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Thread: Make the Metric System standard in the US

  1. #1 Make the Metric System standard in the US 
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    Hello Everyone, I'm new to the Forum, I thought this would be the right place to gain some support for a petition I created on the Whitehouse.gov We the People Petition website. Sign if you agree and if you haven't made an account this is a fun easy way to involve yourself politically!
    http://wh.gov/bdl


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    How much do you really think it affects foreign trade and the economy? I will admit, it's a pain in the arse to need two sets of socket wrenches.


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    I'm old fashioned .. I like the King James Bible and I like the old systems. I'm Canadian, and we use both systems here, but I've never switched to metric. Whatever happened to free choice?
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    I definitely have to agree with you on the wrenches... I think it has a tremendous impact on foreign trade, conformance to standards is crucial to move products out of the US. My biggest concern lies with our children's scientific education, where in the United States, it is extremely lacking. I'm not suggesting the US should by any means ban the Old US standard, simply it should make the Metric System the new Standard. The old system is bulky, cumbersome, and flat out silly in my opinion.
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    I wouldn't doubt there are advantages to standardizing, I'm just wondering if somebody has analyzed the financial benefits. If we want to make a product for export (and what do we manufacture for export anyway?) we can tool up to produce it in metric sizes, if necessary.

    I am old enough to remember the failed attempt in the 1970s to convert to metric. Back then, it was quite a chore to convert from the English system to metric. We had to use slide rules, in those days. Since then, we have calculators and computers that can convert the numbers in an instant, which I think makes the education part of it almost moot.
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    We have a strange crossover in the UK, and have had since I was a kid at school, with inches down one side of the ruler and centimetres down the other side.

    We have the metric standard, but all our road distances are given in miles, and speeds in miles per hour. All liquids (bottled soft drinks etc) are sold in litres or ml, but in pubs we still buy beer by the pint.

    We have two sets of tools of course, but sheets of wood are sold giving their metric size - the standard sheet size for building work is 2440x1220mm (which is, of course, 8' x 4')!
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    That is strikingly similar to how it is her in the US, everything is dual labeled. While this is a great start, I am most concerned with how few people here know how to use the Metric System, even with it's simplicity. As a student in Chemistry I can not live without the Metric System, but I fear it is only those who HAVE to use it who actually know how.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SpeedFreek View Post
    We have a strange crossover in the UK, and have had since I was a kid at school, with inches down one side of the ruler and centimetres down the other side.

    We have the metric standard, but all our road distances are given in miles, and speeds in miles per hour. All liquids (bottled soft drinks etc) are sold in litres or ml, but in pubs we still buy beer by the pint.

    We have two sets of tools of course, but sheets of wood are sold giving their metric size - the standard sheet size for building work is 2440x1220mm (which is, of course, 8' x 4')!
    Yes, it's weird here, too. Soft drinks are by the liter mostly, but milk is by quarts and half gallons. So are fruit juices. Beer comes in 12 ounce and 16 ounce sizes. I guess it's because the soft drinks are exported but other drinks aren't.

    Metric sizes are starting to creep into things like "European" cabinet hinges which require a 35mm hole for example, though a 1 3/8" will work as well.
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    Manufacturing in the U.S. and Canada is pretty much killed by cheap Asian labour and expertise anyway, I suspect it's going that way in Europe also, so that's no reason to change to metric.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Science-Yooper View Post
    That is strikingly similar to how it is her in the US, everything is dual labeled. While this is a great start, I am most concerned with how few people here know how to use the Metric System, even with it's simplicity. As a student in Chemistry I can not live without the Metric System, but I fear it is only those who HAVE to use it who actually know how.
    Get a life. Imperial measures rule OK.
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    One thought .. the imperial system was not so easily broken down into quantifiable pieces .. leaving more room for the spirit of proof and error .. by necessity perhaps giving rise to more exacting thought and process .. and perhaps giving rise to an openess to suggestion giving rise to inventiveness. (Maybe?)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aristarchus in Exile View Post
    One thought .. the imperial system was not so easily broken down into quantifiable pieces .. leaving more room for the spirit of proof and error .. by necessity perhaps giving rise to more exacting thought and process .. and perhaps giving rise to an openess to suggestion giving rise to inventiveness. (Maybe?)
    Well said. The Imperial measures system was good enough to start the Industrial Revolution.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Wilson View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Aristarchus in Exile View Post
    One thought .. the imperial system was not so easily broken down into quantifiable pieces .. leaving more room for the spirit of proof and error .. by necessity perhaps giving rise to more exacting thought and process .. and perhaps giving rise to an openess to suggestion giving rise to inventiveness. (Maybe?)
    Well said. The Imperial measures system was good enough to start the Industrial Revolution.
    Besides, spans and cubits are Imperial, aren't they? Or, Heavenly?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aristarchus in Exile View Post

    Besides, spans and cubits are Imperial, aren't they? Or, Heavenly?
    I would think heavenly.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aristarchus in Exile View Post
    One thought .. the imperial system was not so easily broken down into quantifiable pieces .. leaving more room for the spirit of proof and error .. by necessity perhaps giving rise to more exacting thought and process .. and perhaps giving rise to an openess to suggestion giving rise to inventiveness. (Maybe?)
    Trial and error? In architecture, shipbuilding etc. that "error" can be the difference between life and death.
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    The changeover was successful here in South Africa. Some of the older generation still sometimes talk about pounds, feet and inches, but increasingly less and is completely lacking with the younger generation. I am very happy indeed that it has changed. The imperial system is old and defunct.

    How did that Mars mission get lost again?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Wilson View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Aristarchus in Exile View Post

    Besides, spans and cubits are Imperial, aren't they? Or, Heavenly?
    I would think heavenly.
    Hallelujah Brother.
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    I would think bronze age middle eastern
    If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. -Thorin Oakenshield

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    Actually, HAS been formally adopted in USA multiple times, "English" units are defined in terms of metric units under S.I., e.g. one inch equals 2.54 cm exactly. Executive Order 12770 has to some degree already accomplished what you seek to achieve, but fact remains that customs die hard, maybe more durable than law. Metric system was recognized as legal in 1886 in USA, but rival system has never been legally recognized except as described above, yet persists like bad smell.

    Metric system itself is not fully decimal- with respect to time, unit is second, so to be consistent one would have deciseconds, centiseconds, etc. instead of minutes & hours- more example of persistence of custom, so it goes.

    Executive Order 12770
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    Please sign my White House Metrication Petition: http://wh.gov/XBc
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    I'm afraid Dave was here to peddle a book.
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    The operative word being WAS?
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    the use of English measurements in US machine shops is endless trouble in dozens of ways - if there were no metric system, it would be worthwhile to invent one for that purpose alone.

    But we're stuck with it, because each generation of investment in expensive tooling in a given shop cannot afford to break the chain.

    The worst damage in general is in average numeracy, though - the barrier to using numbers in daily life is pretty high, as you have to be able to handle weird factions and multiplications of difficult numbers in your head, so people don't bother. So they don't build up a working sense of relative size, distance, quantity, etc.

    At about 10 bucks a yard, ballpark how much would it cost to carpet a 1200 square foot house? People can't even guess.
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    At about 10 bucks a yard, ballpark how much would it cost to carpet a 1200 square foot house? People can't even guess.
    Because they failed at grade school math?

    I also think your flat wrong about working sizes of things. People get used to what ever conventions they grow with. Ever notice an adult loosing entire decimal places trying to do metric...from that perspective some things are easier in English units.

    I might get a chance to test your problem though--I'm helping run a middle school math fair tomorrow night.
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    I also think your flat wrong about working sizes of things. People get used to what ever conventions they grow with.
    But they can't use them easily.

    Sample every day real world minor hassle that should not happen: You are making a set pin hole in a piece of mild steel, print diameter .4375 inches, tolerance .0005 You need a minimum of .02 left in the hole diameter for the reamer. For this level of accuracy you prefer a 4 flute center cutting carbide end mill, in your normal US shop they are avaialble in 1/64 inch size gradations (as are the reamers). The bigger they are the more rigidity they bring and the more accurately they mill.

    1)What size mill and reamer do you want?

    2) The recommended cutting speeds are given in surface feet per minute - let's say 350 for this tooling and metal. That is the speed at which the cutting edges of the mill should travel around the inner surface of the hole, removing metal. For this diameter end mill (it looks and works about like a drill bit) how fast in revolutions per minute should you run it?

    Of course one can get accustomed to this stuff, familiar with the common 1/64 decimals and quick at reading a size chart. You can get used to Roman numerals, and there is no arithmetic that cannot be done in Roman numerals - but they are an obstacle, a continual source of unnecessary hassle and occasional unnecessary error, whether you grew up with them or not.

    Ever notice an adult loosing entire decimal places trying to do metric...from that perspective some things are easier in English units.
    It's spelled "losing", and there is no difference between metric and English units in the role of decimal places. If you can't handle them in metric, you can't handle them in English either.

    Nothing is easier in English units except, occasionally, division by 3.

    Another: how many acre feet of water would it take to fill a 50,000 gallon storage impoundment?
    Last edited by iceaura; March 8th, 2012 at 02:08 AM.
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    Do go from a rug example that applies to almost everyone in casual converstion at a home depot to an example that applied to a tiny fraction (hehe) of people. Enlgish units are a pain in the butt for machinist--I'll give you that. For most folks English is really easy and often clear even without the decimal from the tiniest bit of context.
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    Quote Originally Posted by lynx
    For most folks English is really easy and often clear even without the decimal from the tiniest bit of context.
    No, they aren't. People just avoid situations in which they would have to make the calculations themselves, or learn to handle them (that "tiniest bit of context") the way illiterates learn to work around their inability to read menus. The entire economy is set up to

    1) run as much as possible without forcing anyone to deal with actual measurements and quantities, because English unit conversion is a genuine hassle, or

    2) take advantage of the difficulty of unit conversion in English setups to run scams - the pricing systems in supermarkets, for example.

    Enlgish units are a pain in the butt for machinist--I'll give you that.
    And all other jobs that involve dealing with measured quantities and physical product. That's not really just a "tiny fraction" of the American economy - whatever its nominal size, it's important.

    The thing is, the continual hassle causes not only delays but errors - some of them costly, all of them costs. It's a serious overhead item for the entire economy.

    In addition, there's an overlooked cultural effect - by setting up to avoid such calculation in everyday life, the repetition and familiarity with calculation itself is much reduced. Innumeracy, by being coddled, is maintained - the investment cost of readiness for arithmetic is significantly higher for people who so very seldom need to calculate.

    Another: how big a gutter-fed rain barrel, measured in gallons, would it take to handle 2 inches of rain runoff from a 1500 sq ft roof ?
    Last edited by iceaura; March 8th, 2012 at 05:43 PM.
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    Metric(SI, more accurately) is pretty much the standard for medicine, so many liters of fluid, so many milligrams of active ingredient per tablet, micrograms per kilogram per minute, etc. Even SI is not consistent when it comes to time- maybe in space we will fix that, with decimal minutes and hours accordingly longer. Say, a two decimal hour shift on watch, equivalent to about 5.55 terrestrial hours, a smidge over 11 terrestrial hours off duty to rest while two other crews are on duty, and repeat. A six decimal hour "cycle"? Still not a multiple of 10, hmmm, will need to reconsider...
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    Metric(SI, more accurately) is pretty much the standard for medicine, so many liters of fluid, so many milligrams of active ingredient per tablet, micrograms per kilogram per minute, etc
    Errors and delays, in medicine, are taken seriously.

    In manufacturing and engineering and exporting and production and the like, not so much.
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    More's the pity. Even so the error rate in medicine is unacceptable- one shudders to think what it would be like under the apothecary system, which has a few stubborn examples still grimly hanging on. Still, liquid OTC meds are measured in tea and tablespoons, but in the hospital, not so much.
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    No, they aren't.
    Of course they are. I even saw it at the math fair I judged last night. Dozens of kids coming through being asked to estimate length of various objects. The most common approach--comparison to their parents feet because the Imperial foot is well you guessed it based on a natural measurement of an adult foot. Many used the distance of the knuckles on their fingers to estimate the length of smaller objects. A few of the kids used metric. The top three winners of about 50 or so kids used imperial units. Cup as unit of volume is much the same--we know what it is because we're used to holding it as a comfortable right-sized drink in our hands dozens of times a day. Need to half or 3rd or most standard fractions of recipe, a piece of timber, or even weights is simple to estimate as well and lend themselves to dozens of handy and precise tricks carpenters use everyday on the job even if their tape measure breaks--often without doing any numerical math whatsoever. Metric is fantastic for some things which we've discussed but it lack of natural units, and fraction reduction make it cumbersome for quick estimates people make everyday--this is also the reason it continues to get resistance in the US and in England in poll after poll (e.g., Give Them an Inch ...) despite decades of being taught to kids.
    Last edited by Lynx_Fox; March 9th, 2012 at 12:13 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by lynx
    No, they aren't. Of course they are. I even saw it at the math fair I judged last night. Dozens of kids coming through being asked to estimate length of various objects. The most common approach--comparison to their parents feet because the Imperial foot is well you guessed it based on a natural measurement of an adult foot. - - -
    - - -
    Metric is fantastic for some things which we've discussed but it lack of natural units, and fraction reduction make it cumbersome for quick estimates people make everyday-
    Metric units are just as natural, if you are as familiar with them. A third of a meter is just as close to the length of one's foot as a "foot" is, for example - and there's your 1/3 fraction that was so difficult. A finger width is about 2 centimeters for adult men, a hand width across the palm knuckles is about 10, across the fist knuckels about 8, a span is about 20. And so forth.

    And the volume, weight, temperature, etc, measures are even worse, in Imperial. A cup, for example, is quite a bit smaller than the natural volume of drinking glasses etc - and trying to guess how many cups are in a quart, if you don't have a cookbook handy, is something best done for entertainment.

    Cross country skiers and speed skaters who need to estimate temperature quickly use the Centigrade scale. It works better, for "rule of thumb" judgments.

    Quote Originally Posted by lynx
    Need to half or 3rd or most standard fractions of recipe, a piece of timber, or even weights is simple to estimate as well and lend themselves to dozens of handy and precise tricks carpenters use everyday on the job even if their tape measure breaks--often without doing any numerical math whatsoever.
    Not just "often", but pretty nearly always - the numerical calculations are tricky and difficult.

    The forced reliance on a bunch of tricks that would be as easy to cobble up in metric - except that no one who knows metric seems to need them nearly as often - is not a virtue of the Imperial system. It's a symptom of the built in obstacles to numerical calculation that plague the Imperial system. It was invented - originally in dozens of different versions, btw, every large city with its own, each of them as "natural" as the next - by people who could not do arithmetic, and had no reliable measuring devices. It works just as well as metric for such people. So?
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