Monday, June 21, 2004

Our Friend, the Meter

This evening, I learned that one meter equals 39.3700787 inches. While this may come as no surprise to some people, it was one to me - for years, I had mistakenly believed a meter was 39.77 inches, and now I know it's basically 39.37.

Of course, I'm not alone in my confusion. A bit of research on Google revealed quite a few different conversions from meters to inches. Here are some of them:
Once again, the correct answer is right around 39.37 inches. Remember that - it'll be on the quiz!
Updated 6/24: More than a few people have kindly pointed out two things:
  1. When rounding to 1 significant digit, 40 inches is actually "correct," as is 39 when rounding to two, and 39.4 when rounding to three. So the USDA and Navy, along with the quilting folks, are not technically "wrong." The H2WTech folks, however, list 1 meter as 39.40 inches - four significant digits - and are therefore still wrong, as are the folks at Fife Products who list it as 39.0 inches - three significant digits.
  2. More usefully, there is, of course, a precise conversion factor of 1 inch = 2.54 centimeters. That's the correct way to convert things - inches x 2.54 / 100 = meters; meters x 100 / 2.54 = inches. Fair enough. This does, though, make me wonder why numerous sites listing metric conversion factors include both the precise one for inches and centimeters and somewhat arbitrary ones for inches and meters.

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