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Measuring the World: Making complicated problems simple by really going metric Paperback – October 1, 2014
About the Author
The Author, Dr. John Austin, has over 30 years' research experience on the upper atmosphere and has published over 80 papers in numerous international scientific journals. In addition John worked for 4 years as an Editor of the Journal of Geophysical Research, the premier Geophysics journal in the USA. He has spent several years working in the USA, at NASA Langley, Hampton, virginia (1984-1985) and the University of Washington (1988-1990), where amongst other things he met his future wife Alda, to whom he is still married. During 2003-2011 John worked in Princeton, NJ, USA. His main scientific contribution has been to show the connection between ozone depletion and climate change. John has been involved in the writing of numerous international reports for the World Meteorological Organisation and The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for which the IPCC received the 2007 Nobel peace prize. In recent years, John has broadened his work into popular science, through the website http://www.DecodedScience.com and in 2014 he created an internet scientific publishing business Enigma Scientific Publishing, http://www.enigmascientific.com. He has always had an interest in our unit system and the science of measurement, and the book "Measuring the World" is his first popular science book. When not working, John enjoys a variety of activities including chess, running, photography and travel. He has become addicted to sudoku, and that will be his next book!
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Top customer reviews
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I have mixed feelings about this book. First, I absolutely agree with the author's premise that doing scientific and engineering calculations is MUCH easier, including simple calculations that ordinary people may need to do. He gives many examples that demonstrate this point well.
As an American, I am annoyed that he is far more critical of the American Customary system of units than British Imperial. To me, as a metric advocate they are precisely equally bad when compared to metric. If I were British, I might rate this 0.5 pt higher.
He is extremely persnickety about spelling, insisting on metre, litre, and gramme, even though most British now spell it gram. (I would point out that the BIPM acknowledge American spelling in the SI Brochure, while pointing out they use British spelling, including gram)
However, he is quite sloppy in some of his metric usage on points the BIPM does NOT accept:
*Standalone symbols (no number) used in place of the unit word in text, especially kg for kilogramme.
*No space between number and unit in quantities
*Use of italic type for units in place of upright
*Compound units "mashed together" without a space or raised dot to indicate multiplication, e.g. kgm²/s² vs kg·m²/s².
Finally, there are some outright technical errors:
*Section 7.4 incorrectly defines the grain as 64.91 mg, although it is correct (64.798 91 mg) in the Appendix.
*The appendix incorrectly defines the symbol for the prefix deka (or deca) prefix as "D". The BIPM believes it is "da"
*Section 11.10 on Energy Content of Fuels is in error by 3 orders of magnitude on all data given, specifically kJ/kg should be MJ/kg, the fps data is off by the same factor (see reference #40 at the end of this chapter for correct data). Since an factor of two caused the Gimli Glider incident, imagine what a factor of 1000 does to fuel calculations.
If you are a Prime member and have a Kindle, I recommend borrowing from the lending library. The book has many good points but is not reference quality. If some of the above were corrected in a 2nd edition, I would probably raise my rating and recommend buying.
UPDATE 2014-08-13: The author has updated the book in a second edition and provided a copy for my review. The second edition corrects the issues noted above on energy content of fuels, the definition of the grain, and the symbol for prefix deka, as well as the issue of standalone symbols as shorthand for units. The issues of spacing and italic rather than Roman type are largely corrected throughout the book; however, there are a small number of escapees from the editing process.
As a result, I feel the book has more reference value on how to use the metric system as well as why it is better to use the metric system. As a result, I have raised my rating from 3 stars to 4 and my "borrow" recommendation to a "buy."
With the stronger recommendation, and particularly on Amazon(US), I must comment that I have a difference of opinion with the author on spelling issues. There is no absolutely right answer, there are points to be made on both sides. I think the relevant points are:
*The SI Brochure, issued by the BIPM, uses British spelling conventions. It notes, and does not deprecate, that small spelling variations occur in the languages of English speaking countries.
*The unit names have many different spelling in different languages, but all languages use common unit symbols.
*Congress delegates authority in 15 USC 205c to the Secretary of Commerce to interpret the International System of Units for the United States. This interpretation is published as NIST SP 330, The International System of Units. It states that the American spelling and terminology is preferred for usage in the United States (meter, liter, deka, metric ton vs British metre, litre, deca, tonne). Additionally, of the two approved BIPM symbols for the liter, "L" is recommended over "l". For domestic usage, my opinion is that Americans should follow NIST SP330. For export, it may be necessary to follow the SI Brochure. There are no other substantive differences between the two. NIST SP 330 is also consistent with US Government Printing Office Style Manual on these matters.