Sam Venable  

Special Contributor

I don’t care what scientists and government officials and the collected masses of Eastern Europe have to say about the matter.

The metric system is just plain weird. So is everything associated with it. Those eggheads can argue all they want about metric’s uniformity and natural progression. I will stick with Americanese, thank you.

River-bottom farms are supposed to be measured in acres, not hectares.

Distances come in inches, feet, yards, and miles. Not millimeters, centimeters, meters, and kilometers.

If you catch a largemouth bass weighing 8 pounds, you proudly carry it to a taxidermist. If you catch a largemouth bass weighing 3.62 kilograms, you throw it back and wash your hands immediately, because it likely was foul-hooked, diseased or tainted by PCBs. If not all three.

When you purchase aged, brown water, the bottles should be sized in pints or portions of a quart. Not those god-awful liters.

So much for weights and measures. The people who deal in metric numbers also are prone to take temperatures with a Celsius thermometer. That’s where I get off.

When winter arrives and the temperature starts to drop, we should be able to look at our thermometers and know the road will get slippery when the mercury hits 32. Not zero.

Anders Celsius, the inventor of this nuttiness, was born in 1701 in Sweden. I guess it was only natural that little Anders would end up piddling with the thermometer, for he came from a long line of thinkers. Both his father and grandfather were mathematicians, and an uncle was a botanist.

Anders went a different route. He studied to be an astronomer. In 1730, he became a professor of astronomy. Ten years later, he was put in charge of a large, new observatory in his hometown of Uppsula. But even though Anders did some important research into determining the magnitude of stars, it is in the field of thermometry that we remember—and revile—his name.

If you ever took a course in high school or college chemistry, you were introduced to conversions from Fahrenheit to Celsius. (The Fahrenheit scale, by the way, was developed in 1724 by Gabriel Daniel Fahrenheit. Gabe was a German, but he must have been an American good ol’ boy at heart because he knew water freezes at 32 and boils at 212.)

Conversions are a nightmare. To convert Fahrenheit to Celsius, you must subtract 32 degrees and multiply by 5, then divide by 9. To convert Celsius to Fahrenheit, you must multiply by 9, divide by 5, and add 32 degrees.

Frustrating? Of course it is.

But allow me to let you in on a little secret. A no-joke, it’s-a-scientific fact, if-I’m-lyin’-I’m-dyin’ secret. To wit:

In 1742, when Anders developed the Celsius scale, he had it backwards from what it is today! According to his original scale, water boiled at 0 degrees and froze at 100. It wasn’t until a year later that the scale was reversed.

I am not making this up. If you don’t believe me, look it up in “Asimov’s Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology.” See page 272. Or else Google it to your heart’s content.

See? Told ya!

It’s bad enough that Anders developed his crazy scale in the first place. But the people in charge of the scientific community Way Back Then should have taken a hint. When Anders uncorked that 0-boil, 100-freeze theory, they should have tossed him out into the cold.

And given him a Fahrenheit thermometer to read while his teeth were chattering.

Sam Venable is an author, stand-up comedian, and humor columnist for the Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel. He may be reached at .