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Do you live with Celsius or Fahrenheit?

When I lived in the USA I spent my laboratory days in the Celsius-world.

 

Once I left the laboratory I found myself in the world of Fahrenheit.

 

The Celsius world was accompanied by his friends called cm, km and kg while Fahrenheit’s friends were inch, miles and pounds.

 

The laboratory had to follow the standard measurements while the country did not. And I had to learn how to switch!

 

But how did all this happen? Why do different countries use different measurements?

 

Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit

 

Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit (1686-1730) developed a scale in 1724 and put 0 °F as the point where a mixture of ice, water and a salt called ‘ammonium chloride’ stabilized. .

For the second point he used a mixture of only ice and water. This is the freezing point at 32 °F

The third point at 96 °F was the human body temperature.

 

Later the scale was slightly modified by setting the human body temperature to 98 °F and the water boiling point to exactly 212 °F (which is exactly 180 degrees higher than the freezing point of 32°F).

thermometer c-f

The Fahrenheit scale was the primary temperature standard used in English-speaking countries until the 1960s. Then Celsius replaced Fahrenheit in most countries; the USA being one the exceptions. Scientists use Celsius or Kelvin in all countries. Within the European Union, it is mandatory to use Kelvin or Celsius.

 

Funny that Germany is using Celsius and not Fahrenheit, even Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit was German!

 

Andres Celsius

 

Astronomer Anders Celsius (1701–1744) was from Sweden. He set the freezing point of water at 0 °C and the boiling point of water at 100 °C. On his scale, he first put 100 down and 0 up but this was reversed later by other scientists. Since temperature is always depending on pressure (see my post ‘Do you know why you can’t boil an egg on Mount Everest?’ the 0 °C is set at sea level pressure.

 

That is how Celsius is still taught in school and how it is logic to everyone!

 

Maybe that is the reason why the scale was changed. To confuse us against common sense. Officially it was changed to make it fit with Kelvin, the standard temperature of the thermodynamic temperature scale. Kelvin sets the absolute Zero at 0 Kelvin and the water’s triple point (=special purified water) at 273.16 K.

all 3 CFK

And to confuse us all, the Celsius scale is now defined from absolute 0 to water’s triple point as well! This makes a scale from -23.15 °C to 0.01 °C.

But luckily we don’t feel the new definition since temperature measures are now mostly electronically and do not show a scale. At my home however I still have some scales and they are (and will be) from 0 °C – 100 °C!

 pinguin joke

Being flexible

 

Now I live in a country that measures officially in Celsius but sells cookers that use Fahrenheit. My car is American and its thermometer uses Fahrenheit while my speed shows me miles as well as kilometers. Funny world, isn’t it? But I am still flexible.

I have an app that converts between Celsius and Fahrenheit as well as Kilograms and Pounds. But I am getting better and know the conversion by heart now e.g. 104 °F in my car means 40 °C and this means a very very hot day!

If you are interested you can calculate according to the following table:

Celsius
Fahrenheit [°F] = [°C] × 95 + 32 [°C] = ([°F] − 32) × 59
Kelvin [K] = [°C] + 273.15 [°C] = [K] − 273.15

 

Over to you!

 

What about you? Do you live in Celsius-world or Fahrenheit-world? Do you have to switch between your worlds?

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simplyilka

Hi I'm Ilka, a self-development writer and lovable scientist with a knowledgeable expertise in brain science. I help people realize the power our behavior has on our brain - and the other way around.

IW - February 5, 2015

Does my head in!! 😛 I did Celsius in Africa…and here in UK – is miles and I THINK they do temps for weather in Fahr- (cant spell the rest!)
Terribly very confusing. Then there is baking measurements… sheeesh.. US cups are different to UK cups aren’t they? And trying to measure grams in ml with a jug cos the scale is not working?! Flexibility is a good skill or we would snap! 😉

    simplyilka - February 7, 2015

    LOL Belinda! It is confusing indeed. And I am glad you are flexible enough to not snap 😉 I think the UK cup is 250 ml and the US one 240 ml. Don’t ask me why! I guess I would be in big trouble as well with my scale not working!

    Enjoy your day!

Nikshep - February 6, 2015

Haha, the only thing they did is to raise the temperature of our heads 😀 but nice one! I still remember struggling to understand the concept of Kelvin during my high school .. was a nightmare 😀

Have a nice weekend Ilka 🙂

Cheers,
Nik
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    simplyilka - February 7, 2015

    Hi Nik!

    Oh yes, understanding Kelvin can be a nightmare 😉
    There are always new definitions; just like they defined the temperature of our heads higher 🙂

    I am glad you enjoyed the post!
    Have also a great weekend, Ilka

yatin - February 6, 2015

I also had problem in understanding these two concepts. At that time, I used to think that what’s the use of two methods. What’s the reason behind getting the same method by learning two different methods.
Nice post, Ilka

    simplyilka - February 7, 2015

    Hi Yatin!

    I am glad you liked the post. Yes, sometimes we need to understand the history of something to see why it turned out that way it turned out.

    All the best, Ilka

Harleena Singh - February 6, 2015

Hi Ilka,

Lol…I have a spinning head already 🙂

Jokes apart, it certainly CAN get so confusing if we really sit to understand why they did what they did! I wish things were simpler, but like you, we are pretty flexible too!

We have the conversions at our home, in almost all the things that measure stuff, even my cooking area, where I need it the most! It would take me ages if I sat to convert…lol…

Thanks for sharing this with us. Have a nice weekend 🙂
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    simplyilka - February 7, 2015

    Hi Harleena!

    You are right! I also wish things would be simpler. Unfortunately, it is all pure definition and there is no logical 1:1 conversion.

    The cooking area is very important as well. There are all these different measurements in addition to the temperature.

    Thank you and have a great day, Ilka 🙂

Arpit Roy - February 6, 2015

Hi Ilka,

Reminded me of my school days 😛 This is a very common conversion problem that people face in their day-to-day life.

In-fact, NASA admitted to losing a Mars probe due to an error in unit conversion! It will be great to have International Units in place 🙂

Very nice post..have a good week ahead!
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    simplyilka - February 7, 2015

    Hi Arpit!

    I am glad you liked the post. 🙂 Wow! Amazing what a huge impact this unit conversion error had for NASA.

    I guess as long as people don’t like to change from their know ways implementing the international Standard is quite hard.

    All the best to you, Ilka

writerwannabe763 - February 6, 2015

I like in a Celsius world but unfortunately grew up in a Fahrenheit world.. and to this day find it very difficult to follow C degrees… cm and kg…. Diane
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    simplyilka - February 7, 2015

    Very fascinating Diane!

    Isn’t it interesting how we get used to things when we grow up? And later it is hard to change? All the examples here also shows how global our world really is. We all have similar experiences with conversions and being flexible.

    Thank you so much for sharing 🙂

writerwannabe763 - February 6, 2015

OOps that opening sentence should have read I ‘live’ in a…………. Diane
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ikechi - February 7, 2015

Hi Iika

You remind me of a great struggle. In my neighborhood we are very accustomed to the Celsius measurement but it is confusing to convert to Fahrenheit .Thank God for the Digital world.

I did enjoy the history and I too can now see the confusion. Thanks for this post.
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    simplyilka - February 7, 2015

    Hi Ikechi!

    You are right! Thank God for the digital world 🙂

    And sometimes we need to go back in history to understand how we ended up where we are.

    All the best to you, Ilka

Mi Muba - February 7, 2015

Hi Ilka

For people with no or lesser science background these two terms are always so confusing.

I heard many people saying both the terms are quite differnt measuring unit.

YOu cover the post in a very non-techie way and easy to understand for a layman person also.

Both the terms are also frequently used in climate change debate and that is why I already have their proper concpets.

The way you elaborated both the terms is just amazing and I appreciate your efforts.

Thanks for sharing.
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    simplyilka - February 7, 2015

    Hi Mimuba!

    Than you for your kind words. Yes, fitting 180 Fahrenheit units into 100 Celsius units can be confusing. And if Fahrenheit would have at least set the freezing point to 0 our lives would be much easier now 😉

    I can imagine that temperature conversion is a big part of climate discussions with the USA using Fahrenheit and the EU, China and other countries using Celsius.

    Have a great weekend, Ilka

Carol Amato - February 16, 2015

Hi, Ilka,

Wow, what a very informative article! Lots of fun reading about history too.

Well, here in the US, we’re using Farenheit, and when I lived in Italy, of course, had to convert everything to Celcius, as well as kg, km, etc. Never did get good at it.

Now we are here in the states again, so the weather app on my iPhone keeps me in the know about the weather all over the world so I can keep tabs on what’s happening with my family.

Awesome article, thanks for sharing.
˜Carol

˜Carol
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    simplyilka - February 19, 2015

    Hi Carol!

    I am glad you liked the post 🙂

    It is a funny thing how we feel so comfortable with the way we grew up and cannot really get used to some new things once we are adults.

    Good we have converters now! All the best to you!

    – Ilka

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