Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Glass Eye Pines
by Michael Hodges

Moving the Floral Sea
by Anne E. Johnson

Bounty Call
by Curtis C. Chen

by David Barber

Captain Quasar and the Fur Traders
by Milo James Fowler

Under a Steel Sky
by James Mapes

We Are Parts
by Matt Zandstra

A Repeating Pattern
by Michael McGlade

Shorter Stories

You Can Pay Me Now ...
by Arthur Carey

by Robin Wyatt Dunn

by M.E. Garber


Lysol Kills!
by John McCormick

Our Earth is Two Billion Years Old
by Thomas Elway



Comic Strips





Dead Nutz

NOW YOU WOULDN’T THINK THAT this engineer would get up in the wee small hours of a Monday morning to catch a big United Airlines jet plane for Denver to sit in a project review meeting to solve an engineering problem by saying just two words. Those words were “Dead Nutz”; words known to every machinist and engineer and draftsperson in the U.S.

The argument was that our group had designed a metric case, and their group was designing a matching printed circuit board of which the mounting holes had been dimensioned in imperial inches. The PCB designer had located the holes to the nearest 1/10 inch and through lots of handwaving tried to map his 1/10 inch grid over our preset metric hole-spacing. Much discussion by people who should have known better, and management who should have stayed out of it while I was enjoying the sun drenched and topless beaches in Guadeloupe, led only to a poorly fitting PCB.

First item on the agenda after formalities and introductions was the PCB. I put down my bear claw and glared at the PCB designer, pointed an accusatory finger at him and said “Dead Nutz!”

By this I meant that I knew he could put the holes anyplace he wanted and I also knew he just didn’t want to be bothered. We had had this conversation before and I was pissed. The holes would line up perfectly and all this nonsense would simply go away. The PCB designer silently picked up his papers, mumbled his excuses, and slinked away, having not said even one word. In an hour the job was finished. The holes would be the inch-equivalent of the metric dimensions to within the accuracy of the layout program, even if the PCB layout program didn’t do metric dimensioning (which I was sure it did anyway). Dead Nutz.

So the official drawing system for engineering drawing in the U.S. is ANSI Y14.5M (2009). Wanna know what the “M” stands for? It stands for metric. What is the officially sanctioned measurement system for the U.S.? Since 1866 it has been metric. What is the official measurement system of the military? Metric. What is the official dead nutzmeasurement system of science? Metric ... although many science-related programs on TV have regressed to using asinine dual-dimensioning. Eric’s Rule: If you really need to know that the average distance to the Moon is 240,000 miles instead of 380,000 kilometers, then you have to explain to me how your comprehension and understanding is improved. It’s nutz!

[Left, "Dead Nutz," a humorous technical drawing symbol that Hughes Aircraft engineers are said to actually use.]

I sometimes hear statements like, “Arcturus is 36.6 ly (light-years) distant which is 216 million million miles.” Are we clear on this? Are we better able to handle the day-to-day travail of our brief existence? BTW: “ly” is a metric-derived unit.

The U.S., Burma, and Liberia are the only countries on Earth that still use the imperial system ... which is not a “system” at all, but only a tangled old accumulation of unrelated units. And other than in the U.S., the imperial system will soon be abandoned. If it were not for the U.S.’ obstinate arrogance, stupidity and backwardness, the world would be metric in an instant (or a metric picosecond).

According to Wikipedia, “Flying an overloaded American International Airways aircraft from Miami to Maiquetia, Venezuela on 26 May 1994. The degree of overloading was consistent with ground crew reading the kilogram markings on the cargo as pounds.

“In 1999, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices reported that confusion between grains and grams led to a patient receiving 0.5 grams of phenobarbital instead of 0.5 grains (0.03 grams) after the practitioner misread the prescription.

“The Canadian Gimli Glider accident in 1983, when a Boeing 767 jet ran out of fuel in mid-flight, occurred because of mistakes made when calculating the fuel supply of Air Canada’s first aircraft to use metric measurements: mechanics miscalculated the amount of fuel required by the aircraft as a result of their unfamiliarity with metric units.

“The root cause of the loss in 1999 of NASA’s $125 million Mars Climate Orbiter was a mismatch of units—the spacecraft engineers calculated the thrust forces required for velocity changes using customary U.S. units whereas the team who built the thrusters were expecting a value in metric units as per the agreed specification.”

Units have played a role in other spacecraft screw-ups, too. In 2006, NASA’s DART spacecraft rammed into a military satellite it was merely meant to dock with because the GPS data was read as feet instead of meters. Kaboom! Nutz.

NASA used imperial units for the Space Shuttles and, against many protests, insisted on building its part of the International Space Station in imperial units instead of metric, which the rest of the world uses. So the ISS is half-metric and half-imperial. At the very least it means putting two sets of tools into orbit, where one would do nicely. The U.S.-made parts don’t fit on the metric parts. Nutz.

The rest of the world views the U.S. as at least slightly retarded in this and hopes that the day will come when we can all use metric. But they go along with our narrow-mindedness and obstinacy due to our economic influence. You want inches ... we’ll sell the Yankees bananas in inches.

Metrication of a company or a nation can be really slow if one chooses the absolutely longest route to get there as the U.S. has. You can do it in a day or 250 years. The choice is up to you. It is easy to hire preprogrammed consultants whose job it will be to show the enormous costs associated with tossing out all the imperial-unit machines and rulers. Let’s see: If everyone has $20 worth of inch-measuring instruments, that’s 330,000,000 people × $20 = $6.6 billion simoleons. It is not done that way of course. The “consultants” never seem to do a calculation of the time, energy, and spacecraft accidents saved by conversion to a clean, non-craziness system.

There are still special measurements done for special reasons. The nautical mile is used because the Earth is round and a nautical mile (NM or nmi) is equivalent to one minute of arc on the globe. One can still navigate without nautical miles, but the degrees, minutes, seconds, in both time and geometry, will be around for a long time. Note that nmi or NM units don’t transport well to other places like the Moon or Mars, but units of spherical geometry like latitude and longitude do.

Another charming correction the French made to systems of weights and measures was that the concept of “weight” was abandoned in favor of “mass.” Any so-called “weight” measurement in metric is mass by definition. Any imperial “weight” like ounces or pounds varies depending on where on Earth one finds oneself, or rather what its gravitational acceleration factor is at the time. (And it changes!) Thus, you could make a lot of money by buying a common avoirdupois pound of gold in Mount Nevado Huascarán in Peru, which has the lowest gravitational acceleration, for $20,000 and moving it to the surface of the Arctic Ocean which has the highest gravitational acceleration, so it “weighs” more. You would make a tidy one percent in the exchange, $200, and it’s all downhill, too. Don’t think the goldbugs don’t know this. That’s why gold and other valuable commodities are sold in metric units (Troy is directly convertible to metric grams, which is mass.) The mass never changes no matter where you are in the universe.

To bury the idea of weight once and for all, consider that a door on its hinges is weightless, but it has mass. Any object or substance, if we do not allow it to feel the Earth’s (and only the Earth’s) pull, has no weight. But everything has mass.

Thinking in metric is simply easier than thinking in imperial units. A liter of water weighs a kilogram and sits in a space of 0.1×0.1×0.1 meter. All the base units are interrelated. Even large and complicated design calculations can be done in one’s head. Virtually nobody calculates physics problems in imperial units.

Temperature in degrees Celsius (once called centigrade) is rather arbitrary. Fahrenheit, Roemer, Rankine, Reaumur, Newton, or Delisle are fine empirical temperature scales but they are not based on powers of ten like the metric units, and some are too big, some too small to suit everyone. In fact, Fahrenheit wrote to his friend that his temperature scale was built on the earlier work of Dutch astronomer Ole Roemer (the first person to measure the speed of light): In Roemer’s scheme, brine freezes at 0, water freezes and melts at 7.5, body temperature is 22.5, and water boils at 60. (Got that?) Fahrenheit multiplied each value by four to eliminate fractions and expand the scale. He then re-calibrated his scale using the melting point of ice as 30, human body (armpit) temperature at 90; he adjusted the scale so that the melting point of ice would be 32 and body temperature 96, so that 64 intervals would separate the two, allowing him to mark degree lines on his instruments by simply bisecting the interval six times. 32 F is also 180 divisions from 212 F, the boiling point of water. This is more convenient for instrument makers than for users.

Celsius (called Centigrade up until 1948—from Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius) is the official metric unit. Kelvin is also a metric unit and it has an exact
(-273.16) relationship to Celsius. Zero Kelvin (Kelvin is not referred to or typeset with a degree sign) is absolute zero and it goes up from there using Celsius-magnitude degrees. It is used for convenience in thermodynamics, physics and cosmology.

Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water,
Jack fell down and broke his crown
And Jill came tumbling after.

This nursery rhyme is a tale of dimensioning systems gone awry. A very plausible sounding suggestion has been proposed that the rhyme records the attempt by King Charles I to siphon more money from the taxes collected on alcohol. He was blocked by Parliament, so he cleverly reduced the volume of the jack (1/2 pint) and the jill or gill (1/4 pint). Thus he received more money for the same liquid volume of alcohol consumed, regardless of what Parliament demanded.

Early on, we decided to encourage the use of the metric system for stories in “Perihelion.” It looks plain stupid to carry the imperial “system” into the future. This author encourages every science student to use and get comfortable with the metric system. It’s the only measurement system there is. There are many good sources online to show you the elegant simplicity of it.

Eric M. Jones













bendayAbout Our Cover thumb Edward Evans produces science fiction, fantasy, and surreal art, inspired by films, music, literature, games, nature and the world around him. He often visualizes a future lost of hope, and yet conveys a sense of beauty from an ending. He works mainly digitally, because this gives a greater scope to create the artwork he wants.



metrics online