Friday, September 9, 2011

Calculating the Day Away

This speed limit sign in our neighborhood is for 60 kilometers/hour which is roughly 37 miles per hour.
One of the things that I didn't dwell too much on before our move was the fact that Australia operates on the metric system.  The thought crossed my mind that I would have to do some converting but it was more of an "oh, neat" kind of thought.  Now that we are two months in to our Australian adventure, I am beginning to realize just how much math I am required to do on a daily basis.  Why, oh why, does the U.S. not use the International System of Units?  Let me share some of the various conversions that I have done in the last couple of days.
Package of Sultanas (raisins).  293kJ = 57 calories per serving
  1. Calories to Kilojoules. 1 calorie is equal to a little over 4 kilojoules.  I just like saying kilojoule. It sounds so pretty and friendly.  
  2. Fahrenheit to Celsuis.  I know the basics.  O Celsius is the point at which water freezes.  100 Celsius is the point at which water boils.  Everything in between?  I'm getting there.  Right now, it's 14° which is 57° F.
  3. Miles to kilometers (or kilometres as it is spelled here).  This one should be the easiest for me to convert since I have a prior frame of reference.  I know from running cross country that 5 kilometers is 3.2 miles. However, this is the one that comes up most frequently in conversation and, therefore, the biggest pain to convert.  For example, I was trying to explain the Colorado 14ers to some friends here.  (For those of you who don't know, that refers to a group of mountain peaks in Colorado that rise about 14,000 feet which is high and makes some of them pretty treacherous to hike/climb.)  Try converting feet to miles to meters in your head, not so easy.  Luckily, Andrew piped in and explained that is was over 4,000 meters.  Scientist husband who uses the metric system = life story saver.
  4. Cups to Cups.  This one is the most bizarre.  Apparently, the American standard cooking cup size is not the same as the one in Australia. I had an inkling that this was the case and looked it up before making a batch of cookies for a dinner party earlier this week.  (We bought measuring cups here in Australia but the recipe was one of my mom's.) A quick Wikipedia search showed me that cups are all kinds of quirky.  In Australia, a cup is equal to 250 milliliters. In the States, the standard cup is 237 milliliters but the legal cup is 240 milliliters.  However, in England, the imperial cup is 284 milliliters.  
  5. Gallons to liters.  Gas, or petrol as it's called here, is sold by the liter.  Gas is currently hovering around $1.50/liter which translates into roughly $5.70/gallon.  (I'm using American dollars for this conversion.)
  6. US dollars to Australian dollars.  Actually, I don't really convert this one except for just now when I tried to convert the price of gas to US dollars.  Currency exchange rates were something that we followed obsessively when we first arrived since we needed to transfer money from our US bank account.  The Australian dollar has been doing pretty well and has traded stronger than the American dollar ever since we got here.  Not so great for our money transfer but good for the economy here and good for Andrew's job.
Price of gas when we arrived in Australia, measured in cents per liter
I'm sure that in a year (...or two...please, not three) I will be rather blasé about the metric system and will not feel the need to convert everything.  Hopefully, these kilometers and litres and degrees Celsuis will become second nature.  But for now, I have a handy iPhone app that does all these conversions for me.

p.s.  Did you know that only three countries in the world have yet to adopt the International System of Units?  They are the United States, Myanmar/Burma, and Liberia.

p.p.s.  Husband didn't think this post was very interesting.  :-p

5 comments:

  1. Tell your husband he is wrong! Very very interesting. I hope that you get better at calculating too. I had no idea- the grams and kilojoules would be a total pain! Good luck.

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  2. Haha, I'm glad you liked it, Taryn! I shall tell Andrew that he was wrong. :-p

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  3. Haha I liked it! I would definitely need the ipod app haha!!

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  4. Um yeah, good thing there's an app for that! LOL!

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