Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Brendan and the Metric System

I had a 6 month construction rotation during which time I worked at the Beale Air Force Base and the Sacramento Resident Office (SRO). When I worked at SRO there was one Mechanical Engineer I worked with as much as possible; Brendan. Brendan and I had an ongoing lighthearted debate about the Metric vs. English unit system over the course of several months. For those who don't know my stance, then see a previous post of mine about the English unit system. During our conversations Brendan did help me understand the English unit system much better. I had always been confused with units like lb/BTU. In this case lb is not referring to the force of an object divided by its energy content. Instead, it is referring to an amount of a substance (measured in weight) per its energy content. This is because, as Brendan says, the fundamental unit for an amount of substance is not mass but weight. I would very much disagree with this, but I can understand where this idea comes from; one cannot measure mass, mass must be derived from taking its weight and dividing by gravity. Although we could understand each other we still enjoyed teasing one another; Brendan and I would tease each other almost every week. One of my favorite instances is when we were looking at a pump and calculating the load the pump puts on the equipment pad. Brendan said, "That's right , the load, not the mass but the force." He then broke out into a big smile and we both shared a laugh.