I have found this phrase that as a non-native English speaker perplexes me:

...returning images with a resolution of up to one-half meter per pixel.

The possible meanings of "one-half" to me are:

  • Every pixel represents half a meter
  • Every pixel represents one and a half (1.5) meters
  • Every pixel may represent any possible distance between the minimum of half a meter and the maximum of one meter
  • Something entirely different

Can you please explain?

N.B. Is it

one and a half meter


one and a half meters ?

  • 2
    Without more context it's hard to say, but your first interpretation is probably correct. The statement would make sense for satellite photos, eg. There is no way that "one-half meter" would logically be said when the intent is "1.5 meters". – Hot Licks Mar 8 '17 at 12:17
  • The source is the Ars-Technica article: Inside NASA’s daring $8 billion plan to finally find extraterrestrial life. arstechnica.com/science/2017/03/… Look at the section "A prudent, but costly, pathway". Not much more context however, IMO. – George Mar 8 '17 at 12:30
  • That's no help. – Hot Licks Mar 8 '17 at 12:31
  • 1
    @TrevorD: I've asked a follow-on question about the meaning of "up to" in this context. english.stackexchange.com/questions/377423/… – James Mar 8 '17 at 15:31
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    Three-quarters and seven-tenths etc are very common, but for some reason one-half isn't, we would just say half. – davidlol Mar 8 '17 at 16:42

To me (a British English native) the expression is unambiguous in meaning:

0.5 metre per pixel [UK metre = US meter]
i.e. one-half of a metre per pixel

In answer to your N.B., the plural form would be:

one and a half metres (or meters)
1.5 metres (or meters)

Additionally, also note that the resolution is "up to one-half meter per pixel", so the resolution may be less than 0.5m per pixel, but no lower resolution limit is specified.

  • 1
    I agree, but it should be pointed out that the hyphenation in the example is incorrect or mistranscribed. If it is hyphenated at all it should be "one half-metre" — the half is associated with the metre, not the one. This may have been the cause of (or contributed to) the poster's difficulty. – David Mar 8 '17 at 20:23
  • 1
    @David I wouldn't make that assumption. I don't know why it was hyphenated - but I don't consider it as necessarily wrong. I read it as 'one half' of a metre, as distinct from (for example) 'three-quarters' of a metre, or 'one-quarter' of a metre. Granted, it's slightly unusual phraseology, but not necessarily wrong. – TrevorD Mar 9 '17 at 0:57
  • As you can see at the question's comments, the texted was an exact copy-paste from an Ars-Technical article. – George Mar 9 '17 at 17:04

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