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How Can We Convert the US to the Metric System?

Cliff posted more than 7 years ago | from the worthwhile-but-pigs-are-likely-to-fly-first dept.

Math 1487

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?"

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Gulags (5, Funny)

Tatarize (682683) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589142)

About 4 kilogulags worth of forced punishment for not using the metric system would do it!

oh, man (5, Funny)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589146)

Looks like *somebody* is about to get a visit from Homeland Security...

Re:oh, man (4, Funny)

stefanlasiewski (63134) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589350)

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".

What's stopping you? (4, Insightful)

porkchop_d_clown (39923) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589152)

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?

Re:What's stopping you? (5, Funny)

Curtman (556920) | more than 7 years ago | (#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!"

I'll let you into a secret about Britain (4, Interesting)

skinfitz (564041) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589156)

...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.

Re:I'll let you into a secret about Britain (5, Informative)

JonyEpsilon (662675) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589242)

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.

Re:I'll let you into a secret about Britain (1)

Jaseoldboss (650728) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589552)

ergs/s ...is imperial. Power is measured in Watts which are Joules/s.

Obilg. Wikipedia reference [wikipedia.org]

Agree with the argument though, nearly everything is metric except for speeds on the road, perhaps people's weight in stones although that's changing.

Re:I'll let you into a secret about Britain (1)

hankwang (413283) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589828)

ergs/s ...is imperial. Power is measured in Watts which are Joules/s.

If anything, ergs are "centimetric". An erg is 1e-7 joule. Obligatory wikipedia reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erg [wikipedia.org] .

Re:I'll let you into a secret about Britain (4, Informative)

Peregr1n (904456) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589264)

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!

Re:I'll let you into a secret about Britain (4, Interesting)

oni (41625) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589462)

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.

Re:I'll let you into a secret about Britain (5, Informative)

JonathanR (852748) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589834)

It's actually 40 inches (1016 mm) [wikipedia.org] long.

Re:I'll let you into a secret about Britain (5, Informative)

mike2R (721965) | more than 7 years ago | (#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 ;)

Re:I'll let you into a secret about Britain (1)

cuby (832037) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589420)

I've lived all my live in the metric system and I certainly use centimeters almost every day, and I don't see the difficulty in it. Every time this "Imperial"/Metric discussion arises I remember of the elderly people that steel think in escudos(I'm in Portugal) and don't give a dam about the Euro... There's a high inertia to this kind of changes and a lot of nationalistic pride in keeping the old stuff. The metric system is simpler than the "Imperial" one, but people will use what they are used to!

After 5 years of Euro I don't know a Kid that still thinks in escudos... This changes are made with the thought in improving the future of the next generations, not the current one.

Re:I'll let you into a secret about Britain (4, Informative)

DrXym (126579) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Appeal to pride. (4, Funny)

Tatarize (682683) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589442)

Your penis may only be five and a half inches long but thats 13.9 centmeters!

Re:Appeal to pride. (1)

denominateur (194939) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589696)

Oh cmon, how can you mod that down?!

Re:I'll let you into a secret about Britain (1)

BandoMcHando (85123) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589446)

Not really entirely accurate.

Distances on road signs are in miles, yes, loose produce in shops is allowed to be sold in imperial quantities, but all packaged items end to be metric. And also pints for milk and beer. But that's about it.

And that still annoys me, having two systems side by side is almost worse than using just imperial, it makes it very difficult to compare the prices of, for instance, a pre-packaged bag of potatos and 3-4 loose potatos, but then again, maybe the supermarkets would rather we didn't compare their prices.

And worst of all, the children come out of school fully versed in metric, and then have to learn imperial just to make themselves understoood to old people.

Re:I'll let you into a secret about Britain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17589498)

I don't know anyone that works in imperial here (surrey). Yes the road signs are still in Miles, but whenever you are working or go to buy something you need to use metric.

Personally I have absolutely no idea about some of the older types of measurements, as at 23 I was only ever taught metric at school and by my parents.

The other posters are correct, architects plans are in millimetres and metres, building sites work on metric measurements for everything, electronics engineers work out board sizes and component sizes metrically, shops only weigh and sell items metrically (I write the software used in a large number of shops and we have zero demand for imperial weight measurement on items being sold).

You might think in imperial and not notice the metric measurements around you, but they are both there and only used internally. They are providing imperial for your benefit and won't for much longer.

Re:I'll let you into a secret about Britain (1)

nogginthenog (582552) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589874)

I'm 33 and was only taught metric! I'd like to keep my pint though :-)

Re:I'll let you into a secret about Britain (2, Informative)

gsslay (807818) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589628)

...nobody here uses metric.

it's always feet and inches when buying anything in hardware stores

Neither of the above statements are true, and I suspect you know it. I wonder what you hope to prove by making them?

I only ever use imperial measurement for the following;

- body weight
- body height
- road distance
- vehicle speed

And that's only because if I used metric no-one else would follow me.

Everything else is metric, and everything is sold in metric.

Re:I'll let you into a secret about Britain (1)

pubjames (468013) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589766)

How old are you? I use metric for most things, it was what I was taught at school. And I'm in my mid-thirties.

A question I alwais ask when discussing this... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous MadCoe (613739) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589206)

How many cubic inches make up a gallon?

Since he calculation using the metric system is really easy :-)

Re:A question I alwaYs ask when discussing this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17589248)

Whoops, make that Always.....

Re:A question I alwais ask when discussing this... (0)

Mr2001 (90979) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589266)

If switching to the metric system means having to convert cubic centimeters to liters all the time, count me out.

I don't know offhand how many cubic inches are in a gallon. If I had to figure it out, I'd use a calculator--but I've never needed to make such a conversion, so who cares?

Re:A question I alwais ask when discussing this... (1)

d_i_r_t_y (156112) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589352)

The whole point of the metric system was to make these conversions easy. 1 litre of water == 1000 cubic centimeters, or the volume of a box, 10cm x 10cm x 10cm. Hardly a challenging conversion.

Perhaps a more practical example? How long will it take me to walk the 5km into town given that I walk at 5km/hour? Simple.

Re:A question I alwais ask when discussing this... (1)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589472)

> How long will it take me to walk the 5km into town given that I walk at 5km/hour? Simple.

Much harder than calculating how long it will take to walk 3 miles into town, given that you walk 3 miles per hour?

Re:A question I alwais ask when discussing this... (2, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589520)

Much harder than calculating how long it will take to walk 3 miles into town, given that you walk 3 miles per hour?

      Ahh, but the metric person will walk 5000 metres, or 500,000 centimeters in that hour, whereas the imperial person will walk how many inches again? Where's my calculator...

Re:A question I alwais ask when discussing this... (1)

d_i_r_t_y (156112) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589640)

> Much harder than calculating how long it will take to walk 3 miles into town, given that you walk 3 miles per hour?

My point exactly. Why aren't you using the metric system again?

Re:A question I alwais ask when discussing this... (1)

Saib0t (204692) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589504)

Perhaps a more practical example? How long will it take me to walk the 5km into town given that I walk at 5km/hour? Simple.
If you want to use practical example, pick good ones at least... Here's a challenge for you. How long will it take you to walk the 4 miles into town knowing you walk at 4 miles/hour? Equally simple... The advantage of the metric system lies in convertion between different types of units (volume, speed, etc.) and parts of said units... Example: How many cubic boxes sized 1 feet and 5 inches can I store into a space that's 4 feet 3 inches big? Same problem, How many cubic boxes sized 42 centimeters can I store in a space that's 1.3 meter big? Or: I walk 4 miles per hour. How long will it take me to walk 200 yards?

Re:A question I alwais ask when discussing this... (2, Interesting)

Flentil (765056) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589532)

How many meters per second is that? Where's our metric system for timekeeping? The current clock system based on 12's and 60's needs a metric overhaul IMHO. Good luck getting people to convert to that though. Military time is confusing enough to most non-military types.

Re:A question I alwais ask when discussing this... (1)

Mr2001 (90979) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589698)

The whole point of the metric system was to make these conversions easy. 1 litre of water == 1000 cubic centimeters, or the volume of a box, 10cm x 10cm x 10cm. Hardly a challenging conversion.
Sure. But my point is, you can't sell the metric system by telling people metric makes it easy to do the kind of conversions they never need to do, like converting cubic inches to gallons. The things for which we need to calculate volume are usually measured in cubic inches or cubic feet anyway.

Perhaps a more practical example? How long will it take me to walk the 5km into town given that I walk at 5km/hour? Simple.
You're joking, right?

Re:A question I alwais ask when discussing this... (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589448)

If switching to the metric system means having to convert cubic centimeters to liters all the time, count me out.

      Some people do it every day. 1 cc = 1 ml = 1/1000th of a litre. Then you have to learn how many cc's to a teaspoon (5) or tablespoon(15), and how many drops to a cc (20)... Then you get to play around with hmm if this medication has 125mg/5ml, and the patient weighs 25kg, and the dose is 30mg/kg, then how many teaspoons do I have to give him... ;)

It is like the square root of one million... (3, Funny)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589488)

No one will ever know.

cubis centimeters (1)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589562)

Actually, I don't know anyone here who use cubic centimeters. We use ml (milliliters) which makes the conversion even more obvious.

And yes, it convenient to be able to compare the price of four containers with 500 ml each, with one container with 2 l, without having to use a calculator.

I will leave it as an exercise to the interested student how to convert between cubic centimeters and milliliters.

Re:cubis centimeters (1)

Mr2001 (90979) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589716)

And yes, it convenient to be able to compare the price of four containers with 500 ml each, with one container with 2 l, without having to use a calculator.
We can just easily compare the price of four containers with 20 fl oz each to one container with 80 fl oz. There's no need for conversion - it's not as if some containers are marked in cubic inches and other containers of the same product are marked in gallons.

Re:A question I alwais ask when discussing this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17589318)

How many cubic inches in a gallon?

Does this come up often for you? Seriously? Like... when you're hanging with your peeps, somebody says "yo yo yo my brother, how many cubic inches in that 5 gallon gas can?" And then you say "My brother, if we wuz metric, this would be the shizzle, no doubt". And then you high-five each other?

Re:A question I alwais ask when discussing this... (1)

Anonymous MadCoe (613739) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589356)

Nope, but I have done a lot of design work n the past (engines, machinery sensors etc.) and then it is very handy that moving from one related unit to another in many cases just means moving the decimal point...

Re:A question I alwais ask when discussing this... (1)

Billy the Impaler (886238) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589364)

How many cubic inches make up a gallon?
This is not necessarily a challenging question for many automotive geeks in the Slashdot crowd. 1 gallon is about 231 cu. in or 3.8 L. It's a very common engine size, especially at GM with their ubiquitous pushrod 3.8 L V6 engine.

Re:A question I alwais ask when discussing this... (1)

MACC (21597) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589836)

You are already into trouble:
which gallon?
    US Gallon @ 3.8 liters
or the
    UK Gallon @ 4.45 liters

Remember: in the UK they went metric for petrol to avoid
the pound counting wheel at the pump.
1 gallon 101 pence
1 liter 23 pence

Re:A question I alwais ask when discussing this... (1)

Flentil (765056) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589474)

It doesn't need to be that hard. A simple question like 'How many yards are in a quarter mile?' or 'How many inches in three and a half yards?' is almost always enough to get someone doing math in thier heads for a few seconds as they try to defend the imperial system.

Re:A question I alwais ask when discussing this... (1)

Bastard of Subhumani (827601) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589764)

American gallon or English?

Money (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589220)

It's a question of money. Soft metrification, like changing the labels on retail products, is easy. Hard metrification, which is redesigning everything to use standard metric sizes, is considerably more difficult and expensive.

Government legisation (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17589224)

just like changing currency... Still using Fahrenheit is just plain weird. I just wish the USA wouldn't push that date format of m/d/y on the rest of the world .. now that is confusing (use y-m-d )

Re:Government legisation (1)

deburg (838010) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589700)

Tell me about it. We use d/m/y over here and whenever there is a date mismatch we first look at the d/m m/d part. Anyway, y/m/d is ISO 8601 standard not metric.

Re:Government legisation (1)

spaeschke (774948) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589820)

That's why I like the solution we used in the military. For instance, today would be 13/JAN/07. Impossible for anyone to confuse.

Re:Government legisation (2, Insightful)

Ingolfke (515826) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589872)

Yes I agree, y-m-d is better. It's a natural progression from the larger to the smaller units and it easily sortable.

Why change.... (4, Insightful)

wiit_rabit (584440) | more than 7 years ago | (#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?

Re:Why change.... (1, Troll)

Tomfrh (719891) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589554)

What is the reason for this change?

Because the US needs to pull its finger out and get with the program.

Only Three? (4, Informative)

cyocum (793488) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589244)

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.

Three and a Half (1)

aslate (675607) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589438)

The UK is kinda a bodge at the moment. Road signs and speed limits are all in miles per hour but that's based more on the awkwardness of converting signs. Pretty much all other aspects are legally metric:
Price per kilo at the grocer's.
Filling up the car with litres of petrol.
Prices at the supermarket quoted in £s per kilo.

There's a few exceptions to this, namely buying a pint in a pub and road usage. I want roads to go metric, i grew up being taught metric and haven't a clue about most imperial units.

Re:Three and a Half (1)

denominateur (194939) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589750)

There's a few exceptions to this, namely buying a pint in a pub and road usage. I want roads to go metric, i grew up being taught metric and haven't a clue about most imperial units.
Ah, that's quite an impressive point of view, I'm a foreigner living in Britain you're the first Briton to claim that!

Re:Only Three? (1)

DrXym (126579) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589480)

There are some holdouts, but mostly for populist things like pints and miles, and even then canned beer is usually 500ml. Virtually everything in industry and commerce is all measured in metric and only metric.

Re:Only Three? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589668)

Bottled beer usually comes in 550ml bottles (sometimes called 'metric pints'). This is slightly less than an Imperial pint (568ml), but more than an American pint (473ml). Americans in the UK often find themselves more drunk than the expect because even when they remember to take in to account the fact that British beer isn't watered down, they forget that the pints are 20% bigger.

Re:Only Three? (2, Insightful)

d_i_r_t_y (156112) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589580)

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 than 180cm.

Honestly, I don't see what all the fuss is about. The metric system is clearly technically superior, and clearly more widely accepted. It takes all of about a week to start thinking in metric units instead of imperial if you put your mind to it... holding out on the imperial system just for the sake of it is just... lazy/stupid, and well-deserving of the ridicule IMO. I mean, every other country managed to make the conversion, so what's the problem...?

Easy (2, Funny)

ceeam (39911) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589256)

Penis size is bigger in centimeters than in inches.

Re:Easy (0, Troll)

thegrassyknowl (762218) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589650)

Tell that to dubya and he'll change the system in a heartbeat.. The war in Iraq failed to prove how big his is!

One word (4, Informative)

YA_Python_dev (885173) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589258)

Canada [archives.cbc.ca] .

Re:One word (4, Funny)

Grey Ninja (739021) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589632)

Is Metric a Communist Plot?

CLASSIC American scare-mongering to any sort of change. I have bookmarked that site, and I will have to look at all those later. =) Thanks for the link.

half way there (1)

mastershake_phd (1050150) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589276)

Were already half way there. You cant work on a car or anything without metric tools. Science class used metric measurements when I was in high school in the late 90s. Were getting there slowly, just a matter of time.

Re:half way there (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17589798)

Don't forget plastic soda bottles. And US currency.

United Kingdom (5, Interesting)

denominateur (194939) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589288)

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.

Re:United Kingdom (1)

Clazzy (958719) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589380)

You're right, for the most part. While we're officially metric, people still use imperial measurements purely because we're used to them. So many things are embedded into British culture, the big one would be the pint. That will never change any time soon, and I don't think the road system will either. Imperial measurements also crop up in the weather (we tend to use Fahrenheit when hot and Celsius when cold). It'll prbably be another 30-40 years before metric becomes more widespread here.
I don't really see much of a point, provided conversions can be easily done there isn't a problem with communication and scientists always use metric measurements anyway.

Re:United Kingdom (1)

odie_q (130040) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589740)

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 disagree. I am studying physics in Sweden, and am from here as well. I have no intuituve feel for any of the imperial units, although I am quick enough at doing conversions in my head. However, having done some hobbyist carpentry, I know the distance from my elbow to my middle finger is 49 cm. The distace from my thumb to my middle finger is 20 cm. I can accurately identify the size of a drill to the nearest half millimeter with my teeth. And so on.

As you mention in your last paragraph, it is all about what you are accustomed to. No system is inherently more intuitive than the next. My foot is way shorter than a foot, and if I am wearing shoes it will vary with what shoes I am wearing.

Re:United Kingdom (1)

denominateur (194939) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589792)

I should probably have said estimated rather than measured, sorry.

It's quite simple, really (1, Interesting)

Dion (10186) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589292)

1) Force all business to use metric whenever anything is sold or advertized (this doesn't really cost anything).
2) Only teach metric in the schools.
3) Wait 20 years.
4) Make it illegal to use the old units for anything at all.

Somewhere along the line you'll get profit:)

Until you get to step #4 we (world - United States, Liberia and Myanmar) can make fun of your contortions and strange conversion factors that need to be applied to do even the simplest thing:)

Quick, tell me how many miles per gallon 40 rods per hogshead is, if you can do that without looking anything up then you get to keep the old system, otherwise you will need to convert.

Re:It's quite simple, really (1)

Naksu (689429) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589348)

wine or ale hogsheads?

Re:It's quite simple, really (1)

Bastard of Subhumani (827601) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589614)

Hogsheads aren't migratory.

Re:It's quite simple, really (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589406)

1) Force all business to use metric...
4) Make it illegal to use the old units for anything at all.


      Oh, and do it all in the name of avoiding terrorism...

Dumb (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17589308)

Oh so dumb.

great arguments... (4, Insightful)

JamesTRexx (675890) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589316)

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.

Re:great arguments... (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589390)

I can understand trying to make a point against the metric system, but this!?

      Interesting. Of course everyone knows that the imperial system, on the other hand, was invented by women. Right? /sarcasm

OB (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17589322)

Nuke it from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

School and Law (5, Insightful)

lazysonofab (1003202) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:School and Law (1)

jamar0303 (896820) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589560)

Actually, science classes are already taught in metric (as far as I know- I went to school in California and Tennessee).

Re:School and Law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17589664)

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.

...and why does it have to be done?

Who the fuck modded this tripe insightful? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17589702)

Hey asswipe, just because you're too inept to use fractions doesn't mean the rest of us have to suffer a conversion expense. If I had a yard stick I'd ram it down your throat.

Re:School and Law (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589846)

All the science (all grade levels) and college-level engineering textbooks I've used use metric that I remember. I don't remember about the K-12 math text books.

Metric Bibels? No way! (3, Funny)

Kerstyun (832278) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589346)

Read the good book. Did GOD tell Mosers to buld his arc 140 metears long? No HE did not, it was 300 cubics.

Tried that in the 90s (1)

linebackn (131821) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589424)

Back in the 90s there was a big push for government agencies to switch to metric. At least one state was even planning on updating speed limit signs.

Personally, I think this conversion might have stood a chance at working if *everything* had been switched all at once. Instead what I observed were things like new construction projects were let specifying the use of metric units and old ones specifying the use of English units did not change. So you had people working with metric on one job and English on an other - and often getting them confused and mixed up. Eventually everyone gave up on the metric stuff, but I am fairly sure there are still a number of these "metric" contracts out there!

Just "encourage" the recalcitrants with a 2 x 4 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17589430)

Or should that be a 5 x 10 ;-P

Re:Just "encourage" the recalcitrants with a 2 x 4 (1)

Bastard of Subhumani (827601) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589648)

No, it should be a 5.8 x 11.6.

Simple weening (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589476)

Have varous weights and measures used in every day life reported in both metric and English measurements. In many cases, it already is and the practice just needs to be extended. People of the U.S. aren't nearly as shocked and confused at the presense of a metric system based measurement as we once were. The original push for the metric system (to my knowledge) happened when I was a kid. All the schools started handing out all these metric based measure devices and tables and the like. The vast majority of the U.S. has already been educated past shock. We just need to institute some more policies for "dual language" printing (another thing we're already accustomed to) and eventually, we'll be weened from the English measure system. We just need some nudging is all.

To Force a Switch to Metrics ,First We...... (0, Troll)

flyneye (84093) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589544)

To force a switch to the metric system,first we remove all the u.s. standard nuts and bolts from vehicles and machinery,retap them for metric and replace with metric nuts and bolts.
Next, we bonfire all standard measuring devices,rulers,scales,moms measuring cup,and force people to buy new metric ones.Don't forget moms recipe book!
This must be done by force of law because integration,doesn't work as evidenced by foreign cars,speedometers,measuring cups,rulers,many scales which all have metric units alongside u.s. measure.
          Sure,I'm a smartass,but I think you get the point.It's pointless.

Pipe dream. (0, Troll)

twitchingbug (701187) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589566)

Imperial is here to stay. I hate to say it, but in things like construction, where a 2x4 is standard, you're always going to use imperial measurements. Old houses don't go away. Having said that, everything that's "serious" aka, science and NASA ought to be done in metric.

Re:Pipe dream. (4, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589604)

Old houses don't go away.

      Right, because there are no old houses in Europe. This is why they have successfully converted to metric.

      Your argument is flawed.

Re:Pipe dream. (1)

Tomfrh (719891) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589720)

In Australia we've been metric for 40 years. We managed the switch fine, and you could too. Sometimes I have to read old building plans that contain sizes in imperial. It really isn't a problem.

The actual timber sizes haven't even changed very much, we just label them differently now. A 2x4 is now a 100mm x 50mm.

Canada. (5, Interesting)

Grey Ninja (739021) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589610)

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.

Re:Canada. (1)

nuggz (69912) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589890)

Works for me, most people talk about miles per gallon in fuel consumption.
I'm 5'11 170lb and had a 250g steak.
I built a 32" table with 2x4's and #4 screens, to hold my 1/2" router in with M6 bolts.

Realistically all my work (even with the US) is in metric. There are just a few exceptions who use imperial measurements, and I just convert.

Simple (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589612)

Change the country's name to 'France'... oh wait... prior art...

Resistance is futile... (1)

Lagmo (972467) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589644)

I find it very telling that, noone here has wanted to be first in welcoming their metric using overlords.

Simple answer (1)

Sigma 7 (266129) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589666)

You don't. [indiana.edu]

No matter how much of an advantage you can get from Metric, there will always be resistance for change from people who are more comfortable with what simply works.

Re:Simple answer (1)

rorymoon (200947) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589770)

Exactly.
You can't teach an old dog new tricks.

Especially a dumb one.

On converting to metric: (1)

Vengeance (46019) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589690)

I'm 39 years old.

When I was in elementary school, it was time to panic: 'The metric system is coming!!!!!!1!!one!!eleven!'

So they tried to teach a bunch of kids how to convert between inches and meters and yards and kilometers and... A whole bunch of conversions involving multiple decimal places... As well as lookup tables, because who's going to remember all of the conversion factors?

Only that's utterly useless as a teaching device. If you want people to work in millimeters, you give them a metric ruler and ask them to measure things, duh.

Decades later, street signs still read in Miles per Hour, cans of soda are 12 ounces, but at least big diabetes-inducing bottles are measured in liters.

Finally, on the inch: It's not such a bad system of measurement. I've gotten into machine tools (lathe, mill, etc) recently, and machinists use their own system. The inch is the basic unit, and is essentially divided up in a metric fashion. When a machinist talks of 'tenths', he or she means tenths of a thousandth of an inch. That's plenty calculable and intuitive and very very precise indeed. Oh, and screw thread measurements make a *lot* more sense in the Imperial system than with the metric millimeter pitch measurements. That's not due to the measuring system of course, but due to the definitions of the standard sizes, which are far more intuitive. I can see why (back when hand-machining was far more important in the USA) there would have been considerable resistance from the manufacturing sector, and I'm not even stopping to consider re-equipping all the machines with updated change-gears, lead-screws, and dial wheels.

Re:On converting to metric: (1)

digitalhermit (113459) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589754)

Absolutely correct.. I "learned" the same way -- by having to convert English to Metric for all sorts of quantities. *Never* was I asked to take a scale or ruler and measure directly. Maybe the teaching idea was that we already knew how to measure and learning conversion was better.

The only place I'd disagree is this concept of a "metric ruler". All the rulers I've seen have both scales so it's not even a matter of buying new rulers, but just using the Metric side. In other words, no excuse.

Re:On converting to metric: (1)

Vengeance (46019) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589818)

Not to be argumentative or anything, but I've had a number of rulers (in machining they call the ruler itself a "scale") that read only in inch format. In fact, the better stuff tends to be one or the other. My cheap electronic calipers can read either metric or english, but my good micrometers are always one system only.

For that matter, I've got different tape measures for metric and imperial systems, too.

http://catalog.starrett.com/catalog/catalog/PLH2.a sp?NodeNum=21812&Mode=PLIST [starrett.com]

Metric and the World (1)

john940 (1032752) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589692)

In Britain we use both systems. But you might be interested to know that some imperial systems are alive and well but under a metric camoflage. Pipes are measured in imperial, a world standard, (BSP) as is the thread on pipes imperial and both are accepted even in France! Unfortunately we can only buy pipes in metric here in the UK but in France you can buy in imperial. It is a mad mad world.

My two cents (1)

lupine_stalker (1000459) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589706)

Changing to the Metric system wouldn't mean dropping the Imperial system entirely. In Australia, inches and feet are still used by tradies (carpenters, shipwrights and the like) as a quick and easy way of guestimating the amount of materials they need, and etc. Also, practically everyone here knows their height in feet and inches as well as centimeters.
We also still use holdovers from imperial measurements in everyday speech. For example: "Terrigal is miles away from here." It would not mean radically changing the language. America already uses the base 10 system of counting with their currency, which is very efficient, so I don't think changing would be that big a deal.
However, once again, the main factors in delaying the implementation of the metric system will be peoples ignorance and apathy, as well as a feeling of "We've always done it this way." I can understand the feeling, it is a law of physics that matter generally wants to keep doing what it is doing already (inertia I believe). Unfortunately, just because you CAN use your fingers and toes to count doesn't mean that a calculator isn't a better device for quick addition and subtraction. (That was just an example, albeit a crude one, I hope I don't get modded down by the dreaded Math Nazi's)

Just say... (1)

Bromskloss (750445) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589790)

...it's about National Security (TM) and mention something about how your brave, young men and women are leading the way. Make sure your flag is on display in the background, and explain how this is truly an American thing to do.

There are a couple of points (2, Insightful)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 7 years ago | (#17589866)

There are a number of ways to respond to this question...

1) "I personally deal with European scientists on a daily basis, and find our lack of common measurement to be extremely frustrating."
So? USE THE METRIC SYSTEM, then. *Nobody* is stopping you. I work for a European-HQ'ed paper company, and corporate is constantly dealing in square meters, while our customers are asking for things in thousand-square-feet units. Should I wring my hands and moan piteously about how complicated this is? Or is it perhaps easier just to learn the conversion rate(s) and become skilled at quick mental conversions?

There are hundreds if not thousands of industries in the US that commonly and regularly use Metric system units every day.

2) In a larger view, the difficulty in getting people to switch is symptomatic of our long-BROKEN educational system. We've had a system that accepts the production of stupid adults for a half-century; is it a surprise that much of the American electorate is, well, stupid? For 40 years, 'enlightened' social-promotion educators have insisted that there is no educational canon, no set of knowledge that's necessary to be a functional adult. Every time someone would say "look, maybe it's useful if we insist that all children must know X or must perform at Y level of aptitude before graduating", a chorus of voices (generally from the Left) would claim that was merely being classist, ethnocentrist, racist, or somehow a vague assault on the inherent value of whatever child didn't get it.
Couple that with the capitalist overreach into the educational system (going after the Right now), from corporate sponsors pumping millions of units of sugar-pop and crap-snacks into nutrition starved teens, up to the ability of college athletes to skate through education because of their financial contribution to the school, and you have a recipe for disaster.

We need to return to elementary schools that teach the basics, and REQUIRE a certain level of aptitude before graduation.
We need to have a post-secondary system that doesn't require the first 2 years to be remedial college-prep education.
We need to have colleges insist on a specific canon of educational requirements for all students, and dispense with the boutique specifics that suit some tenure-protected professor's ideological goals.

Then, perhaps, in 20-30 years we can rebuild a working democracy, with an enlightened electorate capable of making intelligent choices.
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