Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Math United States

How Can We Convert the US to the Metric System? 1487

Posted by Cliff
from the worthwhile-but-pigs-are-likely-to-fly-first dept.
thesolo asks: "Despite past efforts of the 1970s and 1980s, the United States remains one of only three countries (others are Liberia and Myanmar) that does not use the metric system. Staying with imperial measurements has only served to handicap American industry and economy. Attempts to get Americans using the Celsius scale, or putting up speed limits in kilometers per hour have been squashed dead. Not only that, but some Americans actually see metrication efforts as an assault on 'our way' of measuring. I personally deal with European scientists on a daily basis, and find our lack of common measurement to be extremely frustrating. Are we so entrenched with imperial units that we cannot get our fellow citizens to simply learn something new? What are those of us who wish to finally see America catch up to the rest of the world supposed to do? Are there any organizations that we may back, or any pro-metric legislators who we can support?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

How Can We Convert the US to the Metric System?

Comments Filter:
  • Gulags (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tatarize (682683) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @06:27AM (#17589142) Homepage
    About 4 kilogulags worth of forced punishment for not using the metric system would do it!
    • by kale77in (703316) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @09:25AM (#17590474) Homepage

      A school district in Massachusetts today voted to remove all references to "imperial" and "metric" from their science and mathematics curricula, after complaints from a parent that 'cubits' were not receiving equal time in the classroom. A spokeswoman for the district board said today that if scientists themselves cannot agree on the matter...

      • by flyingfsck (986395) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @02:46PM (#17594196)
        Heh, where are the chains, nails, bottles and pottles? BTW, I prefer my beer measured in firkins - if only people could decide how much exactly a firkin is. That is the big problem with the old units - not the unit iself - the lack of standardization is the problem. An English foot, Dutch foot and American foot are all different - same with everything depending on those, but volumetrics are just as bad.

        You could buy a firkin of beer in the country side and sell it in London for the same price, at a tidy profit. You could do the same with a gallon of gasoline bought in Canada and then resold a few yards to the south accross the American border...

        In an old Dutch City like New York, the land titles were a huge mess, with Dutch, English and American measures.
        • I find the greatest problem with the imperial units to rather be the interdependencies between them. With the metric system, those are standardized for all units. Just as you have kilogram and milligram, you have kilometer, millimeter, kilosecond, millisecond, and so on, and they are always apart by even powers of ten. You also have meters, square meters and cubic meters, with the special case of the liter being a cubic decimeter. In the imperial system (I don't even remember it all), you have 1 mile, being 1760 yards, each being 3 feet, each being 12 inch. I always see smaller things being measured in units like 1/3, 1/12 or 1/16 inch. Then there is 231 cubic inches = 1 gallon, each being 4 quarts, each being 2 pints, each being 16 fluid ounce.

          Even if all the world standardized their feet on being a U.S. foot, that problem wouldn't disappear.

    • I'm a young fellow from Australia, and I guess from my perspective growing up in a metric society perhaps has given me biased for the way we measure things. Our Television so saturated with American television has acustomed me to seeing your world in imperial measurements. There's just something about an American house built on inches compared to an Australian building built in centimetres - I guess it comes down to culture. At the end of the string though, we are slowly moving to a globalisation - the ab
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by trout007 (975317)
        I am a mechanical engineer who works on government contracts. I think it's a chicken and egg thing. I design in inches because the materials I buy come in inches. But the material I buy comes in inches because I'm not demanding metric materials. But whenever I do a dynamics calculation I always convert everything to metric do the calcs and then convert the answer back to imperial. I still get confused using LBM and Slugs and g.
  • oh, man (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tumbleweed (3706) * on Saturday January 13, 2007 @06:28AM (#17589146)
    Looks like *somebody* is about to get a visit from Homeland Security...
    • Re:oh, man (Score:5, Funny)

      by stefanlasiewski (63134) <.slashdot. .at. .stefanco.com.> on Saturday January 13, 2007 @06:58AM (#17589350) Homepage Journal
      DHS lost a $50 thousand surveillance van because a Ford engineering team used metric units of measurement while the agency's team used the more conventional Imperial system for a key driving operation, according to a review finding released Thursday.

      As a result of this mishap, the Van operator misjudged the driving angle, and crashed into a neighbors pool.

      The Department of Homeland Security plans to prevent this sort of confusion by converting the agency from the old "Imperial" measuring system of English miles to a new "American" measuring system utilizing "freedom miles".
  • by porkchop_d_clown (39923) <mwheinz@NOSPAm.me.com> on Saturday January 13, 2007 @06:29AM (#17589152) Homepage
    If you want to use the metric system in your research, then use the metric system. What's stopping you?

    Why do you need the government to change the speed limit signs if your problem is interoperating with scientists?
    • by Curtman (556920) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @07:21AM (#17589548)
      Why do you need the government to change the speed limit signs if your problem is interoperating with scientists?

      "The metric system is the tool of the devil! My car gets forty rods to the hogshead, and that's the way I likes it!"
      • by smchris (464899) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @09:39AM (#17590644)
        My car gets forty rods to the hogshead

        Typical American. Sir, ye need a Nipponese Prius! Ye should be able to journey a great many furlongs on but a small part of a hogshead.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        But the more useful measure is for typical urban usage of hogsheads when cruising at 1500 furlongs per fortnight while carrying a balanced load of 12000 troy ounces.

        I think you'll find that a tank capacity of 2 kilderkins won't last you too long in those circumstances.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by 0racle (667029)
        40 (rods / hogshead) = 0.00198412698 miles / US gallon

        And to be more on topic:
        40 (rods / hogshead) = 0.000843539098 km / L
    • by ChowRiit (939581) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @08:59AM (#17590208)
      If children aren't taught the metric system, they'll have to learn it. As a scientist, I can attest to the massive superiority of the metric system for scientific measurements et cetera, after all, that's partly what it was DESIGNED for. (1cm^3 of pure water doesn't weight 1g at sea level for no reason, for example...).

      I like in England, where we're mostly metric (although a lot of Imperial units are still used), but ALL scientists use metric for everything. It's not because of some magical superiorty science that normal people need either, it's mostly because multiplying by 10 is a lot easier than multiplying by 12 then 16 then 8, or whatever!
      • by neiko (846668) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @11:57AM (#17592102)
        I have only one hold out personally for the Imperial System and that's the measure of temperature. Celsius is all fine and good when using it in a scientific scope, but when talking about the weather, the units are TOO big. The difference between 12C and 13C is too great. A degree in Fahrenheit is about the right size when thinking if something is hot or cold. It may just be my lack of thinking about the temperature outside in Celsius, but being comfortable with both measurements, Fahrenheit allows me to predict a little better what it will feel like when I walk out the door.
      • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Saturday January 13, 2007 @01:16PM (#17593096) Homepage

        It's not because of some magical superiorty science that normal people need either, it's mostly because multiplying by 10 is a lot easier than multiplying by 12 then 16 then 8, or whatever!

        It's not easier if we were using a base-16 numbering system!

        Ok, but seriously, it is an issue of context. If you're a scientist doing scientific research, by all means, use the metric system. However, for some purposes, the metric system isn't superior.

        The easiest example I can think of is temperature. I've been told by lots of people that we (I'm American) should use the Celsius for temperatures. They tell me, "It makes a lot more sense, and it's more elegant. 0 degrees is the temperature that water freezes, and 100 degrees is when it boils. Think of how nice that is. It makes so much sense for cooking and scientific experiments..."

        Well, that's fine, and so I support anyone who wants to use Celsius measurements for cooking or science. However, think for a second about the Fahrenheit scale. The range of 0-100 degrees is roughly the temperature in which human being can live. The exact range that's comfortable for people depends on various things, including the specific person, clothing, wind and humidity, etc. However, somewhere 100 degrees Fahrenheit is the temperature that people need to be careful about heat-stroke, and around 0 degrees is where people are in danger of freezing to death or getting frostbite, even if they're wearing warm clothes.

        So while Celsius makes sense for some scientific purposes, I think Fahrenheit is where it's at for talking about weather. Likewise, if I need to estimate the length of the room and I don't have a measuring device, do you know how I do it? I walk, one foot in front of the other, and see how many steps it takes. My feet are each just about 1 foot long, and it works pretty reliably. If you want argue that meters are better for scientific purposes, manufacturing, or even construction, then by all means do so. However, different units are more appropriate for measuring different things, so don't try to tell me that I can't use Imperial units where it makes sense.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      And what US scientist uses Imperial units anyway? Engineers, sure, but I've never met a scientist (and I am one) in the US who didn't strongly prefer metric.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by smchris (464899)

      I think that is really the foundation. You can set your indoor/outdoor thermometer or weather applet to metric and use the metric side of a ruler by yourself. If you have an older car it can be easy to get used to looking at the metric conversions of various speed limits. Probably nobody who can get sued is going to recommend setting your LCD to km but rough conversions in your head aren't exactly hard (and, let's be honest, you're blending in with traffic anyway, right?). And, as an aside, it wouldn't
  • by skinfitz (564041) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @06:29AM (#17589156) Journal
    ...nobody here uses metric. Everything is in miles rather than kilometres such as all of our traffic signs for distance and speed and I don't know anyone who uses metres and centimetres for measurements - it's always feet and inches when buying anything in hardware stores for example.
    • by JonyEpsilon (662675) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @06:42AM (#17589242) Homepage
      Got to disagree with that. There are a few hold-outs that have thus far resisted metrification - basically anything that involves old, miserable people - like speed limits, temperature, clothing and body weight. And there were some big arguments about weighing fruit (I'm still amazed that people can get so worked up about units). But everything else is pretty much metric: the plumbing in your house, screws in your electrical system, paper sizes, temperature of your oven, power of your lightbulbs (ergs/s anyone?), anything to do with engineering or science. Everybody who's serious is using metric.
    • by Peregr1n (904456) <ian.a.ferguson@gmail.com> on Saturday January 13, 2007 @06:44AM (#17589264) Homepage
      Kind of true... it's not that strict though. Yes, road signs here are in miles and mph, and many people use feet and inches, but metric is taught in school so most people under 30 generally use metres and centimetres.

      It's also worth noting what happened a couple of years ago (most people blame the EU) - greengrocers had to start listing prices in pounds (the currency) per kilogramme rather than pounds per pound. There was a lashback at the time but most people seem to have accepted it (and most greengrocers list both now).

      Having said that, if somebody asks my weight or height, I'd tell them in stones and feet, so we still have a way to go.

      There is a drive to convert road signs to metric - again, partly because of our EU membership - but there's no easy, straightforward way to do it. One interesting idea, coupling with the concept of reducing our speed limits in general, is to leave the speed limit signs as they are but tell everyone that they now refer to KPH rather than MPH (ie. a 30 MPH limit becomes a 30 KPH limit). But of course, the number of people who want our speed limits reduced is relatively small, and that would be a much harder change to propose than metric!
      • by oni (41625) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @07:10AM (#17589462) Homepage
        metric is taught in school

        It's taught in school in the US as well. I can't tell from your comment - did you not know that?

        The problem in the US is, we don't actually use it outside of school (science classes mostly) so most people fall back on what's all around them. It's kind of sad. The military uses it though, and some large percentage of Americans have been in the military (in case you couldn't tell, ha ha). The M-16 was designed to be exactly 1 meter long so that every soldier could have a familiar reference. It's still what I think of when I need to estimate meters.
      • by FireFury03 (653718) <`slashdot' `at' `nexusuk.org'> on Saturday January 13, 2007 @09:19AM (#17590428) Homepage
        Having said that, if somebody asks my weight or height, I'd tell them in stones and feet, so we still have a way to go.

        Well, I guess it depends on what situations you need to know things like weight for. I'm a windsurfer and I would always quote my weight in kilos since it makes working out things like volume of water displaced much easier (1 kilo == 1 litre of fresh water).

        And whilst I may know specific values (my height, weight, etc) in imperial, I have no idea how to do calculations with those values. If I'm going to calculate anything I use metric (how many ounces in a pound? pounds in a stone? I have no idea - I'd have to look them up).

        Also, add the lack of standardisation in imperial units - the Americans like to call them "English units", but the gallons (rarely, these days) used in England aren't the same size as the American gallons...

        There is a drive to convert road signs to metric - again, partly because of our EU membership - but there's no easy, straightforward way to do it.

        They managed it in Ireland without any real problems, ISTR the new signs just have "Km/h" marked on them below the speed. All the cars have both KM/h and MPH marked on the speedo (although I must admit that the KM/h markings on my car are a bit too small to read while you're going along the road). I for one would welcome a complete switch to kilometres though - it would make working out stuff like fuel consumption much easier (which is still quoted in miles per gallon despite the fact that fuel hasn't been sold in gallons for at least 20 years, not to mention the disparity between US gallons and British gallons which means you're never entirely sure which units are being used).
    • by mike2R (721965) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @06:59AM (#17589360)
      ...nobody here uses metric. Everything is in miles rather than kilometres such as all of our traffic signs for distance and speed and I don't know anyone who uses metres and centimetres for measurements - it's always feet and inches when buying anything in hardware stores for example.

      This isn't really true. Britons uses imperial measurements a lot for day to day use, but you'll find that anywhere something needs to be done precisely, it's done in metric.

      For example, the hardware store will sell the same standardised pieces that have been around for years, and these will be in imperial. But I doubt you'll find a building site in the country which is working in anything apart from metric. Any architecht would make plans in metric, as would any engineer.

      General rule of thumb would be imperial for casual stuff, metric for work - although there are going to be a few exceptions to this ;)

    • by DrXym (126579) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @07:08AM (#17589434)
      ...nobody here uses metric. Everything is in miles rather than kilometres such as all of our traffic signs for distance and speed and I don't know anyone who uses metres and centimetres for measurements - it's always feet and inches when buying anything in hardware stores for example.

      Actually it's a mix. People talk in miles, stones, pints and inches (for certain body parts). But then they'll happily talk centimetres, metres, kilograms or litres for other things. As for hardware stores, it is almost entirely metric with just vestiges of imperial here and there. Everything from screws, nails, flooring, tiles, boards is all measured in metric. A short trip to an online DIY site such as www.screwfix.com would confirm that.

      Certainly it's less metric than the rest of Europe, but not massively so. Anyway, Ireland demonstrates that the UK could convert to KM for road distances and speed without the collapse of civilization - the changeover happened virtually over night.

    • by Tatarize (682683) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @07:08AM (#17589442) Homepage
      Your penis may only be five and a half inches long but thats 13.9 centmeters!
    • It's always feet and inches when buying anything in hardware stores for example.

      I just installed an electric fire, millimeters. Shelves... Millimeters. You want nails, screws? millimeters, nuts bolts, millimeters. Fuel, litres. Milk, water, orange juice; litres. Cheese, meat, fruit, coffee kilograms.

      It's all metric but for a couple of cases. Cars and roads being the notable ones. given the cost of changing all the signs at once it's easy to see why. The UK government should just begin introducing km signs to replace old ones.

      Everybody here uses metric daily (including you) and it work

  • Why change.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wiit_rabit (584440) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @06:41AM (#17589226)
    What is the reason for this change? As another poster has said, if you want to use the metric system, just use it.

    Most, if not all of the problems I deal with (mechanical engineering) have systems and specifications that are in metric units now. Most (nearly all) national standards I deal with are already in metric units. CAD and analysis systems can switch units without problems.

    What use is it to change units for the general population? Is there a need to buy apples in Kg? Or gasoline in Liters? Medicine is specified in Mg. Engine displacement is shown in Liters. Should 2x4's be 50x100's?

  • Only Three? (Score:4, Informative)

    by cyocum (793488) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @06:42AM (#17589244) Homepage
    Well, I am an American living in the UK. The UK officially uses metric but all the road signs and speedometers in cars use Miles per Hour, all distances on signs are also in miles, people still count their weight in Stones, and I can still buy pints at the pub. I wonder if we should still count the UK as a metric using nation.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by d_i_r_t_y (156112)
      I'm an Australian living in the UK, and for sure there are still some Imperial hangovers here in the areas you mention. Australia is fully metric-ised, although you will still find the occasional reference to heights and weights in feet & stones, mainly from the older generation.

      And while the UK may still have mile signs on the road and some people (again mainly older people) measure their height and weight using the old system, everything else is metric. It's just "cuter" to say "he's 6ft tall", rather
  • One word (Score:5, Informative)

    by YA_Python_dev (885173) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @06:44AM (#17589258) Journal
    Canada [archives.cbc.ca].
  • United Kingdom (Score:5, Interesting)

    by denominateur (194939) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @06:47AM (#17589288) Homepage
    I'm currently studying Physics in the UK but come from one of the most SI countries in the world, Luxembourg. When talking to people I discovered that even though the UK has officially gone metric most people still think in imperial units when it comes to body weight and height, liquid volumes, speeds and distances (long and short) and those who I asked said they found it hard to picture 170cm or 70kg, very common numbers which I find extremely natural, much preferring "feet/inches" and "stones".

    I must admit however that the foot is a very appealing unit in that it can be easily measured using common body parts such as the hand-elbow distance or the foot.

    I think the problem is that the parents who grew up with imperial units use them in day to day conversation, hence associating different benchmark sizes with specific words in their children's developing minds, making a natural transition to metric quite difficult, but certainly not impossible... i guess the situation will improve once britain follows ireland in getting the traffic system metricized.
  • great arguments... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JamesTRexx (675890) <m.nystrom@mb i t z . nl> on Saturday January 13, 2007 @06:51AM (#17589316) Homepage Journal
    From a link on the freedom2measure site:
    Sexist
    The metric system has been almost wholly created and standardized by male scientists and bureaucrats. At the time, during which women were considerably less liberated than today, woman had virtually no say in the creation and, in many countries, the imposition of these units. Perhaps, if they had, the value of the practical units used in those tasks undertaken by woman at the time would have been recognized.

    I can understand trying to make a point against the metric system, but this!? Any other real arguments won't be taken serious anymore..
    Not to mention that I doubt women had any say in the current system.
  • School and Law (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lazysonofab (1003202) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @06:55AM (#17589334)
    Start with the schools. It will require quite a bit of initial investment, but it is the only way to introduce a new mindset to the public. You'll need to replace a LOT of textbooks (maths problems will need to be posed in metric terms, same for science books, etc) and all of your measuring devices will need replacing with metric versions (throw out those yard sticks and replace them with metre rules). If the kids grow up learning metric terms, they'll see the benefits of simplicity, easier unit conversion, and so on.

    Then comes the tricky part: legislation. The resistance from the lazy public and business will be incredible - it'll be seen as one extra unnecessary expense - but it has to be done. It must be a legal requirement that wherever an amount is shown in Imperial, it must also be shown in metric.

    That should be enough to get the ball rolling, but it's a long process, and - as the poster above pointed out - it may not stick right away. The UK has used metric officially for many years now but go into a hardware store and they'll still sell you a length of 2-by-4.

    It may take many years to kill off Imperial measurements, but I think those are the two most important steps to affect the change.
    • by ArsSineArtificio (150115) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @11:53AM (#17592064) Homepage
      You'll need to replace a LOT of textbooks (maths problems will need to be posed in metric terms, same for science books, etc) and all of your measuring devices will need replacing with metric versions (throw out those yard sticks and replace them with metre rules).

      Textbooks in the United States already use metric units, and have now for decades.

      If the kids grow up learning metric terms, they'll see the benefits of simplicity, easier unit conversion, and so on.

      Everybody in the United States under the age of forty grew up learning metric terms. Virtually nobody in the United States under the age of forty, unless such person has some specific technical reason for doing so, has any interest in using metric terms in day-to-day life.

      It must be a legal requirement that wherever an amount is shown in Imperial, it must also be shown in metric.

      This is already the case. A can of cola in the U.S. reads "12 fl. oz. (355 mL)". A bag of microwave popcorn states "1.5 oz. (42.5g)". A snack bar reads "1.59 oz (45g)". No consumer product is sold without both Imperial and metric measurements.

      Then comes the tricky part: legislation. The resistance from the lazy public and business will be incredible - it'll be seen as one extra unnecessary expense - but it has to be done.

      If the public doesn't want it, and business doesn't want it, then who exactly is supposed to benefit?
  • Canada. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Grey Ninja (739021) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @07:30AM (#17589610) Homepage Journal
    Canada switched to the metric system decades ago. Being a British commonwealth for such a long time, of course most of us were well accustomed to Imperial units. I still remember as a kid, how my Mom was one of the holdouts for the Imperial system for a long time. She would tell me to get a quart or gallon of milk, and I would have to ask her how many liters that was.

    The thing is that the metric system is officially used everywhere. Road signs, groceries, public schools, the works. The only basis that we have for even knowing the Imperial system is our parents. I've used the metric system my entire life. I know my height and weight in feet and lbs, but couldn't tell you what it is in metric units. But I can guess fairly accurately how much something weighs in kilograms, but I'm not so good with pounds. Likewise, I'm more comfortable with measuring things in meters, rather than feet.

    A rather amusing story though. I am currently living in the US, trying to get by without using the old ways. I am not always successful. But I try. Anyways, I was on the phone with my Mom the other day, and she asked how warm it was here. I googled the answer, and got it in Fahrenheit (46F). I laughed, and said she would be right at home here, and gave her the answer in Fahrenheit without doing the conversion. I was rather amazed at her response. She told me that it's been so long since she's used the Imperial system that she's forgotten it. She honestly didn't remember what 46F was.

    Anyways, my point is that it doesn't matter if the older people don't use the metric system. Teach it to the young, and switch the entire country to the metric system on all official items. It will all sort itself out in time.
  • No benefit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Balthisar (649688) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @08:46AM (#17590094) Homepage
    Why bother? Seriously -- why bother? What real, practical value is there in forcing the general public to use one arbitrary (to them) set of measurements versus another arbitrary set of measurements? What does the public's use of miles, Fahrenheit, pounds, and acres have to do with business or government? Sure, sometimes there are mishaps when using mixed units, but they're rare enough that their widely-published details stick out in your mind because it's so rare. A good engineer realizes that units are arbitrary and can work with whatever measurement system she's given. Besides that, whether my car gets 22 mpg or 7.2 L/100km doesn't have an impact on people in the laboratory or the layout room. The scales, force gauges, and AutoCAD all switch back and forth effortlessly. Businesses already use the metric system when it suits them (it usually does). In fact our American units (they're not imperial units) are officially defined by the NIST in terms of metric units. Our land surveying system west of New England is irrevocably tied to the use of feet and acre systems.

    I'm working in Canada now. Despite the fact that their government forced metric units on them, do you realize that virtually everyone (well, immigrants from metric countries notwithstanding) continues to use Imperial units (in this case, they are Imperial units -- 4.4L/gallon, etc) in their daily life? It's 82 outside, not 28. I weigh 190, not 86. I had a fever of 101, not 39.

    What's really strange is working in Mexico, where they never officially use US units. Milk is sold in galones (gallons, yup, right on the label). Talking about small measurements is quite often done in pulgadas (inches). They don't use millas (miles) in normal conversation, but they all seem to have a general sense of what they are. Yardas may be well know because of American football, and Fahrenheit makes no sense to them, but they're fairly well versed in libras (pounds).

    Me? I like the metric system, and use it where it makes sense to use it. But going through the expense of wholesale conversion to the metric system makes no sense and will cause more problems than it solves. Think of the sheer amount of measurements that would have to change. There's the mundane -- 37" TV's will have to change. But what about construction materials? Plumbing? Lumber? Fasteners? What about highway sytems? Exit signs, mile markers, speed limit signs, maps, documentation? The US survey system, then? Acres, townships, counties, baseline locations, meridian locations, title and deed documents? What about food packaging? Why eliminate US measurements when metric measurements are already there?

    Interstate 19 between Tucson and Nogales, Arizona is labelled in km/h for some inexplicable reason. Is there a benefit to anyone there?
    • by SamSim (630795)

      Because the imperial system is insane. The units used are more handy for measuring or describing things in everyday life, but when it comes to doing actual calculations, you are lost. The metric system measures things in tens. The imperial system, however, uses twos, threes, fours, fives, eights, tens, twelves, fourteens and sixteens [wikipedia.org] and more. How many cubic centimetres in a litre? 1000. How many cubic inches in a gallon? 231.

      Ease of calculations is the key. If you don't do much actual mathematics in your

      • Re:No benefit (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Balthisar (649688) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @09:46AM (#17590724) Homepage
        >>Ease of calculations is the key. If you don't do much actual mathematics in your daily life, you won't see the need for the metric system. If you're a scientist, you do, and you will.

        Well, yeah, that's my point. I'm an engineer, and my American (global) Fortune 5 company is completely metric in its operations. So as a scientist (you) or engineer (me) we see the value of and use the metric system. There's no US law prohibiting us from doing so. Why, then, should we mandate that the country switch to the metric system? You and I already use it; why make Joe Blow purchase lunch meat priced at $x per 100/g?

        Simply, what's the cost-benefit analysis of changing our society to the metric system?
    • by khendron (225184)
      I'm working in Canada now. Despite the fact that their government forced metric units on them, do you realize that virtually everyone (well, immigrants from metric countries notwithstanding) continues to use Imperial units (in this case, they are Imperial units -- 4.4L/gallon, etc) in their daily life? It's 82 outside, not 28. I weigh 190, not 86. I had a fever of 101, not 39.

      Are you surrounded by old people? I am Canadian, I haven't heard temperatures in deg F for a long long time.

      The most common occurren
  • by Metasquares (555685) <slashdot@NoSPAM.metasquared.com> on Saturday January 13, 2007 @09:03AM (#17590246) Homepage
    The Celsius scale is calibrated to the freezing and boiling points of water. This is great for scientific use, but comes at the expense of sensitivity for day-to-day use. It is seldom that anyone wants to know the temperature outside as a fraction of the temperature required to make water boil (though the freezing point is of more use), and temperatures in habitable areas of the earth seldom exceed 50C. That means the upper half of the scale is not being used. Since a Fahrenheit degree is finer-grained than a Celsius degree and the endpoints of the scale more closely match the range of habitable temperatures, it makes more sense to use F outside of science and cooking, IMO.

    I'm in agreement on use of all other metrics.
  • by AlpineR (32307) <wagnerr@umich.edu> on Saturday January 13, 2007 @09:05AM (#17590264) Homepage

    I don't know where you work, but as an American scientist/engineer myself I always use metric in my professional work. Meters, kelvin, kilograms. In school (chemical engineering) we often worked with pounds and gallons since they're common in some industries, but we were thoroughly drilled in how to convert between units.

    I honestly don't see the problem with using Imperial units in daily life as long as professionals use metric in their work. In many parts of the country, roads are spaced one mile apart. Converting to metric won't change that. Refrigerators are designed to hold a gallon of milk. Converting to metric would mean either misfitting jugs or odd quantity containers.

    Let the public use Imperial units. They happen to be useful for human-scale measurements. Just be sure to teach students that metric is the professional system.

    AlpineR

  • by farker haiku (883529) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @09:07AM (#17590290) Journal
    I mean, we're inching towards it all the time!
  • Get a Grip (Score:3, Insightful)

    by smack.addict (116174) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @10:07AM (#17590920)
    The snooty arrogance in this thread is astounding.

    There is no doubt that if you are designing a system from scratch, the metric system is superior.

    There is also no doubt that if you are in science and engineering, you should be using the metric system.

    But for every day use? It does not matter one tiny bit. Whatever accurately supports commerce is really all that matters. And the Imperial system works in the US.

    Some dirty secrets for you all who think the rest of the world has adopted: a lot of the Commonwealth nations have adopted the metric only in an official capacity. Go to the UK and see how often you see Imperial units.
  • by DoninIN (115418) <don.middendorf@gmail.com> on Saturday January 13, 2007 @10:36AM (#17591210) Homepage
    There are BILLIONS(Maybe Trillions) of dollars worth of tools to use imperial units. Lumber is made in 2X4" pipe fittings are measured in inches, the handy use of fractional units when doing carpentry, which what's half of 5/8"? (A: 5/16") is a serious factor. The lifespan of all these tools, such as the tooling to roll steel and brass and aluminum into inch sizes etc is something no one ever talks about, how long does the largely theoretical "gain" made by switching to SI units take to pay off all the steel mills the lumber mills the switching over of all the plumbing in America to metric pipe fittings???? (Hint, civilization and technology are 90% plumbing) Listen, I work in manufacturing, we have customers with english and metric prints, I convert back and forth on the fly a few hundred times some days. Not a problem, anyone who's a Scientist shouldn't be doing anything in imperial units at all anyway. So what's the problem? As for the "difficulty" in conversion, the imperial units are DEFINED in SI units, right? I know one inch =25.4 mm by definition.

    So let my summarize by saying "Who will think of the rulers!" (And steel mills and pipe fittings and rolling mills and everything I'm ignorant of)

  • by LihTox (754597) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @12:54PM (#17592804)
    How Can We Convert the US to the Metric System? is like asking "How can we convert France to speaking English?" It would sure be convenient if everyone grew up speaking only English, but that's hardly going to convince the French or the Germans or the Chinese or.... "But people often have to learn English to participate in international life!" True...and lots of Americans learn the metric system for the same reason. Americans are actually rather "bilingual" with their units: we have gallons of milk and liters of soda, ounces of meat and milligrams of vitamins, 100-yard football fields and 100-m dashes.

    Seeing Imperial units die out in the U.S. would be as sad as watching Welsh die out in Wales. (Knowing the sorts of people here, I imagine many of you wouldn't give a damn about either.)
  • by shaitand (626655) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @08:56PM (#17598174) Journal
    My generation was taught both systems and taught in school that the metric system was superior and used by the rest of the world. My generation is between 25-30 now. That means we will start to gain power is about 10 years and will be the driving force running the nation in 20 years. With Gen X taking over the nation, and the baby boomers out, you will see quite a shift in US policy. The metric system will be part of that.

    Unfortunately, Gen X is actually rather cold, logical, understands technology and does not share all the romantic notions of previous generations. This means that the romantic notions that most individual rights are based upon will likely be ignored in policy decisions. Our understanding of technology means that law enforcement will probably be much more effective. In short, life is not going to be much fun under gen x. I predict that we will sell out even worse than the baby boomers ever dreamed of. And the baby boomers are fairy serious sell outs. They went from being hippies protesting the man and the war to putting us into an even worse war and moving the nation to the closest it has even been to a dictatorship.

Old programmers never die, they just hit account block limit.

Working...