'International System of units' was devised. It is called SI after its French initials. In the 1980s, the meter was redefined in terms of the speed of light, whereas earlier it had been defined as a certain number of wavelengths of a certain spectral line of Krypton 86. The meter is now defined as the distance light travels in 1/299,792,458 second. That means we no longer have to wonder what is the exact speed of light. It is 299,792,458 meters per second, exactly, by definition.
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