Friday, February 15, 2013

If 10 was 11

It's easy to put a foot, or a finger, wrong in trying to convert those pesky metric measurements to real American ones, but converting tons to tons does seem a bit like painting the lily -- especially when 10 turns out to be 11.

This one's fairly widespread, suggesting that it started with the AP.* Here's the version from the WashPost:

The trail of a falling object is seen above a residential apartment block in the Urals city of Chelyabinsk. A meteor that scientists estimate weighed 10 tons (11 tons) streaked at supersonic speed over Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday, setting off blasts that injured some 500 people and frightened countless more.

I expect someone at the AP simply opened the stylebook to the metric conversion chart (p. 166) and followed the rule -- "Normally, the equivalent should be in parentheses after the metric figure" -- for converting metric tons to short tons. As Lawrence said of transliteration systems, that's really helpful if you already speak AP. The rest of the world is justified in being a little confused.

* Though it obviously persisted through the minimal sort of processing that agency copy gets these days at individual US websites; the screen grab from the N&O was provided by Strayhorn in the Triangle buro.

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Anonymous Mark P said...

I presume the original news story used a metric ton, usually spelled tonne, which is 1000 kilograms. Ten metric tons is equal to 11 U.S. tons to a good approximation.

4:06 PM, February 15, 2013  

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