# A Guide to Imperial Measurements with Matt Parker | Earth Lab

It has recently been brought to my attention
that my video on the A4 paper scale I made an apparently unwarranted number of attacks
on the imperial system of measurement and I would like to, entirely voluntary, to apologize.
Why wouldn’t you take a barley corn, as the basis of your system of measurement should
you be, I don’t know, hypothetically, an industrialised modern superpower. And to apologize I’m now
going to give you the NumberHub guide to the imperial measurement system. Because it all
hangs together so nicely! You take three barley corns that gives you an inch, you take 12
inches that gives you a foot, you take three feet and it gives you a yard, you take 1760
yards you get a mile. A mile alternatively you can split into eighths, each eighth of
a mile is a furlong, of those furlongs you can divide them into tenths and you get a
Gunter’s chain. Each Gunter’s chain you can divide into elevenths and that gives you a
fathom, if you take 15 fathoms you get a shackles or alternatively if you take 100 fathoms you
get a cable. If you take 10 cables you get a nautical mile, a nautical mile of course
being wildly different to a standard mile. If you take three nautical miles you get a
league, or alternatively if you take a nautical mile and split it into feet you get 6,080
feet. We’re back at feet, if you take a foot and divide it in thirds you get a hand, of
course a hand is exactly a third the size of a foot, each hand if you cut it in half
you get a stick, each stick if you cut it in half you get an inch. Each inch, if you
take three of them together you get a palm; a palm split into quarters gives you a digit.
Three digits give you a nail, four nails give you a span, two spans give you a cubit, a
cubit divided into thirds gives you a shatments, why wouldn’t you call something a shatments?
If you take five shatments you get a pace, if you take two paces you get a step, of course
two paces to the step, if you take four steps you get a rope, if you take five ropes you
get a Ramsdens Chain, if you take 50 Ramsdens Chains you get a roman mile. The roman mile
of course wildly different from the standard mile. Because while the Roman mile is exactly
60,000 inches, the standard mile is 63,360 inches. Speaking of inches, if you take an
inch and divide it into six you get picas, if you take picas and divide it into twelfths
you get a point. If you take a point and divide it into 20th you get twips, or alternatively
if you take six points you get a line, a line is exactly the same length as a poppy seed.
And if you take four poppy seeds you’re right back where we stared. Four poppy seeds equals
one barley corn. What a fantastically logically and consistent system of units.

## 100 thoughts on “A Guide to Imperial Measurements with Matt Parker | Earth Lab”

• Melox 0701 says:

I opened the discription to see if it was April 1st… it wasn't

• Tommy Smith says:

oh, well shoot. Gonna have to metric i guess. cause matt is makin the fun at us now.

• Minecraft And More says:

2:35 What a fantastically logically and consistent system of units.
Me: Well yes, but actually NO. I lost track after the first change of unit.

• Larry Scott says:

I was hoping for empirical measurement.

Not Imperial units.

• Bigg Jobag says:

All this just confirms my love of imperial. Metric is so booooring…

• jeremy oconnor says:

Poor old Isambard Kingdom Brunel! All those bridges, tunnels, railways that are still working perfectly. It was only because it was later apparent that 1 chain can be converted to 20.117 metres. Of course a metre makes perfect sense in our world. Itās the distance travelled by light in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458 of a second; something I have always found to be a reliable rule of thumb. I am a fan of yours otherwise BTW.

• Ivan Toshkov says:

Nice! Next are the weights š

• Richard Wilson says:

One of my favorite videos from Matt.

• Chris Walsh says:

Beautifully cleared that up Matt, thanks!

• Mr Happy Face says:

and thats just the lengths

• Timmie Collins says:

Iām really sad that I was taught the imperial system. If my darn country would just use metric, we could convert in our heads, instead of literally having products that just convert!

• Dillon Mariano says:

Donāt know about all the imperial units, but I will say that feet and inches are far more relevant to the human scale than meters and centimeters. As an architect, imperial measurements at this scale are far easier to use since it maps the body with nuance and utilizes a base 12 number system which is much easier for dividing into whole digits. Do with that opinion as you will, I just donāt think that point is made enough

• oleksijm says:

As a native metric person, I should say that imperial is far from useless even today. Rationally speaking, there are contexts where it's relatively more convenient than metric, for example in aviation.

A fun fact remains that imperial is officially defined in terms of metric since about the 1850s after Westminster burnt down in London..

• Joshua Hatfield says:

As an American…this makes complete sense to me. It's a good thing we have guns because being reminded of it…wait; maybe it's not a good thing we have guns.

• SQ38 says:

Compare this to minecraft where we have our base unit of length, the block , as well as the pixel which is a 16th of a block, for measuring smaller distances, and the chunk which is 16 blocks and is only used for weird technical things. Itās really simple.

Ok, I lied. We do have weird units for numbers of items. There is, of course, the item , but for measuring larger numbers of items, we use stacks which are either 16 or 64 items, depending on the item, because most things (including all blocks) can fit 64 items per slot, but throwable projectiles (and also signs for some reason) only stack to 16. If you have a really large number of items, youād measure them in double chests , which have 54 slots, so they can fit 54 stacks of whatever item. For 64-stackable items, thatās 3,456 items. Thatās almost as bad as a mile equaling 63,360 inches. Almost.

edit: youtube comment formatting is stupid

• Antonio LĆ³pez de Santa Anna says:

You need to be high-IQ to understand our measurement system.

• Necronomicon says:

Fun fact: Imperial units have been re-define to be based on metric units with a conversion factor (and an offset in case of temperature).

• Joseph Teller says:

Remember the Metric system is also arbitrary. And is inconsistent as its base measurements have changed a few times over the years. There have been books written on the subject of how bad the "science" was that was used to create it.

• SavageGreywolf says:

The inch isn't defined by the 'barleycorn'.

It's defined by the centimeter. š

• Dylan Turner says:

Sounds like the rest of the world just isn't quick enough to keep up with our mathematics

• mashete says:

4 points = a line

go home america, youre drunk

• HPD1171 says:

you left out, take 231 in^3 and get a gallon

• Mohammed Al-Alaw says:

Whats is realy the KELVIN measurement now that we are very much approaching the zero and what are FAHRENHEIT and on what bases was it scaled? like CELSIUS is so obvious based on and according to water states? and if they change the KELVIN would not this mean we should change the rest like JOULES and WATTS and COULOMBS?

• rpn000rpnca says:

Good luck trying to fly a plane without knowing your knots.

• Der Gyroskop says:

Y?!

• Oliver Scheel says:

the most fun is to see an Australian destroy the imperial British system….

• Eduardo Avila says:

I can't know if this is a joke or really the imperial system.

Oh wait the imperial system is the joke.

• cashilarant franĆ§ois says:

le mĆØtre c'est bien pratique en fait

• Lightning Underpants says:

Someone needs to write out every unit he said in terms of barleycorns

• Connor Hamilton says:

Metric and Imperial both have advantages. Metric uses multiples of ten or one hundred for naming conventions and is very much a science and math oriented system. Imperial is more user oriented with things like the last segment of your pinky being about 1 inch, and also things like a foot being 12 inches makes it easily divisible at a glance. That last reason is why timekeeping failed to be Metricated. 10 only being divisible by 1, 2, and 5 isn't great if you regularly need to divide by 3 or 4.

Yes Imperial has bizarre measurements that don't get used very often. But there is reasons why they exist, and that is because of who commonly used them before.

• Robert Toms, III says:

Kind of aggressive but not exactly wrong, but can we get a vid that makes instead of internally inconsistent.
X feet = a mile
X feet = league
X leagues to a mile
Leagues term origin is
Mile term origin is
So on so forth

• Jabas Tv says:

Itās a Head Squeeze material on the BBC Earth Lab channel, starting with a reference to The NumberHub material, made by Matt Parker from standupmaths and Numberphile.
And they say Infinity War was an epic cross

• Lugmillord says:

I actually measure lengths in broken laptops. Which is vastly different to regular laptops.

• sarcasmo57 says:

I watched this video 5 years ago and decided to name my son Shatments. He turns 4 on Monday.

• Theodore Ceylon says:

All those things are very definite, so, yeah, it's consistent.
Let's not forget that Britain claims to use the metric system but actually uses some crazy hodgepodge of metric and imperial and are the ones responsible for the imperial system in the first place.
Oh, and they weigh themselves in Stone, whatever that is.

• Tal Tamir says:

Only 5 of those are in the american imperial system. The rest are you falsely attributing all systems of measurement ever used by humanity to the imperial system. Also, to answer your question on why the roman mile is different from the british imperial mile is that the roman mile was the measurement system used by the roman empire thousands of years ago and is not part of the american imperial system. An american historian might use the term, but it is not an official measurement recognized by the USA.

• Mark Bevilacqua says:

Ya gotta love the imperial system

Dumb system.

• Near Void says:

The inventors of imperial are just making it up then

• seb deplanche says:

hopiless the french create the metric system

• MatchstalkMan says:

Irony: Patriots rebel against an imperial system in 1776 and become a progressive society with freedoms for everyone.

Use an imperial system of measurements.

• David Hood says:

And now Iām not surprised that these people voted for Trump.

• Matheus says:

Glad I was born in a country that uses the metric system

• Dead Ringer -Cult of Deathrattles says:

21st Century Edit:
(Ounces) Pounds
Inches, (Feet), yards, miles
(Fluid ounces), Teaspoons, tablespoons, cups, pints ,quarts, gallons

• Dead Ringer -Cult of Deathrattles says:

Everyoneās confused, but Americans are supposed to be bad at math šš

• Horny Fruit Flies says:

America was a mistake. When trying to gain independence from the UK, they threw away all the good things (tea) and kept all the bad things (the imperial system and imperialism)

• Timmie Collins says:

It is kinda sad that Americans, including myself, who are se naĆÆve, have to think of a pop/soda/fizzy to be able to imagine a liter. ( Iām also pretty sure that the soda isnāt even exactly a liter, either)

• Sofia May says:

Man: When did you not understand?
Me: At the beginning. Pls may u repeat that again? š
Man:O

• Ī“Ļ says:

0:37
Why are there not 36 barley corns, but 42?

• Oscar Wehmanen says:

If you can tell me exactly how many fluid ounces make a pound, you really understand the American system!

• Zornis Khan says:

One thumbs up equals three finger bones

• kelvin kedzhy says:

>the snake is 12 feet long
>How do you know that?
>I step on the damn thing as I measure it. See? More effective than your "meters" bullshit

• Stu Hasic says:

This needs to be extended to cover imperial weight and capacity measurements.

I'm here thanks to Arumba.

• Beltenebros says:

Where I come from we use the metric system, what it shows how manly you are if you can use imperial instead and you are on Chuck Norris level if you can convert back and forth and in fractions of inch, etc. No idea why.

• Games4us says:

because we are special!

• Music Man says:

Ironic seeing as it was the British who created this system.

• Akkusativ Singular says:

Most confusing system i have ever heared of

• Cosmic Nut says:

āUnwarrantedā attacks on imperial system? Any attack on imperial is VERY warranted. Iām American and I am jealous as heck of pretty much every other county with metrics. Celsius is also so much better than Fahrenheit.

• steve humphreys says:

pathetic. makes me hate metric

• iProgramInCpp says:

Blerh… A mile should have been 65,536 inches..

• dnaspower says:

What a mess.

• Dark White says:

What about other units? Also can we talk about how the abbreviations for imperial units work? Like how is pound lbs, ounce Oz etc.

• MrMCKlebeband says:

the whole imperial system is a shatment

• Michael Davis says:

Some of these conversion factors are totally incorrect, but anyways…

• camramaster says:

…. Nope. I'm sticking with metric.

• Delby Dank says:

I'm confused

bla bla bla i don't remember anything he said at first a hand a foot a gunters mile. use simpler and better systems micro meter mm cm dm m dhm km

imperials in skyrim no one joins them

• Matthew Hayden says:

Now show me how you read units of measurement smaller than 1mm off of a ruler or divide a 500g block of butter into 100g segments quickly and accurately. Metric isn't the best for all applications.

• Ar D says:

Take it slow America, take it slow, you'll learn Metric at your own pace, one foot after the other.

• Domihork says:

But if a fantasy writer came up with this, nerds and geeks would be learning it like crazy.

• Michael Warman says:

Someone needs to show this to Jacob Rees Mogg

• D P says:

These are the units everyday Americans use;

Inches/Feet/Miles (Yards are used but mostly for American football, hunting and fabrics)

12 inches = 1 foot

5280 feet = 1 mile

3 feet = 1 yard

1760 yards = 1 mile

Teaspoons/Tablespoons/Cups

3 Teaspoons = 1 Tablespoon

16 Tablespoons = 1 cup

Pints/Quarts/Gallons

2 cups = 1 pint

2 pints = 1 quart

4 quarts = 1 gallon

Ounces/Pounds/Tons

16 ounces = 1 pound

2000 pounds = 1 ton

All of the other units are garbage and are never used in everyday life.

• Nolife Johnson says:

Sorry I'm not well versed in the measurements of humpernickle that Europeans seem to be so proud of.

• John Clarky says:

1400 americans have disliked this

• Nathaniel Hoffman says:

• Captain Spy says:

The news used washing machines to measure a pothole. Why didn't we just use metrics. So much simpler

• Joe Medley says:

I actually think the best way to judge a system of measurement is how itās used. I would never use anything but metric in science or medicine, especially if I had to do unit conversion. I can change units by moving a decimal point with little chance of error. But my hobby is carpentry. I will only do carpentry in feet and inches because it does thirds, and quarters better than metric. These are exactly what I need in carpentry.

• whiteaxxxe says:

No. Really? Didnt know that. Tell me, that this is a joke. Not? Shoot the english. There is no hope.

• Rahmi Acar says:

1.3mm + 1.6mm = 2.9mm simple

Nazi-Germany fired with a 9mm Luger
United States fired back with a .38" Revolver
Axis lose, Allies win. (NOTE: The British Empire used 1940s American Smith & Wesson .38" Firearms to help fight the axis)

By the way, Nazi is a term for National Socialist Party

• Tim Duffie says:

How many angry reacts are there in a mile?

• djuro20 says:

The metric system is the tool of the devil! My car gets 40 rods to the hogshead and that's the way I likes it.

• evan hudder says:

Are these real?

• Thiago F says:

Guide to imperial system

Don't use it.

End of the guide.

• Luigi Spagnolo says:

I think that this measurement system has been created by a raccoon who was rummaging in a trashcan.

• henryscp says:

Uff the numbers a way to complex

• Simon Peters says:

Imperial System is the most unusable and ilogical crap that has ever been invented.

• Petrus Invictus says:

I am a Metric man 184cm. But your jibrsh made me allmost a believer!

• Boro Nut says:

You forgot four fingers is a KitKat

• LeekyNinja says:

I thought the metric system was harder

• sffgvcb1 says:

This works good for us in america. Plz no bully.

• Ronald says:

He's doing the system backward. It makes more practical sense when you go from big to little.
A mile is how long the average adult male travels at 1,000 strides. (Or 2,000 steps.)
And an acre is how much land the average adult male can work in one day.

• l l says:

The U.K. isn't a superpower and the only existing superpower doesn't use the imperial system.

• Sgt D says:

Yeah and most people don't use anything you said after the mile.

• Michael Davis says:

Even Better… Kill Centimeters and just use Millimeters!

• Faith says:

Stone x Leaf x monitor x burrito thats the best system.

• Micky D says:

I mean this stuff is easy to remember if you just base it on one thing like the foot. Also many people don't care, they just intuitively understand about how long these measurements are, which is the point of commonly used units.