The founding fathers visit Old Monkey

Back in the days when humans and animals were on speaking terms, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson wanted to destroy the metric system. The two friends went to see the Old Monkey who was the wisest of the animals, to get advice.

"Why do you want to get rid of the metric system?" asked the Old Monkey, "What is wrong with it?"

"In metric units the values of the natural constants are garbage," said George Washington. "The gravitation constant, for instance, is 6.673… × 10-11—we think it should be a millionth."

"Right," chimed in Thomas Jefferson, "and the speed of light is 299,792,458—we think it should be a billion."

"And the frequency coefficient of temperature in metric units is 1.309205… × 1011," George Washington continued, "we think it it should be a trillion."

"I see," said the Old Monkey. "The voltage coefficient of frequency, which in metric terms is 6.582 118 89 × 10-16, you think should be 10-15. And the elementary charge, which in metric terms is 1.6021764… × 10-19, you would like to be 10-18.

"You get the idea," said George Washington. And the two men waited to see what the Old Monkey would say.

"It seems to me," said the Old Monkey after a while, "that a system in which the fundamental constants are that ugly does not have much future in any case. You don't have to do anything—just wait and it will drop off like the dead limb of a tree."

The two friends waited to see if the Old Monkey would say anything else.

"Just be sure," the Old Monkey finally added, "that when the branch breaks nothing you care about is resting on it."


Copyright © 2002 Leonard Cottrell. All rights reserved.
Table of contents for the New Metric Fables