Friday, December 11, 2009

Screw Celsius

I am in general in favor of the metric system. It makes sense, it's easy to use. But the Celsius scale (while fine for many scientific endeavors) is not appropriate for day-to-day human life.

Think of it this way: for most of us, the range of human temperature experience just fits the Fahrenheit scale better. 0F - 100F is a good range, matching quite well what many of us experience. One degree is large enough to be reasonably meaningful (with useful decades), but is fine-grained enough to not need decimals. Going outside the 0-100 range is really something: a particularly cold or blistering day.

When it comes down to it, the water cycle just isn't that relevant to day-to-day life. Water doesn't magically freeze completely when the weather hits 32F/0C, there's a considerable hysteresis going on there. Besides, you don't want your freezer right at freezing, you want it more like 20F, and your fridge below 40F. There's a distinct difference in the clothing you wear at 50F, 60F, 70F, 80F.

That's not to say that the Celsius decades are useless. They're not bad for broad generalities: -10 is quite cold, 0 is cold, 10 is chilly, 20 is warm, 30 is hot. But there's a big difference within those decades in terms of what you wear, what activities you plan, etc. When you're sitting at a desk for a long time, your preferred temperature may well be a fraction of a degree Celsius.

So, make a stand for Fahrenheit! For a more understandable people-friendly tomorrow!

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