“Americans probably use a greater variety of units of measurement than anyone else in the world. Caught in a slow-moving transition from customary to metric units, we employ a fascinating and sometimes frustrating mixture of units in talking about the same things. We measure the length of a race in meters, but the length of the long jump event in feet and inches. We speak of an engine’s power in horsepower and its displacement in liters. In the same dispatch, we describe a hurricane’s wind speed in knots and its central pressure in millibars.”