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You know what the rest of the world has figured out? The metric system. It’s time the US got on board.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Thanks - camarojones.wordpress.com

I’ve met a lot of people and learned a lot while traveling Europe the past several weeks. Of all the things I have had to explain to fellow travels as not only an American – but a Texan – by far the most frustrating thing is our stubborn refusal to embrace the metric system. I can confidently argue the finer points of how the use of y’all and the plural form all y’all are descriptive and have a place in the American lexicon. I take pleasure in explaining the intricacies of chicken fried foods.

But the metric system is another matter. “I don’t understand why y’all don’t use the metric system” is something I’ve heard too often. I don’t argue with them because there is no technical argument for why we haven’t adopted the Système Internationale – our refusal is based on emotion and familiarity.

Our choice of unit system is perhaps more important now than in recent years. Science is conducted using the language of SI units. If we want to have a scientifically literate populace, we should make sure that scientists and non-scientists speak the same language. In terms of national competitiveness, Americans are competing on a global market of information now more than ever. We are at a disadvantage by not speaking the international language of science at a time when we are struggling with truly global issues like climate change and resource depletion.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, the government arm that sets standards and measurements to support American competitiveness, concludes that “the current effort toward national metrification is based on the conclusion that industrial and commercial productivity, mathematics and science education, and the competitiveness of American products and services in world markets, will be enhanced by completing the change to the metric system of units. Failure to complete the change will increasingly handicap the Nation’s industry and economy.”

Perhaps the most ironic fact about use of our of U.S. customary units is that since 1893, we have been defining our system of units in terms of the meter and kilogram. We have essentially given ourselves the additional burden of converting from the international standard to our own system and then back again.

The closest the United States got to adopting the metric system was in 1975 when Congress passed the Metric Conversion Act designed to “coordinate and plan the increasing use of the metric system in the United States”. The Act did not include any hard requirements to actually transition to the metric system and so like solar panels on the White House, our conversion to metric was axed in the early 1980s.

So what can we do? In December 2012, someone started a We The People petition to make the metric system the standard in the United States. The petition received nearly 50,000 signatures and prompted a response from Patrick D. Gallagher, Undersecretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology, and Director of the National Institute for Standards and Technology:

In our voluntary system, it is the consumers who have the power to make this choice. So if you like, “speak” metric at home by setting your digital scales to kilograms and your thermometers to Celsius. Cook in metric with liters and grams and set your GPS to kilometers.

We were thrilled to see this petition from “We the People” succeed. Feedback like this from consumers shows everyone from policymakers to businesses how important having this choice is to Americans.

So choose to live your life in metric if you want, and thank you for signing on.

I have personally started using metric units in every day conversations with scientists and non-scientists alike. Like learning any language, you only become more skilled and eventually fluent by practicing the language often and consistently. For example, while traveling I’ve been relaying the temperature of my current location in Celsius to friends and family back home. This is often met with a “I don’t know what that means!” to which I respond with “40C is what it felt like yesterday in Austin (hot). 20C feels great. You’ll need a fleece or long-sleeve for 12C.” I don’t put it in terms of Fahrenheit. The point is not to convert, but to internalize.

Thanks to social media, I can spam everyone with metrification. I figure that if I have to see how far you ran today on MapMyRun, I can expose you to some metric units. Judging from the responses I get when I post metric status updates, the gap between the language of science and everyday people is real. From one friend:

The [English] system might be a pain, but it’s very good at explaining things in human terms. When it gets hot we can say ‘It hit triple digits this month!’.

But do humans have to be unscientific? According to the rest of the world (minus Liberia and Burma) the answer is “no”.

While speaking in metric at home is encouraged, I disagree with Mr. Gallagher’s statement that being bilingual in the unit system sense is good – it’s unnecessary. We need a national standard – not a choice – if we want to speak the language of science. Until that happens, there is always The Oatmeal’s method.

And for fun, two clips from The Simpsons about the metric system:

David Wogan About the Author: An engineer and policy researcher who writes about energy, technology, and policy - and everything in between. Based in Austin, Texas. Comments? david.m.wogan@gmail.com Follow on Twitter @davidwogan.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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Comments 87 Comments

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  1. 1. Scienceisnotagenda 10:44 am 08/20/2013

    I grew up with the metric system, use it in work, in my life . But…life is about more than efficiency.

    Why don’t we all wear gray clothes and give our babies a number rather than a name? It ‘makes sense’. Why not Rationalize spelling? No need for society to be run with robotic efficiency. Society is about people and culture.

    The USA leads the world in Nobel science awards….more than the rest of ‘the metric’ world combined. Little Johnny walking a mile to school instead of 1.6 kms matters because of what exactly?

    Link to this
  2. 2. jctyler 10:49 am 08/20/2013

    The illustration I use:

    My height is 172 cm. Which is 68,5 inches.

    Now divide both by 2, 3, 4 or whatever, see who can calculate it mentally AND get a (correct) result first.

    Link to this
  3. 3. jctyler 10:51 am 08/20/2013

    ‘The USA leads the world in Nobel science awards….more than the rest of ‘the metric’ world combined.’

    Not only wrong but utter nonsense.

    But it explains your nick.

    Link to this
  4. 4. sault 10:55 am 08/20/2013

    Agenda,

    Nice slippery slope argument combined with a reductio as absurdum. 2 logical fallicies in such a quick post! Nice work!

    Link to this
  5. 5. Richieo 11:15 am 08/20/2013

    I have been using both for over 30yrs, had to, to avoid blank looks, but have to admit, the metric system is far easier when you get used to it, in fact I prefer it.

    Link to this
  6. 6. AllenKnight 11:17 am 08/20/2013

    The UK used to use imperial measurements, and a decision was taken to sell goods in metric quantities, to bring Britain into line with the rest of Europe. When quantities are rounded to the nearest metric equivalent, it produces values which are inconvenient. You are forced to buy a 1kg bag of sugar that is larger than you want. Similarly, when drill bits and screws, and lumber are all sold in metric sizes it means imperial plans cannot be used and your toolkit is out-of-date and has to be replaced. Wholesale metrication is a nuisance: All you need to do is put metric values in brackets beside your imperial measurements. The drawback of imperial, is that it is not standardized. An American inch is smaller than a British inch, which causes errors on things like computer printouts, so that’s where you need to give both metric and imperial measurements.

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  7. 7. RDH 11:18 am 08/20/2013

    And we should move to hexadecimal as our primary number system.

    Link to this
  8. 8. rshoff 11:30 am 08/20/2013

    Practically speaking, we should have gone through with it in the 70s. We got so close, and it’s much more complicated now. Remember we lost a mars probe because of a simple metric conversion mistake.

    But I do wonder if other comments are correct too. If we were all carbon copies of each other, would we lose the opportunity to be innovative? The difference between an inch and a centimeter might be leveraged into a different perspective resulting in a different approach to a different idea. It may be exponential.

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  9. 9. Forsythkid 11:51 am 08/20/2013

    You know what…I just don’t care.

    Link to this
  10. 10. rshoff 12:25 pm 08/20/2013

    @forysth – Oh, you care! The question is ‘how much?’. Perhaps this is just at the bottom of your who gives a crap list….

    Link to this
  11. 11. The Dude 12:47 pm 08/20/2013

    While we’re at it, let’s make the whole world speak english and use the American dollar. Oh, I forgot…most already do.

    This is a non-issue for non-scientists.

    Link to this
  12. 12. vmfenimore 12:49 pm 08/20/2013

    If the UK is metric then why is it that whenever I watch one of their tv shows they keep referring to their weight in “stones”?

    Link to this
  13. 13. ozrkmtndd 12:54 pm 08/20/2013

    I remember the metric debacle of the 70′s–no thanks. Okay, have you considered the changes that have to occur on packaging, etc? Realistically: who really cares except for scientists and maybe some engineers? Believe it or not, some English measurements are better because the metric system is so linear. Besides, as my physics teacher in college pointed out: with the advent of calculators it just doesn’t matter. The rest of the world uses different monetary exchanges and that doesn’t seem to flummox anyone. Consider that I purchase 2 liter’s of coke, and a 20 oz. single at the register. :-)

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  14. 14. Owl905 1:07 pm 08/20/2013

    It’s always fun to see the cement-heads come out and scream about the good ol’ days done the good ol’ way.
    There is no justification for the retention of imperial measurement by anyone anywhere. It’s as ante bellum as British money and latin prescriptions.
    Here’s the simplest case of all. Ask any nation or region that is currently metric if they’d like to switch to imperial. Try and show them any argument whatsoever that this system of memorized multiples works any near as well as the basic system of 10s.
    When you’ve flunked out at that case, the only thing left is the admission that you’re too dim or crusty to adapt.

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  15. 15. rodrigobernardo 1:25 pm 08/20/2013

    (CNN) — NASA lost a $125 million Mars orbiter because a Lockheed Martin engineering team used English units of measurement while the agency’s team used the more conventional metric system for a key spacecraft operation, according to a review finding released Thursday.

    http://edition.cnn.com/TECH/space/9909/30/mars.metric.02/

    And some people subdivide inches in tenths, instead of the correct halves, quartes, etc.

    Link to this
  16. 16. Kathy K. 1:41 pm 08/20/2013

    Hmmm…no need to get nasty. All viewpoints are important. The bottom line will be the cost of implementation. Are we going to force manufacturers to retool their production lines?
    In U.S. schools metric measurement is used in the sciences and taught in math. Whether the students remember it after the class is over is another issue. There are conversion tables that can be referenced for this information.
    I like the idea of labeling reflecting both types of measurement. The point made about different monies was a good point. Final decisions have to be based on many factors, but most importantly on what is legally feasible and cost effective.

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  17. 17. David Cummings 1:49 pm 08/20/2013

    A gas tank full of liters of gasoline will get me just as far as a gas tank full of gallons.

    Link to this
  18. 18. M Tucker 1:54 pm 08/20/2013

    “If we want to have a scientifically literate populace, we should make sure that scientists and non-scientists speak the same language.”

    First, in the US the ‘populace’ is barely literate in our standard measurement system. Just do a “man in the street” survey. Ask how many feet in a mile? Ask what is a pint? Ask how many ounces in a quart or ounces in a pound? I once saw a caption of a photo saying the bright light on the top of the building in the photo could be seen from 10 miles out in space. And supposedly the person who wrote that caption was an educated journalist. And you want to change the measurement system on these illiterate, blissfully ignorant, unconcerned and uninterested folks? They haven’t even noticed that most of the beverages they purchase are already measured in liters.

    We will need to change everything in the US from the Public Land Survey System to how nurses measure temperature. Old cookbooks will become much more complicated for the barely literate to use if they can only get measuring cups and spoons and kitchen scales in the new metric system.

    So David, get used to it, the US ain’t gonna change and those who are interested in science will just need to be able to deal with multiple systems and conversions.

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  19. 19. Northern sage 1:56 pm 08/20/2013

    I’ll take 10 imperial gallons over 10 US gallons anyday!

    Have a look at other measurement deniers…

    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Metric_system.png

    Link to this
  20. 20. Scienceisnotagenda 2:10 pm 08/20/2013

    So lets change Metric from base 10 to base 12. More factors and mathematics is easier with greater function.

    Huh…why not? I thought the proponents of metric all worship efficiency.

    Humans are not machines. The standardization of civilization may be fine for robot worshipers. A universal language, monetary system etc. will lead to everyone part of the same fluff culture. I like my music edgy, literature off the wall and society a bit wonky.

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  21. 21. cbsimkins 2:26 pm 08/20/2013

    The sections of land on much of the country are laid out in miles, which also relates to acres. There is no reason to change those to metric, and many reasons not to change. The houses are built with 2 x 4 lumber, which by the way are not 2″ and 4″ anyway. Metric does not make this any better. And what will happen is that we will live with both systems because that is what will happen. My metric system car will use gallons and drive miles simply because it is convenient, even if it has metric threads and measurement. So I convert my 35mm slides to bits on my computer and no one cares if I print one onto an 8-1/2″ x 11″ sheet of paper on my printer. Get a life and stop trying to change what doesn’t need changing.

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  22. 22. Silkysmom 2:43 pm 08/20/2013

    I walked two miles to school and lived on a quarter section of land (160 acres). I have no idea how many hectares it is and don’t care. Produce prices are listed per lb but at the register are priced per kg so unless we do the conversion, we don’t know if we are being charged the correct amount. I am 5’8″and weigh 130 lbs and buy 2x4s at the lumber yard. I don’t understand why changing from Fahrenheit to Celsius helps world economy. Fahrenheit has more increments and is more accurate! My car gets good mileage. It was Trudeau’s idea to change to metric and complicated everything in Canada.

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  23. 23. jctyler 3:20 pm 08/20/2013

    It’s interesting to note the qualitative difference in reasoning between the metrics and the non-metrics. One couldn’t have hoped for a better illustration.

    Mr Wogan’s article is worth that alone.

    Link to this
  24. 24. jgrosay 3:24 pm 08/20/2013

    Adopting Metric system is not only starting to speak about distances in terms of kilometers and not in miles, (An air and sea mile is the equivalent of a minute of a an arc of circle in the Earth’s surface) but many more things, from the sense an screw is to be turned to move outwards, and so on, for example, British and German screws have a different shape of threads, and the process of changing from one system to another may induce mistakes, one of it was in the origin of the failure of a Mars probe to land correctly, as a mesh between American and Metric units was made, and the greater the technical development of a land, the largest the chances a change in measuring system producing untoward effects.
    However, it happened before: in Portugal, they built their Railroads with the European width of tracks, but in Spain, for reasons of allowing the circulation of heavier locomotives to perform well in hills, and Spain has many mountains, a wider railroad track was chosen. Portuguese soon realized that they had no other Railroad connection that to Spain, and decided to change the width ot their tracks to the Spanish width; they managed to do it in a pair of years, and without having to stop their railroad traffic, however, we are not in the XIX century, and things may become much more complex, just think in ‘the year 2000 effect’. Another peculiarity is that Russian airplanes are all Metric, while the rest of the world uses feet, inches, miles and so on. Pilots say that as one meter is around three feet, you have more accurate estimates of the height you’re flying, and how close you are to the terrain, if you measure in feet rather than in centimeters or meters. Would the English speaking world go Metric? Who knows?

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  25. 25. Thin-ice 3:34 pm 08/20/2013

    The biggest reason the US doesn’t adopt the metric system? Religion.
    Conservative evangelicals think the metric system is a plot of the anti-christ.

    No American politician, no matter how liberal, wants to risk the wrath of the Christian right and be called a pawn of Satan, by encouraging us to use the metric system.

    Yet another way in which America is in the dark ages while the rest of the world moves forward.

    Link to this
  26. 26. aaroncrossley 3:57 pm 08/20/2013

    A poem that helped make metric weather temperatures intuitive for me is:

    30 is hot.
    20 is nice.
    10 is cold.
    0 is ice.

    Link to this
  27. 27. john3141592 4:16 pm 08/20/2013

    If Silkysmom is Canadian, I’m surprised that she didn’t give her weight as nine stone, which would be less precise than 130 pounds, but no more accurate. Fahrenheit has smaller divisions than Celsius, so a temperature given in whole degrees is more precise, but no more accurate. (It’s a science thing — precision and accuracy — you could look it up.)

    And of course there’s the confusing fact that a pint of beer in Calgary is 20 ounces while one in Billings is 16.

    Any auto mechanic knows that it is impossible to work on a British or American car without metric wrenches, so that Imperial battle is long lost.

    Besides, I always liked Pierre Trudeau. And his wife, Margaret. Grrrr.

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  28. 28. rkipling 7:38 pm 08/20/2013

    It seems several people have little to talk about and less to do. I just wandered by to see how many. As you were.

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  29. 29. z34aa 8:45 pm 08/20/2013

    I have to say I have never been inconvenienced by using the American measurement system. Most everyone else in America can say the same thing. So it really comes down to what reason to we have to change? If it works why mess with it? Oh, I’m sure it would make things easier for scientists that work with fellows from other countries, but the number of people that need to use the metric system in the US on a day to day basis is small, at least in my experience. if anyone knows differently please chime in.

    It would be nice if the whole world used the same system, but then it would be even nicer if the whole world used the same language. Any volunteers to completely give up your native language in favor of a different one? No? didn’t think so. :P

    In the end the US is not going to change, other residents of the world can argue how great their system is (And hey, I’ll give you that, it’s fundamentally better than what we have now) until they are blue in the face, but until it is easier for the basic American to use than not, it’s not happening.

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  30. 30. John McGill 10:16 pm 08/20/2013

    If the US went metric, we would be pretty much unstoppable. Imagine producing products that could be sold just as easily in Asia or Europe as they are in Colorado – no repackaging or resizing required. Imagine saving months of school time wasted on the teaching of the English system. Imagine the returns in terms of prestige – the rest of the world rightly laughs at us for being incapable of change.

    We just need a strong, well-organized government shift to the metric system. The Australians took a country that had no experience whatsoever with the metric system (they weren’t even learning it in school) and, using a firm deadline and lots of communication with business and industry, switched the entire country to metric in less than 10 years. Why can’t we do that? We even have the benefits of a metric education. Guidance from Washington is required.

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  31. 31. Scienceisnotagenda 12:17 am 08/21/2013

    Sameness is fine for robots. When I go to France I like to hear French…not English. I like to eat paella in Spain, not Hot dogs. In The Uk, a pub on the corner is preferred to a liquor store.

    Reducing the world to ‘efficiency’ is important because….? Some end goal? I like diversity and culture, not economics, defining society.

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  32. 32. Bee 2:56 am 08/21/2013

    It’s just a matter of habit. On a national base, there’s no reason to prefer one over the other. The reason you should adopt the metric system is plainly that everybody else uses it and you’re making a global fool out of yourself. It’s nonsense of course that it’s up to ‘the people’ to ‘chose’ which unit system they want to use. The default in the States is that you get gasoline in gallons, temperatures in Fahrenheit and drinks in amounts I could never figure out what they have to do with volumes to begin with. You don’t change this by telling people they can ‘chose’ because, as a matter of fact, they can’t.

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  33. 33. SciStudent 5:00 am 08/21/2013

    As an Aussie, born just after the metric changeover. I understand feet and inches. Metric is a better system for nearly everything. A litre of water fits in a cube 100mm x 100mm x 100mm. It weighs 1 kg, 1,000 of them weigh one metric ton. Water freezes at zero degrees and boils at 100. Its a pretty simple system, easy to convert. What lots of Americans fail to understand is that their military has in part been using the metric system since at least 1942. I used to work on a US built warship with a US built gun control system. When we did shore bombardment drills, they were done in Metric, same as in the US navy. Reason: Maps of Europe and Asia are in metric and the US military realised was not smart to have their commanders trying to convert unfamiliar units back and forth while under fire. Same holds true today.
    For most things in real life you never really need to worry about conversion a pound is about half a kilogram, a quart is about a litre. It is annoying to need two sets of drill bits and wrenches. In 1993 when I lived in the US I drove a Japanese car with you guessed it metric parts.
    I am so glad that Australia went metric.

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  34. 34. David Cummings 5:20 am 08/21/2013

    I have 2 sets of wrenches. Metric and inches. I use them where necessary. I’ve never had a problem living with two systems. As a physics prof of mine once said, “you can measure your speed in furlongs per fortnight if you want, its still distance divided by time”.

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  35. 35. jctyler 7:18 am 08/21/2013

    not only to z34 and scienceisnot:

    a) language and measures are not the same thing; keeping it simple, the one is culture, the other is science; animals speak many different languages, I’ve never seen one run around with a measuring tape; it’s comparing apples and rockets (but suit yourself, each according to his own talents I say);

    b) the distance between Berlin and Rome is approx 960 km; care to calculate gas usage in litres per klicks vs gallons per miles? This applies to EVERYTHING ELSE;

    (on a side-note, why are European cars leaner, better handling and more gas-efficient than US cars? of course, one could say, we’ve always driven gasguzzlers and what do we care about mileage and safety and exports?)

    c) if the US was not such a big market in itself it would have switched to metrics decades ago = the blindness of the born rich;

    d) you are a modellbuilder; you want to scale down a Boeing Dreamliner to 1:28; by the time you converted the whole thing to US figures, your European buddy has finished his;

    e) to say that one has never been inconvenienced by the US system and that that is reason enough to keep it is like saying that one was never inconvencienced by “patriarchy” and that therefore there is no reason for that new fancy equal-rights stuff.

    and all that.

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  36. 36. Scienceisnotagenda 9:07 am 08/21/2013

    David c…true. The physics is still the physics. The language used to describe it changes nothing.

    Metric or Imperial…human constructs. Part of being human is culture. We don’t standardize human language for convenience….it’s what makes a society special.

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  37. 37. Fnordius 9:39 am 08/21/2013

    1. The U.S. Military uses the SI (metric) system. Exclusively. That means training all new personnel to re-think.
    2. Most new automobiles are already designed and use SI parts. Mechanics now use mm instead of fractions of inches.
    3. Metric has been in use in the USA for quite a while now, though often restricted to things like the two liter bottle and so on.

    I personally don’t think there will be much pain once the switch is made. Road speeds could go from 55 mph to 90 km/h, for example, as the switch to another system could tolerate rounding up or down in many instances where we aren’t that exact to begin with. Besides, those that need exactness have long since switched to using SI.

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  38. 38. methos1999 10:52 am 08/21/2013

    Reality is that the US is gradually changing to the metric system without any government mandate. Companies (large & small) that do business internationally have made it their internal standard to use metric simply out of efficiency. A great example of this is the auto industry – almost all the fasteners on modern US cars are metric, and hey, people adapted just fine from talking about 427 CID to 7.0 L.

    So this is to say “mandated changes” would be messy and problematic compared with voluntary changes. The switch will be made as needed (like in businesses).

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  39. 39. blove 1:17 pm 08/21/2013

    Actually having the difference between units of measurement is incredibly useful. It teaches children to question “facts”. The cornerstone of science isn’t ease of use, but inquiry. The fundamental basis to science is challenging and understanding those basic truths you take for granted. The biggest mistake Scientists make is the sin of assumption.

    These systems of measurement are subject to the same flaws in one sense. (For instance, people have a huge issue with size in metrics, not really understanding if something is 100 times bigger or smaller. People have an issue with conversion.) Moreover the question is not accuracy, since everything is quite truly and tritely a matter of relatively a meter is rarely the length it was the day before or the day after.

    Thus the real issue is method, not network effects or tradition. There are real issues with design in both the methods, and to be honest at least I can see where the flaws may have come from in the English system, but I really expected better out of the scientific community for the metric system, which has done its fair share in dumbing down the scientific community.

    Dual systems keeps scientists and consumers honest, because they focus on measurements and its methods. Realistically to assume one method of measurement is the end all be all is somewhat … less than smart. Reality doesn’t reflect how you measure things, rather how you measure things reflects what you think is important about reality.

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  40. 40. rkipling 8:15 pm 08/21/2013

    Cent wise and Euro foolish?

    I wouldn’t touch that with a 3.048 meter pole?

    16.18742568 hectares and an ox?

    I don’t know? Give a young engineer a centimeter and he’ll take a klick.

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  41. 41. bflat879 11:29 pm 08/21/2013

    I work in the hydraulics industry so I’m familiar with American standard fittings and Metric style fittings, along with British Pipe. There is nothing standard about metric, in this business, except the way it’s measured. You have your German Metric, French Metric, your Japanese Metric and now come the Chinese. You have German metric with British Pipe port connections and you might have J.I.S. or Japanese Industrial Standard, which may have a British Pipe thread and a 30 degree flare seat.

    You’d think that Metric O-Rings would be something easy, yet there is a European Standard and a Japanese Standard. Yes they’re measure metric, however their cross-sections are different.

    So we could go the the trouble and expense to convert to Metric but for what? So we can have a 12 mm wrench instead of a 7/16″ wrench? I’m sure this is going to happen, sooner or later, but there’s no sense of urgency that I can see, even from the scientific community.

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  42. 42. rkipling 11:48 pm 08/21/2013

    Another solution in search of a problem. Buy a crescent wrench.

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  43. 43. khadijah 1:27 am 08/22/2013

    “…our refusal is based on emotion and familiarity.”

    I don;t believe this is correct. ISTM that the government, some decades ago, did the work to estimate what the economic cost of conversion would be. The answer was something mind-boggling — like we would be giving away a substantial percentage of GDP for a number of years without getting any value in return.

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  44. 44. guyholdingthesounddish 2:41 am 08/22/2013

    “I don’t understand why y’all don’t use the metric system” is something I’ve heard too often. I don’t argue with them because there is no technical argument for why we haven’t adopted the Système Internationale – our refusal is based on emotion and familiarity.”

    No,it’s a monetary argument. In order to go metric we have to retool corporate America. All products and replacement parts would have to be produced in a different size. Start with the auto industry, and work down. Auto, Appliance, Consumer goods, packaging and everything else about American production would have to be re-tooled.

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  45. 45. jctyler 5:46 am 08/22/2013

    rkipling:

    one hundred cents in a Euro, one hundred cents in a Dollar?

    Taking Forex trading for the decimal system explains your income.

    Again, not understanding that sayings have become popular parlance in one language because the image, sound and rythm fit cannot be translated directly into another language? Whereas a French would say that “je n’y toucherais pas avec des pincettes.” You monolingual genius, you.

    we use treckers.

    Why don’t you try centimeters? It’s very simple, far simpler than inches:

    10 mm to a centimeter, 100 cm to a meter, 1000 meters to a kilometer.

    Therefore metric rulers are extremely simple to use.

    Now let’s see your rulers:

    16 fractions make an inch, 12 inches make a foot, 3 feet make a yard (or 36 inches), 63 360 inches or 5 280 feet or 1 760 yards make a mile.

    Why does still nothing click in your mind?

    Because if it’s “American” it must be better.

    You mistake flag-weaving for reasoning.

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  46. 46. jctyler 5:49 am 08/22/2013

    (sorry, I forgot that SciAm uses only US character code in the blogs, therefore automatically deleting anything that is not US; whereas in its international version it uses of course international code. ‘sigh’)

    rkipling:

    ‘Cent wise and Euro foolish?’

    one hundred cents in a Euro, one hundred cents in a Dollar?

    Taking Forex trading for the decimal system explains your income.

    ‘I wouldn’t touch that with a 3.048 meter pole?’

    Again, not understanding that sayings have become popular parlance in one language because the image, sound and rythm fit cannot be translated directly into another language? Whereas a French would say that “je n’y toucherais pas avec des pincettes.” You monolingual genius, you.

    ’16.18742568 hectares and an ox?’

    We use treckers.

    ‘I don’t know? Give a young engineer a centimeter and he’ll take a klick.’

    Why don’t you try centimeters? It’s very simple, far simpler than inches:

    10 mm to a centimeter, 100 cm to a meter, 1000 meters to a kilometer.

    Therefore metric rulers are extremely simple to use.

    Now let’s see your rulers:

    16 fractions make an inch, 12 inches make a foot, 3 feet make a yard (or 36 inches), 63 360 inches or 5 280 feet or 1 760 yards make a mile.

    Why does still nothing click in your mind?

    Because if it’s “American” it must be better.

    You mistake flag-weaving for reasoning.

    Link to this
  47. 47. jctyler 5:54 am 08/22/2013

    when you guys threw the tea overboard you should have ditched the english measuring too.

    it’s the empire’s revenge.

    Link to this
  48. 48. rkipling 7:10 am 08/22/2013

    Well, you folks jumped on my comments faster than a French border guard in running shoes with a coupon for free cigarettes.

    It was an attempt at humor. As good ol’ Charlie Brown would say, “Good Grief!”

    I could have said, “Top of the mornin’ to ya.” and been called an ugly American. Lighten up every chance you get.

    And the expression is “flag waving” not “flag-weaving.” Almost all the weaving is done in China now. The next time I visit my uncles in Colleville-sur-Mer I’ll tell them to cut out all that flag waving.

    Link to this
  49. 49. rkipling 7:16 am 08/22/2013

    I’m sorry. The “weaving” is probably just your accent. Isn’t it?

    Link to this
  50. 50. jctyler 7:41 am 08/22/2013

    so one typo from a multi-lingual non-american commenter is enough for you to enter more of your same?

    (isn’t that calvados country? don’t drink and think is what I say. à la tienne ‘g’ )

    Link to this
  51. 51. jctyler 7:44 am 08/22/2013

    actually, nonwithstanding the typo, I like flag-weaving in the context because you embroider on the US measurement system to make your flag look better.

    ‘santé’ (one more comment from you and I won’t be legally in a position to drive home anymore. ‘g’)

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  52. 52. jdege 8:29 am 08/22/2013

    With regard to the question, why isn’t the US on the metric system, the answer is it is, and has been since 1866. That’s when Congress passed a law making use of the metric system legal in the US.

    But as for the larger question, when will the government of the US mandate the use of the metric system, the answer is larger – no such mandate can be legitimate, in any free society.

    Anyone in the US is free to use the metric system, should they so choose. And that’s as far as it is any of the government’s business.

    Link to this
  53. 53. rkipling 8:31 am 08/22/2013

    Colleville-sur-Mer is the WWII American cemetery at Normandy.

    And you really are humorless.

    Link to this
  54. 54. Jeeze 8:53 am 08/22/2013

    “No,it’s a monetary argument. In order to go metric we have to retool corporate America. All products and replacement parts would have to be produced in a different size. Start with the auto industry, and work down. Auto, Appliance, Consumer goods, packaging and everything else about American production would have to be re-tooled.”

    It’s BOTH. Absolutely it’s an economic argument about retooling America, but who uses the end product? Start with the American consumer who already owns and uses them. 300 million people in businesses AND homes.

    The American consumer already owns appliances and tools and is trained to use them in a particular way. Now you’re talking about training an entire population to think completely differently, and ultimately having to buy ALL NEW products. With some folks thinking that it’s merely about math, it’s a lot more than that. Every wrench? Try every measuring spoon in every kitchen drawer. Every recipe in every cookbook. Every thermostat on the wall, every bathroom scale, every ruler…

    It’s emotional, it’s familiar AND it’s economic. Triple whammy. We can do it but it’s foolish to think that this wouldn’t take several generations to accomplish and there would be huge resistance, which would slow it down.

    Link to this
  55. 55. rkipling 10:01 am 08/22/2013

    jctyler,

    “Now go away or I shall taunt you a second time-a.”

    Link to this
  56. 56. nperm 12:35 pm 08/22/2013

    “The USA leads the world in Nobel science awards….more than the rest of ‘the metric’ world combined. Little Johnny walking a mile to school instead of 1.6 kms matters because of what exactly?”

    It is hard to tell if USA would have even more Nobel science award if it would adopt metric system many years ago.

    And Johnny could easily calculate in his head on the way home how long would it take him to get home if he runs the distance with the same speed he runs 100 meters sprint. because you don’t need a calculator to divide by 10.

    If he decides to use calculator, it is 10-based. 2.89 or 2.77 ft can’t be easily expressed in inches, but for metric measurements it can be done in a split of a second.

    Ordinary kids become discouraged with math exercises for every day life in elementary school because there are different divisors for every measuring unit. I feel bad that kids in US can not benefit from simplicity of metric system. US customary system kills all the fun of solving simple problems. (except of money problems, which are metric)

    Then, don’t be surprised why ordinary computer coding jobs get outsources and graduates in US can’t find any job.

    Link to this
  57. 57. rkipling 1:23 pm 08/22/2013

    I keep trying to make the point that this is a silly discussion. It’s a non-issue. Most of everybody has a phone with an app for that. It will take care of itself.

    Some want to talk about graduates not finding jobs. Even with Obama in office our unemployment rate is better than European countries. And he’s doing all he can to make us like Europe.

    Some of us are able to do a few things. We listen to everything you say and write. So, you may want to lighten up on the insults. We know where you live.

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  58. 58. jctyler 2:28 pm 08/22/2013

    ‘Colleville-sur-Mer is the WWII American cemetery at Normandy.’

    There are so many of them, are you seriously expecting me to know them all? The one I known is Bayeux. Do you know it? Still, it’s calvados country. Which is not the French cavalry.

    ‘And you really are humorless.’

    Sorry for not having guessed that you used your uncles’ last resting place for a joke. Now that you’ve explained it, hahaha, your sense of humour is galactic.

    Link to this
  59. 59. jctyler 2:46 pm 08/22/2013

    ‘Even with Obama in office our unemployment rate is better than European countries.’

    Now really??? Only if you use US metrics. And rounding up. Oh, you mean, we save so much time that half our workforce can go home and rest while your guys still “work” out the inches and fractions?

    Anyway, I believed the point was which system was the easiest to use, not how to pervert inches to express political views and making jokes about where one’s uncles died.

    But let me quote nperm because I’ve seen this with US craftsmen:

    ‘Ordinary kids become discouraged with math exercises for every day life in elementary school because there are different divisors for every measuring unit. I feel bad that kids in US can not benefit from simplicity of metric system.’

    Is exactly my point. I worked with US carpenters in the EU and without anyone forcing them to they all switched to EU metrics within days.

    Link to this
  60. 60. rkipling 2:56 pm 08/22/2013

    The cemetery and humorless remarks were separate.

    The next time Germany invades France, we will make them keep it.

    Link to this
  61. 61. rkipling 3:05 pm 08/22/2013

    “The Eiffel Tower was evacuated after a suspicious package was found. French investigators were baffled by this object for hours. It turns out it was just a can of deodorant. They had never seen anything like that.” –Jay Leno

    “Someone hacked the Facebook account of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Or not really hacked. Someone asked for his password and he surrendered it.” –Jimmy Kimmel

    “There are strikes all over France because the government wants to raise the retirement age. The strikes are threatening the French way of life. Yesterday, an American had to walk all the way across Paris without getting insulted.” –Craig Ferguson

    “After complaints about women being forced to wear veils on their face, the French parliament approved a ban on burqas. It is, however, still legal in France to wear the same sour-smelling shirt 20 days in a row.” –Jimmy Fallon

    “The British government sent a warship to France to bring home stranded Britons. There was an embarrassing moment — when the ship pulled up to the port, the French immediately surrendered.” –Jay Leno

    Do you give up yet?

    Link to this
  62. 62. jctyler 3:50 pm 08/22/2013

    There was something about points like these

    ‘Absolutely it’s an economic argument about retooling America’

    ‘The bottom line will be the cost of implementation. Are we going to force manufacturers to retool their production lines?’

    that intrigued me. Here’s the short of it:

    If I was a tool manufacturer I’d press Congress to turn the US over to the decimal metric system.

    Guess why?

    WHAT A MARKET!!!

    Link to this
  63. 63. jctyler 4:06 pm 08/22/2013

    rkip:

    quoting Jay Egghead Leno e.a.? Here comes Jean Dupont:

    Quelle est la différence entre un yaourt et un Américain?

    Un jour, le yaourt finira par developper une certaine culture.

    Same tack, your language:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pgjh9QEUBmM

    don’t give up ‘ggg’

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  64. 64. rkipling 4:14 pm 08/22/2013

    “Somebody was telling me about the French Army rifle that was being advertised on eBay the other day
    – the description was, ‘Never shot. Dropped once”

    The French battle flag – three white fleur-de-lies on a white background.

    “I just love the French. They taste like chicken!” Hannibal Lecter

    “We can stand here like the French, or we can do something about it.” Marge Simpson

    Link to this
  65. 65. rkipling 4:15 pm 08/22/2013

    Now isn’t this more fun than discussing issues about science?

    Link to this
  66. 66. rkipling 4:44 pm 08/22/2013

    It occurs to me that you may not be in France at all. You may be heartlessly trying to sow discord between the U.S. of A. and the Republic of France.

    It’s the old Sow Discord Ploy. As Inspector Clouseau said, “There is a time to laugh and a time not to laugh, and this is not one of them.”

    Link to this
  67. 67. Crasher 7:23 pm 08/22/2013

    Having been schooled in the imperial system and in the last few years of school moved to the metric system it was a bit of a slog. However I am now proficient in both. (The US seems to have a slightly different set of imperial measurements as well eg different Gallon) It would seem smart to have a single system now that the world is so much smaller and trade so important. Not to mention conversion errors in engineering etc.
    Metrics are so much easier, just 10′s to remember

    Link to this
  68. 68. Overlook 8:41 pm 08/22/2013

    If I remember correctly, the 1970s were the last time this was a “hot topic” here in the US. We had a weak economy, the world was not respecting us, Jimmy Carter was president, And the pundits said that everything would be so much better if we switched over to the metric system.

    Some things never change. When America flirts with socialism and then sees things go downhill, some folks want to go metric. Like it will help.

    Link to this
  69. 69. waterpro 8:43 pm 08/22/2013

    I work in the water industry. We work on piping systems that may be fifty years old or older.

    So we change to metric. Then we need an adapter so we can connect this pipe that is a different size. We already have 1/2″, 3/4″, 1″, 1 1/4″, 1 1/2″ and so on to 60″ and bigger. We already have adapters for this, now pile on the adapters to get all these sizes to metric. We also have iron pipe size, cast iron pipe size, copper pipe size, and many other specialty sizes.

    Some of the piping being installed today has 1000 year life design. So this issue will be around for a very long time.

    This would be every municipal water and sewer system.
    Actually some of the pipe is labeled in metric but it is still the standard american size.

    I agree with the other comment that the roads are on mile grids in a lot of places. So if I am suppose to go 8 kilometers how many intersections is that. (5)

    I don’t mind that they change cars to metric, I just didn’t like it when they started changing and half was metric and half was fractional.

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  70. 70. ErnestPayne 9:30 pm 08/22/2013

    Having bounced around, during my life, using Imperial, American, and Metric systems I find I prefer metric. Now about getting americans to drop the paper dollar for a coin? Perhaps Canadians are just more adaptable to change. I have moved through God Save The Queen to The Maple Leaf Forever to Oh Canada (which btw has had changes) and from the Union Jack through the Red Ensign to the Maple Leaf. If Canadians can do it perhaps americans should “man up” and adapt.

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  71. 71. z34aa 10:11 pm 08/22/2013

    Since the US using the American system seems to bother the rest of the world so much, how about the rest of the world pay the hundreds of billions it would cost to convert? I would be willing to set up the fund if any one here wants to donate. :P

    Of course I’ll probably use the money for some other project, but the same thing would happen if you gave it to our government instead, so that’s no big deal, right?

    Link to this
  72. 72. rkipling 12:12 am 08/23/2013

    It’s an amazement to me that people can get so worked up over this? The ones who resent US the most seem to be the most strident advocates for US to change. If it is detrimental for us to maintain status quo, looks like they would be just fine with that?

    Some are of the belief that if they don’t recognize problems with their proposals, then the problems must not exist. They believe they are correct by definition. Conversion to the metric system just isn’t a necessity. The vast majority of people simply don’t care what units are used. The people who need to use units of measure can and do use both systems without any noticeable difficulty. If you want disruption, just mandate a change then try to enforce it.

    As far as the sniping between nationalities, we actually don’t have a problem with anybody as long as they aren’t trying to kill us. We stopped waging wars of conquest sometime back. So, why don’t you like us? Huh??? Sniff, sniff. In reality, pretty much nobody but Obama cares why. So do what you like. We will still be there if you need us again. And don’t worry. We won’t expect anything in return.

    jctyler,

    Are you that waiter at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon? Just because I wouldn’t try the eel potatoes is no reason to hold a grudge.

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  73. 73. rkipling 12:50 am 08/23/2013

    Here is a link to an energy story the site editors seem to be trying to bury. It isn’t shown in the Latest Stories or the Energy and Sustainability topic.

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/the-curious-wavefunction/2013/08/22/nuclear-vs-renewables-a-tale-of-disparities/#comment-2055

    Link to this
  74. 74. jctyler 5:21 am 08/23/2013

    I don’t see what the quote below has got to do with the topic which in essence is about which measurement system is easier to use but since someone brought it up:

    ‘As far as the sniping between nationalities, we actually don’t have a problem with anybody as long as they aren’t trying to kill us.’

    This inanity is the exact reason why the US are so hated in many Third-World countries where US politics barely disguise their heavy military defence of US big business. Killing people in their own homes without a honest reason as invaders in far away countries is the main reason for post-war traumatic stress disorder.

    Why is half the US population not understanding why other nationalities demand the same and expect the US government to stop killing people abroad in their own countries? A pure case of US politicians believing they can do whatever they want, from having Allende killed to keeping Guantanamo and killing by drones wherever whomever they want. What do you expect if you keep invading other countries for your oil industry’s sake, protecting dictators who suit you, or as McNamara put it “he may be a sob, but he is our sob”. What kind of moral is that? The US is widely perceived as a very aggressive colonialist. And for a good reason. What many USamericans conveniently overlook is that most “terrorism” is not AGAINST the US but a reaction to aggression by US politics in the name of big business.

    ‘We stopped waging wars of conquest sometime back.’

    That is the most ignorant comment I’ve read in a long time. The US is still today engaged in heavy warfare for the sake of commercial conquest. Did it ever strike the commenter that the US engages militarly only in those countries where it has huge commercial interests? Did the commenter ever wonder why even the top US military brass has advised against US government politics? Was the commenter ever intrigued why the US military understands and prepares for climate change when US politicians VOTE that climate change is not happening?

    And so proud of its ‘freedom’. Ever heard of NSA? PRISM? Or consider this little detail which perfectly illustrates the whole:

    http://www.wnd.com/2013/08/nsa-crushes-free-speech-on-t-shirts/

    ‘So, why don’t you like us?’

    ‘We’ don’t like the likes of ‘you’, the arrogant, ignorant, egotistical USamerican, the one who believes that freedom of speech and democracy are US inventions and who therefore claim to know best. ‘You’ haven’t and you don’t.

    But we are also aware that ‘you’ are a dwindling minority. What we like is the growing majority of true Americans.

    ‘We’ like the ideas that America, which is not the same as official USA, represents. America is after all the result of an international effort, the North especially as a place so ideally located that it was perfect for the latest experiment in human progress.

    ‘We’ love those who represent these ideas, from Rousseau to George Carver to Miles and Kahnemann (and Elmore Leonard), ‘We’ don’t like Bush politics, Rockefeller exploitation, the idiotic, arrogant Friedmans, the Henry Fords who were the very first to support Nazis or the Monsantos who kill Nature. ‘We’ love the future, ‘you’ are the past.

    I doubt the commenter I quote will ever get it, not even if I was George Carlin, his comment on Obama already exposed him sufficiently. I simply reply for the sake of those who understand my POV and who’d otherwise may feel isolated if no one speaks up. So I speak up because I believe such comments are too dangerous to be left unanswered.

    I hope the digression is accepted in the circumstance.

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  75. 75. wjong 6:22 am 08/23/2013

    The US Metric Act of 1866, made metric measures official, and legal, in the US. Thats 147 years ago. The change to metric is occuring very slowly, and it will probably take another 147 years, before the US adopts metric measures.

    The change of measures to metric, is a slow change, that can take generations, because its a change in thinking. To change to metric, is to “think in metric only”, with no, or very little need, to convert, to any other measurement.

    All countries use the metric system. However, no country is totally 100% metric, or totally any other system of measurement.

    Worldwide metric is advancing, and other (traditional, USC, and Imperial) units of measure are in decline.

    Its alway very apparent, that people living in the UK, Canada, and the US, have to use conversions, when metric measures are encountered, because they are still in transit to metric, they still think in non metric measures, whereas people in Australia, South Africa, or Europe, don’t use conversions, because they “think in metric only” and use metric only.

    The US will eventually change to metric. It will be forced to, and it will do it willingly. It will be a long slow change, and will most likely occur from bottom up. Driven from the people, not the government.

    History has shown that the US, once stood in isolation, removed from Europe, and most of the world. However since WWII, the US has removed itself from isolation, and now communicates through the global community around the world.

    Is the US, to remain in measurement isolation, using measures that are globally redundant, or is it to use more and more, the international language of measures. The metric system.

    Link to this
  76. 76. rkipling 8:34 am 08/23/2013

    jctyler,

    Spend all the time writing long-winded replies. I got bored and quit reading a couple of paragraphs in. That should be more than enough from you to put you on the list anyway. Say fromage for the cameras.

    It seems you won’t understand that whatever your views, I have no animosity toward you. You don’t seem to understand sarcasm or humor. You are just no fun anymore. So enjoy writing all the invective you like. It just doesn’t matter because no one cares.

    I’ll bet you are that waiter. Your tone sounds just like him.

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  77. 77. skruse 12:18 pm 08/23/2013

    The Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988 states the legal and preferred system of measurement for all US Trade and Commerce is SI, the modern metric system. Our money, electricity, paper, clothing, movies, computers and many other things are metric. It is only the US Postal Service, USDA and other agencies that are dragging their feet.

    I model what I teach and always remember that “a gram of prevention is worth three kilograms of cure.” No one objects to being paid in metric money or using metric electricity. Time to move forward!

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  78. 78. G. Wendel 11:51 pm 08/26/2013

    Electric power is measured and billed in kilowatt hours (not metric) and the FCC requires tower heights in meters but transmit power in watts, not horsepower (metric).

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  79. 79. Eromanga 12:02 am 08/27/2013

    Not too sure I understand why one needs to re-tool America if it changed to metric. Metric doesn’t actually change the size, length etc of things it’s just another way of expressing the size, length etc of things.

    Link to this
  80. 80. jctyler 4:02 pm 08/27/2013

    G. Wendel:

    ‘Electric power is measured and billed in kilowatt hours (not metric)’

    If I remember correctly:

    - one hour is a 24th of a day; this is a segment of a longitude (yaoogle for precision) and a certain part of a circle (since circles are hard to divide into ten segments); and while it is nothing to do with the Système International (SI) it is globally accepted as being the most practical way to divide “the circle of a day” (except for the US which uses AM and PM, a completely unnecessary complication (because too few USamericans can count beyond 12 which they never learned because they gave up after inches and pints?)); if you want to disprove the metric system by this logic you might also want to try the days and weeks in a year;

    - one kWh is one hour of 1 kW; it doesn’t get more metric than that.

    Hours are accepted universally because they make sense; so are days and weeks per year.

    So I’m not sure what you wanted to prove.

    Link to this
  81. 81. jctyler 4:17 pm 08/27/2013

    Eromanga:

    ‘Metric doesn’t actually change the size, length etc of things it’s just another way of expressing the size, length etc of things.’

    Very true.

    I have a piece of timber 4,20 m long. I need to cut it in three equal pieces. 4,20 m is 420 cm divided by 3 is 140 cm or 1,40 m. I calculated this while I typed.

    Now, you’re a US carpenter, you have a piece of let’s say 4yd 2ft long (not the same as 4,2 m, only to start from an equally round-figure length) and you need to cut it into three.

    But seriously, since this has been discussed and explained at length (yeah, I know, the pun), are you trolling or did you simply not read the previous comments?

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  82. 82. Varela 6:13 pm 09/14/2013

    Im neither american nor english I think some people are missing the main point, is not about which one is better but about the world having the same metric system. That would made life easier for everyone in this globalized world, the question is: should USA change or the rest of the world? I guess the answer is obvious.

    Personally im just tired of reading stuff on the internet from america and constantly having to convert to cm (etc), I think is a rather unecessary confusion and change is inevitable.

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  83. 83. IncognitoK 8:56 pm 11/4/2013

    I don’t understand. People think we’ll be an uniform nation just because we change our system.

    We’ll still be the infamous over-confident, proud, over-fed, malnourished country that uses the metric system.

    Not a country who’s just like the rest of the world. Look at different points-of-view. Not just a negative thought.

    Some people hate math because they find it too confusing. The metric systems will help us, I hope.

    We obviously do horrible in math. Last time I checked, we placed 25th.

    So I think the countries have an edge over us. Unless we learn metric before we take the test.

    Just because we would be giving up a complex, intricate of a mess to a more easier one doesn’t make us Japanese. Doesn’t make us Canadian. Doesn’t make us European.

    I mean, look at Japan. The world’s borrow language. Is it like USA? No. It eats seaweed as a flavor for candy bars, for crying out loud. The won’t be like us for a long time.

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  84. 84. JackVance 5:27 am 03/20/2014

    The main reason that the USA is not ready to convert is familiarity, of course. We simply cannot think in metric terms while we have an intuitive sense of miles, yards, feet and inches. That said, there are a few logical reasons as well.

    Perhaps the most important reason is that the metric system provides no unit to replace the foot which is an extremely useful size to measure most everyday, human-scale objects. The metric system has us going straight from meters (which we can easily “feel” since it is so close to a yard – we also can easily add the approx. extra three inches) to centimeters. Breaking the meter (yard) into 100 pieces is just too many units. When I was taught the metric system back in 1976 (third grade), we learned about the decimeter, but I have never, ever seen anyone use the decimeter in real life and at ten to the meter, even the decimeter is not nearly as useful a length as the foot.

    Think of a persons height. If we say someone is 173cm, because of the high number of centimeters, an intuitive conception of that number is not much different than 178 centimeters. For estimating, they amount to the same thing – its approx. 2.8 percent and “feels” negligible. Thinking in terms of meters is even worse because 1.73 meters versus 1.78 makes the difference feel even less substantial. To us, it’s something you round off or it’s like “5 cents” – who cares.

    Thinking in feet and inches, however, allows one to think of a useful number of feet, 5 or 6 – numbers small enough to picture in one’s head – plus a small number of inches, say 8 or 10. It is much easier to mentally picture the difference between 8 and 10 inches (20 percent and a larger, more useful actual length than a cm) versus the relative difference between 173 and 178 or even 73 and 78.

    Obviously we are aware of what five centimeters looks like (contrary to what the world likes to think, we are not all stupid) and it is not an insignificant length, but for measuring everyday objects such as people, refrigerators, furniture and…digital watches, the English system is vastly more useful.

    While the metric system’s decimal nature simplifies calculations, it’s inherent failure to provide a unit analagous to the foot – one of the most useful length units ever used – makes it inferior for everyday human-scale measuring and estimation.

    Yes, we could learn to think in metric terms, but until we have compelling reasons to do so, outside of scientific pursuits and the necessity of dealing with the rest of the non-exceptional world (ha ha), it is simply not going to happen. (Volumetric measures are another story. I could make a case along the same lines with regard to a person’s weight or weights in general, but certainly metric is a far better system when it comes to liquids.)

    And to go back to less rational reasons…. Under no circumstances will we ever have our center field fences marked 121.92 meters instead of 400 feet or have first base 27.432 meters from home plate. Nor will we play REAL football on a 100 meter gridiron or root for a 48 meter Hail Mary touchdown pass. We will not be hearing, “4th and centimeters with 3 seconds on the clock” any time soon.

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  85. 85. JackVance 5:39 am 03/20/2014

    In my haste, I misused “it’s” and “its” twice in the post above. After stating that “we are not all stupid,” I felt compelled to fix the post, but there is no way to go back and edit.

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  86. 86. JackVance 6:16 am 03/20/2014

    Sorry. Can’t help myself.

    America cannot accept the metric system…

    Can you imagine The Who singing, “I can see for kilometers and kilometers?” How about saying, “a miss is as good as a kilometer” or “give ‘em a centimeter and they’ll take a meter?” Would Robert Frost have said, “Kilometers to go before I sleep?” Would we really walk a kilometer for a Camel? Are we going to go “the whole nine meters?” Will our battle weary soldiers develop a “thousand meter stare?” No freaking way.

    And while we all would love to legally drive over 100, we are not giving up our precious mph – and we would always know it was cheating anyway.

    No, we’ll proudly keep our useful, poetic and exceptional system for a while yet. At least until we succumb to “Common Core” the growing Euro-socialist, Marxist movement here.

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  87. 87. ThomasEarlVa 3:43 pm 06/21/2014

    The main reason it won’t happen soon and pervasively, is seen in the author’s piece and the comments that followed, it’s not solely about what is simple or best. It feels far more like nationalism or religion and being told to reject your own to adopt someone elses. When a comment went up about changing language to universal one, there is weight to clash of cultures even if one could present it as simpler and easier on a global communication level, no translations, just everybody the same . . . how far has that gotten, even in multilingual societies. Just give up your years of the one system, we do it differently over here . . . wait that never is received positively, sometimes not said positively either.

    Maybe if we’re all on one currency in the future, speaking Esperanto, the next step would be universal measures, maybe even a neutral discussion on religion or lack of, it all kind of gets rolled together as a country’s culture.

    Link to this

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