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Why Does the US Cling To Imperial Measurements?

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the my-car-gets-40-rods-to-the-hogshead dept.

United States 2288

PhunkySchtuff writes "As one of only three countries on Earth that hasn't converted to a metric system of units and measurements, there is a huge amount of resistance within the US to change the status quo. Whilst the cost of switching would be huge, there is also a massive hidden cost in not switching when dealing with the rest of the world (except for Liberia & Burma, the only other two countries that don't use the metric system) With one of the largest organisations in the US, the military, using metric units extensively, why does the general public in the US still cling to their customary system of units?"

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morons (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887616)

Bunch of redneck morons thats why.

Not so bad to have different systems. (5, Funny)

suso (153703) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887618)

I think its alright to have a few different systems in the world. Sure, there is an attractiveness to consolidation. But what are we going to do when we encounter aliens? Demand that they switch to the metric system? I'm actually serious. I'm not saying it will happen tomorrow or even in the next decade or century, but eventually it will. There is a lot to be said for having a tolerance for the differences among cultures and retaining those differences.

Re:Not so bad to have different systems. (3, Funny)

log0n (18224) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887634)

I disagree.

Re:Not so bad to have different systems. (0)

suso (153703) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887796)

I disagree.

And we live on the *same* planet. Just think how someone will think and make different choices being from a different planet.

Re:Not so bad to have different systems. (5, Insightful)

mywhitewolf (1923488) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887814)

Its much more intuitive for an advanced civilization to have a base(x) counting system with measurement standards being built of the counting system. so aliens are more likely to understand a metric system better than imperial. Aliens should be able to understand the true nature of mathematics and use that to classify sizes, not the average size of a foot.

However i disagree with America conforming "just because". we haven't even moved to a base 10 timing metric yet, who are we to judge?

Re:Not so bad to have different systems. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887648)

Well since you can ask ridiculous hypothetical questions: what happens if the aliens use metric?

Re:Not so bad to have different systems. (1)

suso (153703) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887752)

Well that would be an amazing coincidence. People worship metric like its some kind of universal standard and forget that its based on measurements that we choose to use like the size of our planet, heating water at our atmosphere's pressure, etc. I'm sure aliens would have their own "universal system" too.

And its not a ridiculous hypothetical question. There have been many more systems of measurement than just imperial and metric and many times before we've had to drop one in favor of another.

Re:Not so bad to have different systems. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887664)

Do you honestly believe aliens aren't *already* on the metric system. ;-)

Re:Not so bad to have different systems. (1, Insightful)

goathumper (1284632) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887884)

Your argument about being able to convert from one system to another is valid - but why bite that bullet before we have absolutely no other choice?

Is it OK/beneficial to have different standards on how some things are done/built? Yes: those differences may make one method better than another for a particular set of applications. Ideally, though, those different processes should be condensed into a single process that covers them all applications well enough that we can all standardize.

Having said that, I fail to see a reason why ANYONE would need more than one *MEASUREMENT* system.

Are there any technical benefits to having more than one measurement system? (besides having one more way to confuse PHB's and morons out there). Tolerance for other's preferences/cultures aside (i.e. this isn't exactly a "burkas vs. miniskirts" debate)

Why? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887622)

Because Kimmy Carter was a Pu$$y and Reagan was a Luddite.

good answer. (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887862)

Good answer. Good answer. I like the way you think. Im gonna be watching you.

Easy answer (1)

Killer Orca (1373645) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887624)

Stubbornness. Most people in America see no problem with keeping measurements the way they are. People have far more important things to concern themselves with.

Re:Easy answer (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887720)

I would not even call it stubbornness. Stubbornness is not giving even to a good argument. The reasons to change to the metric system are not even reasons to those who have other things to take care of in their lives. In addition, what they use works and everything in common use is in imperial. Anyone who really cares has already switched because of various failures of things not working or misses in communication (military and science fields in particular).

Re:Easy answer (2)

Ksevio (865461) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887728)

In a way. The US is a big country so it takes a while to change things. All the signs would need changing, all the measurements in laws, all the schools, and much of the culture. For a smaller country it's more practical to change those all over in a short period, but for a larger country like the US it would be very expensive and take a long time. Such a move wouldn't be politically popular (people don't like change).

Even the UK still hasn't converted over to kilometers yet, and it's much smaller.

Re:Easy answer (2)

Deaths Proxy (1795932) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887800)

My car gets 40 rods to the hogshead and that's the way I likes it.

Ronald Reagan (0)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887640)

Really.That's a decision Ronald Reagan made in 1982, when he shut down efforts to convert the US to the metric system.

Now, of course, the US has trouble exporting to a world where nobody has Imperial-sized tools or fasteners.

Re:Ronald Reagan (1, Funny)

F34nor (321515) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887676)

His stupid wife couldn't bake her recipes if car companies had to use metric robots.

Re:Ronald Reagan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887840)

Hardly true, I mean
A: US standard tools can be purchased outside the US
B: no law states that we can't use metric fasteners in the US, and most people stateside have a toolset with both metric and standard wrenches and drivers
C: fasteners are horribly standardized in general, sure metric regular and fine threads are pretty standardized, but every once in a while you still end up with something with whitworth threads or something like that, there are screws made for dynamic applications (not really fasteners) then there are pipe threads that must have made sense at one point but don't much now, plus there are several different types of heads, each seemingly more complex, flat, several variations of phillips, robertson, torx, allen and various bizarre proprietary ones to keep us form trying to modify our own hardware.

Reagan saved us from the godless metricians (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887850)

First they came for the 3x5 cards and i said nothing

Then they came for the 8 1/2 x 11 paper, i was too afraid to speak

Then they came for my pound cake, i let them take it

When they came for my 10 inch... .

Re:Ronald Reagan (0)

hjf (703092) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887878)

That's not exactly true. Inches are used everywhere, and many things are still measured in inches, even today. In my country (Argentina), you don't ask for a 25mm water pipe, you ask for a 1 inch pipe. Of course, you can ask for a 25mm pipe... Wood thickness is also measured in inches. Drywall comes in 1,20x2,40 (roughly 4x8 ft). Pipes come in 3 and 6 meters long, or roughly 10 and 20ft. Lots of things are "measured" in mm but are really old imperial measures "rounded up" to metric. Floor tiles come in 33x33cm (exactly 1x1 foot). (Or it could be because 33x33cm + 3mm spacing gives you exactly 1 square meter and thus you know exactly how many tiles to buy?). Oh and they are 6mm thick (roughly 1/4")

In circuit boards it's even worse. Most ICs and pin headers are 2,54mm (or more precisely, 0,1") but newer stuff (anything SMD) is metric... and it's hell when you have to align to a grid. Do you align to a metric grid and make the imperial thingies fit (good for mostly-SMD), or do you align to imperial and make the metric thingies fit (good for mostly through-hole).

In short... metric is good, is self defined, very scientific, allows easy conversion between volume and dimensions, and weight (if dealing with water). But inches and feet are more "practical" units when dealing with human-sized things. In spanish, inches are called "pulgadas", derived from pulgar (thumb), as an inch is roughly a thumb's size. Same with feet. You can guesstimate the size of small things (measure with your thumb) or large things (measure with your feeet).

And yeah I have tools for both metric and imperial.

Because.... (3, Insightful)

H0D_G (894033) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887642)

It'd smack too much of you giving in to the French.

Seriously, it's really frustrating when watching American science documentaries and all of the units aren't SI units. Scientists should always, always use metric.

Re:Because.... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887718)

Real science is done non-dimensionally

Re:Because.... (1)

Monkey-Man2000 (603495) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887838)

Real science is done non-dimensionally

LOL, that's the most pithy response I've seen on /. in a while. Kudos AC!

Re:Because.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887856)

False. Real science is done setting everything at 1.

Re:Because.... (4, Insightful)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887736)

What is even worse, is scientific shows like Mythbusters use BOTH systems. Usually they use metric, usually it's F but sometimes it's C. Weighs usually pounds, but they also have used (kilo)grammes. Distance is usually inches and feet, but when bouncing a baseball they were measuring the bounce in cm - while other parts of the same experiment were using inches and feet.

There is no consistency, and that alone can give rise to errors. It doesn't really matter whether one uses cm or inches, or C or F as long as it's consistent. Forget to write down the unit once, and it's guesswork that's left. Have a thermometer with both scales - oops which scale were we using again this time?

Re:Because.... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887836)

Hi, American scientist here. We do use metric.

When things are done for the media (documentaries, etc), they are translated into Imperial units, because the majority of the (American) audience would have no idea how big or small of things we were talking about when talking in some strange units they aren't familiar with.

Cookery shows (was Re:Because....) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887852)

Seriously, it's really frustrating when watching American science documentaries and all of the units aren't SI units. Scientists should always, always use metric.

Science documentaries? OK...

Cookery shows!

American cuisine may get a bad rap, but you make some of the greatest cookery shows around. I'm a voracious consumer of Food Network. Speaking for the rest of the world, we do want to watch this stuff!

But converting from degrees F to degrees C, and from ounces to grams, and from pints to litres. It sounds like small stuff (and it is), but it's often the difference between staring at a recipe, and getting off the couch to make it. So. Metric?

Flame away! (1)

Cimexus (1355033) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887644)

Heh ... even though I live in a country that uses only SI (only really understand metric myself) and personally think that the US should definitely make the switch (for any of the many clear, oft-repeated reasons that any Slashdotter has heard a hundred times before), I'm not touching this thread with a 40-foot (huh huh see what I did thar?) pole.

It's one of the most flame-ridden topics you see on this site, and it gets brought up any time someone gives imperial measurements in a summary or post. So I expect nothing new to be discussed here.

Re:Flame away! (0)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887756)

Agreed. To further the cause of 'not flaming about units', I put an entirely unrelated question to the currently assembled geekery: how would you go about building one of these [engadget.com] on, say, half the budget? Can it be done? (Anyone answering "Why bother? Just buy 'x' and be done with it." have missed the point and will be required to sit in the corner and think about what they've done).

..and the UK? (1)

h-alpha (1777352) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887650)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe measuring in 'miles' and 'gallons' is still common in the UK.

Re:..and the UK? (1)

spyder-implee (864295) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887802)

You're wrong.

lol (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887658)

Obviously, because gringos are wonderful and superior, so they can't use what the rest of the world use because that would make them weak, and after that we the evil rest of the world will conquest the US and create a New World Order with no freedom (Palpatine laughs)

The US already adopted the Metric system (5, Informative)

cob666 (656740) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887660)

I found this online somewhere:

In 1988, Congress passed the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act, which designates "the metric system of measurement as the preferred system of weights and measures for United States trade and commerce." Among many other things, the act requires federal agencies to use metric measurements in nearly all of their activities, although there are still exceptions allowing traditional units to be used in documents intended for consumers. The real purpose of the act was to improve the competitiveness of American industry in international markets by encouraging industries to design, produce, and sell products in metric units.

Re:The US already adopted the Metric system (4, Insightful)

OpenYourEyes (563714) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887706)

And what this means, in reality, is that if you're doing work for the Federal Government, you do all your work in Imperial Units, and then convert them to Metric. So you don't actually get "standard" metric sizes... you get "standard" Imperial sizes with metric units labeling them.

Re:The US already adopted the Metric system (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887844)

If you code GM Lan, Ford or J1939 you will notice that everything is metric. We then convert to english system to please the ignorant masses.
There is no issues with other countries, everything is metric until you display stuff. What I found amusing is when I coded a cluster for a Daimler Engine communication was J1587 which is all english system. Daimler is from Germany for those who do not know.
In our Electronic designs everything is metric.

Basically everything is metric except on the surface. The politicians don't have the balls to tell the morons that it would be wise to adapt.
There were large opposition when the change was made in Canada, when you talk about degrees Farenheit they give you looks like you are some kind of weird alien.

Change (1)

metrix007 (200091) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887662)

Because people are afraid of change. Not just Americans (clang_jangle if you're reading this, USian is still not a term). Most current metric countries had the metric system forced on them by the government, so they had no choice but to adapt. Until the US government makes a similar move (which it will eventually) the anachronistic imperial system is there to stay. Just as in the UK.

Adoption is going to be a bitch (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887666)

Too many old timers who will rail against it and too many idiots who will have a hard time with the concept.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for getting away from two systems and dropping the one that makes the least amount of sense but there will be hard resistance from a majority of people. Like anything else that is hard, Americans don't want to cut the cord but hope the future generations find a better way to deal with the problems it presents. It will be disruptive to society and that's just too hard a nut to crack for Joe Sixpack.

Re:Adoption is going to be a bitch (1)

grub (11606) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887764)

Canada changed in the 70's.

There was the inevitable whining but the old timers are dead or dying on (Netcraft confirms it). Their grandkids know metric. Easy enough.

Stores still sell "2x4's" and what not, but I think that's mostly due to proximity to the US.

Re:Adoption is going to be a bitch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887866)

So did the US, if you don't count the earlier attempts to change.

Unfortunately, the old people here managed to get it reversed. :(

So everyone else pays a tax... (1, Insightful)

F34nor (321515) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887668)

to do business with us. Just like our approach to treaties we can do something unique and dickish because we can.

Re:So everyone else pays a tax... (0)

F34nor (321515) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887698)

...also two Detroit senators make sure no one else can import cars to the US without crossing a high ass bar. Its cheaper to buy a senator than to build a better business model.

Re:So everyone else pays a tax... (1)

BlkRb0t (1610449) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887812)

Everyone can so something dickish, but not everyone is a dick.

Re:So everyone else pays a tax... (2, Informative)

MadMaverick9 (1470565) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887848)

Actually you are the one paying the tax for your mistakes.

When NASA lost the US$125 million Mars Climate Orbiter [wikipedia.org] for example.

And here are some more examples [wikipedia.org] of where the US is paying for not being consistent.

And when the mistakes include possible loss of life, it's quite a heavy tax you are paying.

ran out of fuel in mid-flight because of two mistakes in figuring the fuel supply

and

confusion between grains and grams is sometimes the reason for medical errors

That's easy (2, Informative)

Schlemphfer (556732) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887670)

Because we're a bunch of idiots. Next question?

Here's my two cents on that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887674)

I wrote a blog post on this same topic.
http://www.4boca.com/?p=29

I was an analytical chemist. Couldn't picture doing science without the metric system.

Why do our kids fall behind in math and science? It's as if they were being intentionally hobbled or something. The imperial system is an all-to-evident example of one of the ways this hobbling is maintained.

Subway (1)

LordofEntropy (250334) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887682)

Who wants to order a 30.48 cm sub at Subway?

Re:Subway (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887750)

Who wants to order a 30.48 cm sub at Subway?

its not called that anywhere else, why would it be called that in the US

Re:Subway (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887872)

Lol, well here in my country when you ask for the bread, you say 15cm or 30cm :P

Nobody wants change! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887684)

I'm not saying the US shouldn't change, but when I was in the UK about 5 years ago, I saw they didn't want to change either. The TeeVee told me the weather in Celsius, but the people with whom I spoke often talked in Fahrenheit. Also, most street signs indicating distance still showed yards. The myth that only 3 countries still use non-Metric is specious. England is not on that short list. I wonder how many other countries that are "officially" metric are not metric in practice. The UK has not been fully metric for more than a dekayear!

Because (1)

ExploHD (888637) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887686)

Because we can

A lot of existing things are predicated on it... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887688)

I think this is a nontrivial task, beyond the expenses that are obvious, there are a lot that aren't. Since the imperial system has been in place for so long in the US, it's literally built into our buildings (16" on center stud distances, etc). I'm sure it's possible to change things but the longterm challenges would be significant. Everything we have is measured this way, think of all the cars that measure gas in gallons and the gas stations that service them, all the mechanical systems that are based on the imperial system. I'd be surprised if we changed it anytime soon.

Re:A lot of existing things are predicated on it.. (1)

zach_the_lizard (1317619) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887804)

There's also a metric ton of local building codes and regulations that have to be updated to use metric units.

Learn it in school (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887690)

Personally, the units to me don't matter, as I know the conversions for most important ones (or google the more obscure). Most schools teach sciences using the metric system, so people in the USA should be accustomed to both.

However, the difference of there/their/they're seems to be holding most students up.

Imperial Units in the Classroom (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887692)

I teach my high school Calculus class with Imperial units.

I love the looks on their faces when I have them find the magnitude, in meters, of an object with a velocity in fathoms per minute.

It's really quite simple (2, Interesting)

matty619 (630957) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887694)

Americans like monosyllabic or abbreviated words wherever possible. Especially in commonly used words, like those involving measurements. We've got pound, inch, foot, yard, pint, quart, and gallon....gallon being one of the few multisyllabic words. Most metric metrics (lol...ya, I just did that) are multi syllable compound words, and most of them don't have any obvious way of being shortened. Americans just don't want to say "Kilometer" when they can say "mile. They don't want to say "centimeter" when they can say "inch".

The Metric System is elegantly simple and beautiful, in everything but the English pronunciation of said metrics. What a shame.

Re:It's really quite simple (2)

Cimexus (1355033) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887786)

To be fair, in casual speech, people in metric countries say "k" for kilometres. As in "it's about 5 kay down the road". Similarly for millimetres they tend to say 'mil' (this could also be millilitre, depending on context).

No short-form of cm as far as I'm aware though.

Re:It's really quite simple (2)

matty619 (630957) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887874)

Very true. But it's still one of the reasons the public at large has resisted every attempt to convert. Imperial measurements are just more comfortable in everyday speech. This is just my personal theory of course, but I believe it holds water. Perhaps a gallon or so ;)

Re:It's really quite simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887794)

But nobody says "kilometers" people go "it's a couple of k's away"

Re:It's really quite simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887870)

c'mon, everyone says "klicks" for "kilometers". You would have to find a similar shorthand for "centimeter", like "cem" or something.

Speak for yourself (1)

atari2600a (1892574) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887696)

Just because my 'government' thinks it's a good idea doesn't mean I do, which is why all of my heaters, AC's, weather widgets, etc are set to Celsius. (My car, on the other hand, is another story entirely...)

Language (1)

Deaths Proxy (1795932) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887700)

My leading theory is that the reason is one of language. Miles, inches and gallons rolls off the English tongue much easier than Kilometers, Centimeters and Litres. It's much easier to ask what sort of mileage does your car get, the metric equivalent is far more clumsy linguistically. Even in Australia where metric was taken up many years ago and is part of everyday life, people often state their hight in feet and inches. When you ask for your cars fuel efficiency in Austrlia, you still ask for milage, although you might get an answer in km/litre.

Re:Language (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887828)

> Kilometers

Always 'kilos' for the mass or "kay's" for kilometres.

> Centimeters

Often left off when talking about heights. So 6 feet or 5' 6" just turns into 180.

> people often state their hight in feet and inches

In Australia, only old people use imperial.

> answer in km/litre.

I don't think so. It's always litres per hundred kilometres.

Carpentry (1)

Digital Vomit (891734) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887702)

I would suggest keeping Imperial measurements for carpentry (pretty much the only endeavor where the Imperial system beats the metric system) and move everything else to metric.

Re:Carpentry (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887760)

How so? Seriously, I'm interested why Imperial is better for carpentry only.

Re:Carpentry (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887806)

seriously? 5' 10" 3/32 vs 1.7804m or 178.4cm or 1780.4mm
How does imperial help woodworking/construction?

Re:Carpentry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887830)

Any kind of crafts, it's helpful to have a measurement system that works on fractions, not decimals. Makes finding the center of something easy, dividing something in half easy, dividing in quarters, etc.

Plus I never get why IT professionals want a system more aligned with base 10 than base 2.

Its about the burgers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887704)

Because a "Royal with cheese" just sounds stupid.

Re:Its about the burgers (1)

jijitus (1478465) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887868)

I think you meant the quarter pounder; the Metric one would be the tough to market "113 grams with cheese". The approximate "Ninth of a kilo with cheese" doesn't cut it either.
By the way, in my country the Clown sells them as "Cuarto de Libra con queso", that's the exact Spanish translation for quarter pounder with cheese, and it seems the same thing happens in French [wikipedia.org]

Copy the Brits - More or Less (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887712)

We do use the metric system. Other than working on household nuts, all my automotive tools are metric.

I would prefer a mixed system, somewhat like the Brits use.

Distance - I prefer Km over feet / miles.
Weight - Kg's are much better than ton / pound / oz
Power - I prefer HP to KWH's
Temperature - Keep Fahrenheit. Celsius is good for Science, but I much prefer a 75 F degree afternoon to a 24 C degree one...

Liberia is a US offshoot (2)

JeffSh (71237) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887714)

The interesting thing about this is that Liberia is comprised of US ex-pats; slaves who populated the country when "Back to Africa" was embraced by ex-slaves. It's really amazing to study this area of history. Even their flag is Red White and Blue. It's weird that they share the same addiction to imperial measurement also.

I, for one, am tired... (1)

archer, the (887288) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887722)

...of our Imperialistic Overlords' measurement system. Time to throw the inches and feet over the yardarm...

More than 3 countries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887724)

I am currently residing in the very small country of Grenada. And here its definitely not metric, although not exactly imperial either. For instance speed limits are in kilometers and gasoline is in liters, but I have yet to see anything else on the island in metric. All other goods are sold by the pound, gallon, and yard. I once asked for a meter of cloth and they had to call the owner to find out that it was basically a yard.

Contenental standardization *works*. (1)

Nutria (679911) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887726)

From San Diego to Bangor ME (4330 km) and Nome to Key West (7250 km), everyone uses the same units of measure.

Thus, what others would see as an international problem, we see as not a problem.

Support Imperial Units (1)

mehtars (655511) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887732)

I for one support imperial units, especially the Fahrenheit system-- it covers daily temps without going into negative numbers-- world average temp is apx 50 degrees, 75 is comfortable and 0 is very cold.

Good Question (2)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887734)

I've often wondered this very same thing. I grew up having learned both systems but it wasn't until I joined the Army that I realized how much easier the metric system is to actually use, not just on paper. Fractions are quite possibly the dumbest incarnation of math we humans could have ever invented; I could understand if it actually made things easier, but it does not.

Perhaps there are jobs created or money to be made with continuing to use Imperial and metric at the same time e.g., tools created in both systems.

On the other hand, how can we Americans continue our ethnocentric ways if we were to join the rest of the world? (ok that was a troll, but come on...it holds some truth).

It's about the penis size. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887738)

Something about saying I have a 0.2 meter penis that doesn't sound right.

Does that mean (1)

ArchieBunker (132337) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887740)

All the CAD drawings done at my job will have to be in metric? How much will it cost to replace the millions of street signs and maps already in use?

I use the metric system (2)

devphaeton (695736) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887754)

Dunno about you guys, but whenever I have to actually design or build something, I use the metric system. I have foreign cookbooks where everything is metric, and my scales and measuring equipment all accommodate. Sure, sometimes i have to use imperial, such as when working on older cars, fixing someone else's handiwork, etc., but I also know a lot of common conversions off the top of my head. I've actually been called a "communist" once because of this. I consider it an accomplishment.

Besides, all the engineering, manufacturing, scientific and medical sectors in the U.S. have been using the metric system for decades. /dev/phaeton

Care to elaborate? (1)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887766)

Whilst the cost of switching would be huge, there is also a massive hidden cost in not switching when dealing with the rest of the world (except for Liberia & Burma, the only other two countries that don't use the metric system)

My request is to a Slashdotter to provide examples of especially what this "massive hidden cost" as mentioned above is .

One thing I know is that US car salesmen are stuck with their inventory and wish they could sell more of those cars to Canadians given the Canadian currency which is now stronger [xe.com] than its US counterpart.

The problem is Canadians employ the metric system, but with US cars calibrated in imperial units, they cannot be allowed on Canadian roads and the cost of conversion is prohibitive.

communism (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887770)

'As long as I am president of this country the great industries are secure. We hear about millimeters, kilograms and litres. Every time I hear these words I say to myself, "That man is a Red, that man is a Communist." You never hear a real American talk like that.'

-- President Dwight D. Rockefeller, 1950.

Change the name! (5, Informative)

Thagg (9904) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887772)

Call them American units!

I mean, we don't use Imperial gallons here anyway

Obligatory Simpsons quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887774)

"The metric system is the tool of the devil! My car gets 40 rods to the hogshead and that's the way I likes it." -Abraham Simpson

Because they are French ? (1)

craznar (710808) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887776)

The US don't like anything French it seems (except the Status of Liberty), so SI units get refused a VISA ?

Is anyone really metricated? (1)

ramriot (1354111) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887784)

May I ask the counterpoint, is there a country anywhere that uses only metric ISO units?
Here in Canada we still put $/lb on food items, In the UK all the road signs are in Miles and speedometers are in Miles/hour and I do not know of anywhere that the weather report is given in Kelvin, as it should be. Is it just me or does a balmy 293K sounds much better that 20C.

We can swtich from analog to digital TV..... (1)

Proudrooster (580120) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887788)

The US successfully switched from analog to digital TV which in my opinion was more traumatic than switching units of measure. I think we can do this and while we are at it, we need to standardize on a national language. I vote for Java or Perl.

Re:We can swtich from analog to digital TV..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887882)

Are you nuts? Making everyone get a new TV or a Digital Converter Box is nowhere near as traumatic. Every aspect of life would be touched by this. Do you think people who have been buying "gallons" of milk or gasoline for 40 years are gonna want to start changing that? Or are gonna start using kilometers when talking to their kids, instead of miles? Or change everything we feel about temperature? (i.e. 0 degrees is "really cold out" and 100 degrees is "really hot out") Change our football fields to meters? Stop weighing ourselves in pounds?

Listen it's just too ingrained on our society to change it all. It's not going to happen. I completely support the metric system being used in terms of science/etc but the rest of it is fine as it is

Why does it matter? (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887790)

In these case, units of measurement are but one of many specifications for a part. Computers can readily convert sizes... it's like, saying, we should have one thing because division is too complicated, and, its just not. We could have 100 different units of measurement, and it wouldn't matter that much.

It's not just the US; it's everyone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887798)

No one has fully adopted a true metric system. Sure, most countries use metric for mass and distance, but I don't see anyone using kiloseconds instead of hours.

we worked out the bugs with the Mars orbiter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887808)

... at great cost to everyone concerned. If the US switched to metric, maybe the conversion code wouldn't be properly identified and ripped out from NASA's integration systems, and we'd lose another one.

It was taught wrong (1)

anonymous cowpie (31472) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887818)

I grew up in the 1970s when there was a big push to teach the metric system in elementary school. The teaching method was carefully designed to make kids hate the metric system. Instead of making it fun and practical, the focus was on memorizing *all* the prefixes, abbreviations, and conversions to & from imperial units. FAIL.

Three things (1)

CougMerrik (1221450) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887822)

We cling to three things in America. Our guns, our religion, and our system of weights and measures. Come and take them, you commie bastard.

Tradition (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887826)

It's just tradition. Almost no American will know how many feet are in a mile, but they know how many meters are in a kilometer. Anyone who has taken algebra would have a pretty good idea why counting base 10 is simple to use when converting units. In before stup1d arguments inundate, like oh but the spending on speed limits, or poop laymen that can only count with 12inch rulers. All our rulers are measured 12inches with metric on the other side. No one ever follows the limits signs so it would be prudent you avoid making a fool of yourself in front of the judge.

Stupid Conversion Formulas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887832)

Having grown up in the period when we were trying to slowly convert, I believe that all the stupid conversions formulas that they were trying to teach everyone doomed the change over. If the United States had just set a date, and then started using metric exclusively, we all would have gotten used to it quickly, the way everyone is perfectly fine with 2 liter bottles of soda.

Thou! (1)

Gazoogleheimer (1466831) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887842)

As an electrical engineer, I would point out something rather funny: even European electronics (in majority) are still specified in thousandths of an inch as the primary dimensioning measure, as almost all surfacemount (and PTH) footprints are still in thousandths of an inch. Is this what we get for inventing it?

I'm not a math whiz but has anyone considered.... (1)

axlr8or (889713) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887854)

The conversions as not that hard? I understand the potential for some incongruities but I was a machinist by trade for about 5 years and we had to slip between metric and empirical for the medical industry. Not that big a deal.

The answer is here: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35887858)

Americans are stupid

Because we can. (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887860)

Pride, stubbornness, and a general dislike for Jimmy Carter killed the metric system in the U.S.

Computers have perpetuated our ability to use imperial units without suffering too much - and I think vendors like the confusion that comes from making things with mixed metric/imperial parts.

Some areas use them BOTH. (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887880)

It can be worse - for example Hong Kong is an area where both systems are used.

Flat sizes are measured in square feet. Ground areas usually square feet, sometimes square meters. Screws and the like are usually metric sized, drill bits sometimes metric (diameter in mm) sometimes imperial (diameter in 8th of an inch). Distances on road signs are in km, miles are not used.

Weights is even more fun. Imported pre-packed goods are often measured in grammes and kilograms. Some are measured in pounds (1 lb = about 452 gr). Vegetables are usually sold by the catty (1 catty = 600 gr). Seafood also by the catty, sometimes by it's derived unit the tael (16 tael = 1 catty, so 12 tael is about 1 pound). The latter conversions took me really long to figure out as most locals use the units but do not know how to convert to one another.

China is fully converted to the metric system (having a dictatorship has it's advantages). They still use the catty, but they have defined a catty at 500 gr. Something the Hongkongers don't seem to know - the thing is you just get some 18% less in mainland than in Hong Kong in your catty.

Ready or Not? (1)

methano (519830) | more than 3 years ago | (#35887886)

As a working chemists, I'm pretty much ready to change over. But, although I use the metric system day after day and am completely comfortable with it, I still can't figure out what to wear by looking at the outdoor temperature in centigrade (or is it Celsius?). I also like my pressure in psi if it's high and mm Hg if it's low and in atm if it's near one.

I think we could get used to the metric system pretty fast, so that theory, cited above, about caving into the French is probably the real reason we haven't changed.
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