As a scientist, using the metric system on a daily basis is for me more than just a matter of ideology, convenience or a badge of honour showing off my credentials as a progressive global citizen in the modern world. Rather, it is the only way I am able to do good science and develop my understanding and knowledge of the universe.
To my mind, those who resist embracing this utterly sensible measuring system are in a way being antiscientific. While I find it amusing, I am in fact rather delighted when my students admit that they have no idea how long a yard is. This confirms to me that our education system is working.
I do hope that those outmoded – dare I say sometimes even xenophobic – voices calling for a return to the outdated Imperial system fade away and are ignored. While Imperial units themselves can be retained for amusing quiz questions like, “How many chains are there in a furlong?”.
Jim is a multiple award-winning science communicator renowned for his public engagement around the world through writing and broadcasting.
He is a leading academic, based at the University of Surrey where he holds a Distinguished Chair in physics as well as a university chair in the public engagement in science. He has made fundamental contributions to theoretical physics, particularly in nuclear reaction theory, quantum effects in biology, open quantum systems and the foundations of quantum mechanics. He received his PhD in nuclear reaction theory in 1989 and has published widely in this field. His current interest is in open quantum systems and the application of quantum mechanics in biology.
Jim has written 14 books on popular science and the history of science, between them translated into twenty-six languages. His latest book, The World According to Physics, was shortlisted for the Royal Society Book Prize.
He is a presenter of TV science documentaries, such as the BAFTA nominated Chemistry: A Volatile History, and hosts the long-running weekly BBC Radio 4 programme, The Life Scientific, in which he excels at making the work of distinguished scientists accessible to the public.
Jim is a past president of the British Science Association and a recipient of the Royal Society Michael Faraday medal and the Wilkins-Bernal-Medawar Medal, the Institute of Physics Kelvin Medal and the Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication. He received an OBE in 2007 and a CBE in 2021 for ‘services to science’.
On seeing a video of Jacob Rees-Mogg mocking social distancing rules, Jim tweeted: