There are a bunch of questions on this site with measurements in miles, feet, etc. I'm an imperial system hater, so it annoys me. I'm wondering if this measurement system is still used anywhere in the world in the geosciences?

I recognise that it's still used in the US and partially in a few other countries for ley usage, so I wouldn't suggest banning it from the site or anything, but I'm wondering if we could have a policy of always including metric equivalents in parentheses when imperial system units are used? That would instantly make all of those questions much easier to understand for the majority of the world who've had the system for 50-60 years.

Edit, April 2021. So what's happening with this? Are we implementing this rule?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I completely agree. The only places I see it used in the professional literature is in old US publications, such as maps etc. $\endgroup$
    – Gimelist
    Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 7:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Gimelist: I was unaware of this post until your April 2021 edit. I have up voted the answer by 410_gone. It now has 17 votes. I recommend implementation of this rule. $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Commented Apr 22, 2021 at 10:15
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, so did I, yes please. Non standard units cause confusion when reading or comparing and errors when converting and are potential filter for the quality of answers. But I'd suffer them in parenthesis, if it must be. $\endgroup$
    – user22279
    Commented Apr 25, 2021 at 20:07

2 Answers 2


The rule on other science SE sites I'm on is that SI units have supremacy (except on Physics.SE where natural units have primacy when the context suits).

I propose adopting the following rule here.

SI units are mandated. If someone insists on using imperial units, they should use the SI unit, and then put the equivalent imperial unit in parentheses.

  • $\begingroup$ Would you care to clarify as to why imperial's being treated as a serious no-no? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 3, 2020 at 14:54
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnWDailey because for very many years, SI units are the units of science. Imperial units are both intellectually and geographically constrained. $\endgroup$
    – 410 gone
    Commented Mar 3, 2020 at 15:47
  • $\begingroup$ "Intellectually constrained"...meaning what? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 3, 2020 at 16:18
  • $\begingroup$ I wouldn't say that SI units should be mandated, but accepted units for that field. For example, crustal pressures are often measured in bar and that's a common unit for phase equilibria software and the literature. Simply because it's easier to talk about 5 kbar and not 0.5 GPa or 500 MPa. $\endgroup$
    – Gimelist
    Commented Apr 22, 2021 at 11:16

Imperial units are still used in the oil and gas industry in the USA, which unfortunately leaks out into the rest of the world. In Australia sonic log measurements are still often reported as microseconds per foot, and well bore diameters are reported in inches, for example.

I second EnergyNumbers proposal. Imperial units are just stupid.

  • 9
    $\begingroup$ "the oil and gas industry ... which unfortunately leaks out into the rest of the world" - oh dear. $\endgroup$
    – naught101
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 1:43
  • $\begingroup$ Haha pun not intended. $\endgroup$
    – stevej
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 4:29
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ I agree. I'm not sure what qualifies as the most messed up industry practice: the use of M for thousands and MM for millions (I suppose it's Imperial... from the Roman Empire), or calculating velocity in ft/s and density in g/cc. It's amazing we get anything done. $\endgroup$
    – kwinkunks
    Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 1:37
  • $\begingroup$ MM in Roman numerals would be 2000, so they can't have that one. $\endgroup$
    – naught101
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 3:50

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