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United States Government Technology Politics Science

USMA: Going the Extra Kilometer For Metrication 909

EagleHasLanded writes "The U.S. Metric Association has been advocating for metrication since 1916 – without much success. In the mid-1970s, the U.S. government passed the Metric Conversion Act, but now it seems the time for complete conversion has come and gone. Or could U.S. educators and health & safety advocates put this issue back on Congress' radar screen?"
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USMA: Going the Extra Kilometer For Metrication

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @01:46PM (#42442533)

    It just makes sense

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @01:51PM (#42442573)

    Quick with out looking it up how many mTorr in 1 kPa?

  • by WWJohnBrowningDo ( 2792397 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @01:57PM (#42442621)
    Torr isn't SI. And it's spelled "without", not "with out".
  • by Idarubicin ( 579475 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @02:00PM (#42442641) Journal

    After all, Imperial (in the US flavor) is better for computing than metric since it's at least partially base 2.

    Which would, potentially, be helpful and useful if the humans who program, enter data into, and use information from, those computers were also in the habit of working in base 2.

    And I'm sorry, as long as there are 5280 feet in a mile - that's 2^5 * 3 * 5 * 11(!?) - I'm going to call bullshit on the computing usefulness of a "partially" base 2 system.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @02:04PM (#42442677)

    torr is not an SI unit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torr

  • by ugen ( 93902 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @02:14PM (#42442757)

    What exactly is gained by change in units? As a metric "native" I can tell you that metric units are not based on real-world criteria. There is no way to naturally define an "approximate" centimeter or a gram (as opposed to approximate inch, foot or ounce, for example).

    Metric units primary convenience in common use is to make shorthand in writing easier by avoiding decimal point or additional places of 0 and replacing them with predefined short prefixes. I suppose it may be useful to those who have good memory for greek-derived words but can't multiply or divide by 10, but are these people a majority? There are more convenient unit conversions when it comes to scientific use, but as far as I can tell, scientists do use metric quite universally.

    More importantly - if you like metric system, just use it. I can't think of many (any?) products sold in US that are not dual-labeled. Virtually everything has either both imperial and metric weight/size etc. marked on it, or sold in metric and imperial versions. If metric system is superior in day-to-day life - market will no doubt prefer it without the need for government intervention.

  • by Great Big Bird ( 1751616 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @02:14PM (#42442765)
    Do you really want to be able to have a calculator around? When I need to consider units, it is absurdly easy to convert them. Do you realize that the United States does not use the English system? It uses the United States customary units (variations exist between it and the English system). 'Imperial' in fact has no many variations around the world. I think the best reason to change it, is because it is one of only three countries in the world that doesn't use the SI system. For the world to interact with the United States it would be much easier if everyone used SI.
  • by mspohr ( 589790 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @02:21PM (#42442855)

    We do make buildings using feet and inches which is a nightmare.
    Suppose you need to put a 2 feet 8 3/8 inch window in the middle of a 4 foot 7 3/16 inch wide wall.
    How far from the left edge of the wall is the left edge of the window?
    (I'll leave the math to you.)

  • Re:US Metrication (Score:4, Insightful)

    by IANAAC ( 692242 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @02:32PM (#42442977)
    Yes, please, let's give Congress another way to ignore the bigger problems of the day...
  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @02:33PM (#42442983) Homepage Journal

    So does a system based on 2 and 3. When looking at a given amount of something, one rarely needs 10 times more or 1/10th as much. Halves, quarters, and eights OTOH are quite commonly called for and don't even require a calibrated measure to achieve.

    The problem with base 10 as it is now used is that you get forced to an impractical scale right when you most need it. 1/2 CM is 5mm, easy enough, but who wants to deal with 250 um on a construction site?

  • Re:US Metrication (Score:5, Insightful)

    by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @02:46PM (#42443117) Homepage Journal

    perhaps the people have spoken...many times...

    Yes, and their voice was "Ooh, change makes my head hurt. Leave me alone and give me tax cuts and reality TV".

    The last days of the empire, indeed.

  • by Teun ( 17872 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @02:52PM (#42443193) Homepage
    Nobody cares if you drive 65 mph or the corresponding 105 kmh.

    But it does matter for manufacturers building equipment for markets using the different units.
    It should require no explanation conversions between mm, cm, m and km is easier to explain and comprehend than the conversions between 64th, inch, foot, yard and mile.

    Alone the need for different tool sets is in my company a serious cost and especially a quality control issue.

  • by Sique ( 173459 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @02:57PM (#42443257) Homepage

    What exactly is gained by change in units? As a metric "native" I can tell you that metric units are not based on real-world criteria. There is no way to naturally define an "approximate" centimeter or a gram (as opposed to approximate inch, foot or ounce, for example).

    Which is plainly wrong. Every unit was defined to be connected to the Meter (which is why it is called "meter", latin for "measure"). The metric ton for instance was defined as the mass of water in a cube of 1m x 1m x 1m. Thus 1 liter (1 dm) of water weighs weighs 1 kg, and 1 cm of water weighs 1 g. The meter was defined as the 10 millionth of the distance between Northpole and Equator. Only when the first units of Meter bars were founded and handed over to the national measuring bodies, one found out that there was a small mistake in measurement, and the new meter was about 2 millimeters short. But then it was too late to change that, and the meter was kept.

  • by Sperbels ( 1008585 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @02:58PM (#42443285)

    though even that holds its own against the M3

    Drag racing hardly qualifies as holding its own. Real race cars have to turn sometimes.

  • Re:Boggle (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 1u3hr ( 530656 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @03:01PM (#42443313)

    2- You can shove your commie paper sizes up your "arse".

    Fucking "Letter" page size default in every fucking installation of MS fucking Office I've used in the last 20 fucking years, and I've never even seen a piece of Letter size fucking paper.

  • Re:Metric Time (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cervesaebraciator ( 2352888 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @03:02PM (#42443329)
    Incidentally, something like this was tried [wikipedia.org]. And, of course, it was rejected. There were some technical problems [wikipedia.org] with it, but there's a bigger problem with it: most people don't want to trade a seven day week for a ten day week if that entails no increase in the weekend. Most employers, on the other hand, would be fine with this arrangement. Besides, in spite of all the Culte de la Raison business, there's nothing more inherently rational about a ten day week than a seven day week.
  • by Sique ( 173459 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @03:08PM (#42443399) Homepage
    Irrelevant? If I want to know if it's going to freeze, I just look at the temperature, and if it's below 0C, it's going to freeze. If I boil water, it will start to boil at 100C. I don't measure my body temperature that often, and I don't feel too cold that often. But I cook my eggs every weekend, and if I have to take care because of freezing rain on the streets, I have to check every day during winter. So give me 0C and 100C (and I can remember the 273,15 K for 0C, thank you very much), and get lost with your 32 F and 212 F - they are just not interesting.
  • by RabidReindeer ( 2625839 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @03:49PM (#42443827)

    A decimal system of weights and measures based on the meter and on the kilogram

    kg are not a unit of weight. Newton is the unit of weight in SI.

    You don't even use the correct SI units. Again Metric is not SI.

    Darned if I'm going to let you out-pedant me. Just because a system of weights and measures is based on the meter and kilogram doesn't actually say the the kilogram itself is the measure of weight, just the basis for the measure of weight. So there!

  • by richlv ( 778496 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @04:04PM (#42444011)

    When I worked in construction, I found inches are better than centimeters, because you can specify your tolerances really well. It's really hard to cut a board to a mm precision with a circular handsaw, but no problem to cut it to 1/16 of an inch.

    so it is easier to cut it down to 0,15875 cm precision than to 0,1 cm ? surprising :)

  • Re:US Metrication (Score:5, Insightful)

    by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @04:05PM (#42444015) Homepage Journal

    That, or they said that there is little benefit for the man in the street to convert and there are giant costs involved. So, with little benefit in one hand and a giant cost in the other, what would you do?

    You consider the future. Who was it who said "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish"?

    The fall from enterprising pioneers to decadent reactionaries went quickly - a mere two generations.

  • by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @04:05PM (#42444025)

    You do have to give credit to the (probably illiterate) medieval craftsmen who created the various customary units for often having the intuitive notion that 12 would be a better base for our number system than ten.

    However, since unfortunately ten is the base of our number system, dividing units into 12 does more harm than good. You only get the convenience of occasionally splitting things into 3 parts at the expense of having to do complex fraction calculations on most everything else.

  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @04:45PM (#42444501)

    "Everybody does except for the USA."

    Yes, and I think this is the real point. The U.S. cannot stand almost completely alone in its units of measurement forever.

  • by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @04:53PM (#42444559) Journal

    Furthermore, kilogram is most often used for weight

    No, the kilogram is used for mass. It is often frequently incorrectly claimed to be a weight by people who don't know any better. This works only because at the moment all but a tiny handful of humans are currently limited to an environment where the gravitational field is the same magnitude. If that ever changes people will end up having to learn the difference.

  • Re:Boggle (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Intropy ( 2009018 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @04:58PM (#42444605)

    thousand million

    I see what you did there.

  • by Ironhandx ( 1762146 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @05:21PM (#42444809)

    The fact it can hold its own against an M3 in any measurement is impressive. The M3 costs OVER DOUBLE what the Mustang GT costs. Even in the UK it costs over 75% more than the cost of buying a mustang and having it shipped in. Then with a few k in bolt-ons you have a Mustang thats going to smoke the M3 in most any real-world situation on the street.

    Neither is a race car, but both are good cars. In their own right.

    I hate europeans that don't understand the point of a Mustang... it goes fast. It goes fast cheaply. It makes a lovely sound and looks amazing for the price of a base model family sedan. It can be made to go faster than anyone could ever possibly need for under 10k USD.

    If we're going to compare Mustang to M3 lets put the GT500 onto a track against it. I'll bet dollars to donuts that the extra horsepower on the GT500 makes up most of the time difference. Because thats what the M3 is. Its in the GT500 price range, and it only MIGHT beat the GT500 around a track(its a might because it will depend on which track, one with a lot of straights the M3 is a bit screwed, and vice-versa for the GT500), even with the SRA, because the GT500 outdoes it on both horsepower and horsepower to weight by a lot.

    That said, the 1/4 mile is often considered the ultimate test of a car, and I'll mention about the first fucking thing they do on Top Gear UK with very nearly every-single-car they bring on there. If they do a comparison test its always either 1/4 mile, standing mile, or 0-100 and back to 0, which are all essentially the same thing.

    The 1/4 mile is the easiest and fastest way to say "My car beats the pulp out of your car".

    Besides that, for the same reason as James May on Top Gear says the Fiat Panda is fun, the Mustang is fun. Cars are most fun when they're driven at the edge of their capabilities. Its due to this that the Mustang with its SRA is more fun than any of the BMW's I've test-driven. The Mustang can be fun on a daily basis, relatively within the legal local speed limits. The M3 is about as boring as it gets until you can get it onto a track somewhere.

  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @05:37PM (#42444921)

    like the construction supplies industry, which benefits from using measures and sizes different to everyone else in the world.

    Having to deal with multiple measurement systems is nothing but a cost with no benefit - which is why metric is not commonly used here in the US. There is a HUGE cost to switching which is why it hasn't been done but there is no actual advantage to having more than one measurement system to the construction industry or any other industry. Furthermore all the skilled trade workers are trained in imperial units and don't use metric much and there is a lot of resistance from them since they'd have to re-learn a lot of how they do things.

    It effectively acts as a trade barrier against the Chinese.

    I assure you it does not. All those commodity bolts, fasteners, etc are made in China. Construction companies are often Chinese.

  • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @07:25PM (#42445823) Journal

    The problem with base 10 as it is now used is that you get forced to an impractical scale right when you most need it.

    That's daft.

    Firstly, a 2400mm board is much more easily divisible than a 37 1/32 inch board.

    Secondly conversions in imperial are just plain awful.


    10mm of rain falls over a 1km^2 drainage area. How much volume does the drainage system have to dispose of?

    Now do it for imperial with inches of rain and acres of area. Oh, and did you choose gallons or cu ft?

    Now convert to mass. OK, so you need to look up a conversion table. But you might have to change your volumetric measure, since imperial has plenty of totally different ones.

  • by WegianWarrior ( 649800 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @07:36PM (#42445919) Journal

    To quote the AC that got modded down: "How exactly are inch and the foot are more practical units for everyday use? cm and meter are used all around the world everyday and there's no problems with them."

    Centimetres and metres are extremely practical for everyday use, as proven by the fact that most of the world use them without trouble on a day to day basis. And before you come up with the old and busted idea that you can't easily divide by three in the metric system - or at least not get a nice, round number - try telling me just how many inches a fifth of a foot is.. or a fifth of a yard.

    Metrics are easier to explain, lets you convert between units easier and makes for simpler maths. The so called Standard measures do not.

  • by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @10:40PM (#42447073)

    The US is officially Metric, right? You can't buy anything in a supermarket that's not marked with grams or milliliters.

    Having metric marked as an alternative measurement is not being truly metric. For example, in the UK we used to get milk in pints. For a while after metrication 4 pint jugs were marked additionally as 1.89 Litres. The final step was selling them in 2 Litre containers. It's only then that they were truly selling them in metric units.

    Temperatures in weather reports are given in F only

    It gets worse before it gets better. For a while we had cold weather in C and hot weather in F. As in "The temperature got below zero last night. Not like when we were on holiday and 90 degrees in the shade!"

Disks travel in packs.