History Main / TheMetricSystemIsHereToStay

3rd Jan '17 12:37:37 PM Soufriere
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The metric system is, at least for scientific applications, more useful than the imperial system -- most, if not all scientific data is presented in metric units, which are the scientific standard, and they are mathematically easier to work with -- there are exactly 1,000 meters in a kilometer, and exactly 1,000 millimeters in a meter. Thus, it's not surprising that the United States actually ''does'' use the metric system already, in military and scientific endeavors, as well as on pharmaceuticals and nutritional information. (For example, soft drinks commonly come in 2- or 3-liter bottles.) In fact, the United States' measurements[[note]]not imperial - that would be British, and there ''are'' differences, e.g. 1 imperial gallon equals 1.20095 U.S. liquid gallons[[/note]] are defined in metric units in relevant legislation. Further details can be found on [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metric_system_in_the_United_States That Other Wiki.]]

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The metric system is, at least for scientific applications, more useful than the imperial system -- most, if not all scientific data is presented in metric units, which are the scientific standard, and they are mathematically easier to work with -- there are exactly 1,000 meters in a kilometer, and exactly 1,000 millimeters in a meter. Thus, it's not surprising that the United States actually ''does'' use the metric system already, in military and scientific endeavors, as well as on pharmaceuticals and nutritional information. (For example, soft drinks commonly come in 2- or 3-liter bottles.) In fact, the United States' measurements[[note]]not imperial measurements[[note]] (not Imperial - that would be British, and there ''are'' differences, e.g. 1 imperial Imperial gallon equals 1.20095 U.S. liquid gallons[[/note]] gallons)[[/note]] are defined in metric units in relevant legislation. Further details can be found on [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metric_system_in_the_United_States That Other Wiki.]]



* For some peculiar reason, British road signs still give distances in miles despite the fact that the metric system has been taught exclusively in schools since at least the early 1990s. Retailers exclusively use the metric system for ''all'' foodstuffs apart from beer and milk, which are defined in both systems.
** The usual cited reason for not changing is the sheer expense of changing pretty much ''every roadsign in the land that has a number on it''. Every distance sign and speed sign would need to be replaced, which would be a colossal undertaking for little practical benefit -- not to mention that whatever they may have learned in school, pretty much everyone uses miles, feet and inches in everyday conversation. There's also a massive safety consideration, especially for things like speed limits. A driver might see the sign, and not know what unit its in or, even if the unit is marked on the sign, just glance at it and not realize the units.
** Australia, with a colossally larger land mass, made the switch from Imperial to Metric road signs starting on the 1st of July 1974. A new metric sign was erected along side each old sign and a large [[PublicServiceAnnouncement public education campaign]] took place. The old signs were gradually removed over the course of a month.

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* For some peculiar reason, British road signs still give distances in miles despite the fact that the metric system has been taught exclusively in schools since at least the early 1990s. Retailers exclusively use the metric system for ''all'' foodstuffs apart from beer and milk, which are defined in both systems.
systems… though that's more due to being required to by EU regulations, and some grocers will still sell fruit or meat by the pound if asked (they must list the metric equivalent).
** The usual cited reason for not changing is the sheer expense of changing pretty much ''every roadsign in the land that has a number on it''. Every distance sign and speed sign would need to be replaced, which would be a colossal undertaking for little practical benefit -- not to mention that whatever they may have learned in school, pretty much everyone uses miles, feet feet, and inches in everyday conversation. There's also a massive safety consideration, especially for things like speed limits. A driver might see the sign, and not know what unit its it's in or, even if the unit is marked on the sign, just glance at it and not realize the units.
** Australia, with a colossally larger land mass, made the switch from Imperial to Metric road signs starting on the 1st of July 1974. A new metric sign was erected along side each old sign and a large [[PublicServiceAnnouncement public education campaign]] took place. The old signs were gradually removed over the course of a month.
units.



** The size and nature of highway systems of Britain and the US vs those of Canada and Australia illustrate a prime stumbling block to metrication. The United States, while approximately the same landmass size as Canada and a about 15% bigger than Australia, has roughly 6x the mileage of roads of either. Britain, on the other hand, has about one third the mileage of Canada, and one half that of Australia. ''However'', the problem is exacerbated in both the US and UK by the density of signage. Both countries have far larger numbers of dense population areas, and thus, radically higher "signage-per-mile" quantities. A good estimate is that it would require roughly 50x the effort by the US, and 5x the effort on the UK's behalf, as to the number of signs that Canada or Australia had to replace.

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*** This has a lot to do with the vast majority of Canada's population living within 100 miles (160km) of the U.S. border and getting nearly all U.S. media, so the population is still constantly exposed to the old system, unlike in, say, geographically isolated Australia where it was much easier to simply ban use of Imperial. [[note]] Australia, with a colossally larger land mass, made the switch from Imperial to Metric road signs starting on the 1st of July 1974. A new metric sign was erected alongside each old sign and a large [[PublicServiceAnnouncement public education campaign]] took place. The old signs were gradually removed over the course of a month.[[/note]]
** The size and nature of highway systems of in Britain and the US vs those of Canada and Australia illustrate a prime stumbling block to metrication. The United States, while approximately the same landmass size as Canada and a about 15% bigger than Australia, has roughly 6x the mileage of roads of either. Britain, on the other hand, meanwhile, has about one third the mileage of Canada, Canada and one half that of Australia. ''However'', the problem is exacerbated in both the US and UK by the density ''density'' of signage. Both countries have far larger numbers of dense population areas, and thus, thus radically higher "signage-per-mile" quantities. A good estimate is that it would require roughly 50x 5× the effort/cost on the UK's part and 50× the effort by the US, and 5x the effort on the UK's behalf, USA as to the number of signs that Canada or Australia had to replace. replace.



* During TheEighties, a conclusive switch to the metric system was widely anticipated in the United States. [[ItWasHisSled Obviously, that didn't happen,]] but at the time the expectation was so prevalent that the newly-finished [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_19 Interstate 19]] put up signs with distances in kilometers. The program ran from 1975 to 1982, and it's worth noting that its failure was not necessarily because [[AmericansHateTingle Americans disliked the metric system]]. Public opinion tended to be split or just ambivalent, so the Reagan administration couldn't justify the cost of overseeing and marketing the metrication effort, educating manufacturers, and changing highway signs. Several of the aforementioned metric road signs still stand today, particularly near the Canadian and Mexican borders.
** The metric system did take hold in manufacturing, as companies wanted to build things that could be easily repaired overseas, hence Music/VanillaIce singing about his "Five Oh"[[note]]A Ford Mustang with a 5.0l V8[[/note]] and not his "three oh two."

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* During TheEighties, In the late-[[TheSeventies 70's]], a conclusive switch to the metric system was widely anticipated in the United States. [[ItWasHisSled Obviously, that didn't happen,]] but happen.]] But at the time time, the expectation was so prevalent that the newly-finished [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_19 Interstate 19]] put up signs with distances in kilometers. The program ran from 1975 to 1982, and it's worth noting that its failure was not necessarily because [[AmericansHateTingle Americans disliked the metric system]]. Public opinion tended to be split or just ambivalent, and some key industries – mainly construction – were opposed, so the incoming Reagan administration (backed as it was by evangelical Christians, who were mostly anti-metric) couldn't justify the cost of overseeing and marketing the metrication effort, educating manufacturers, and changing literally millions of highway signs. Several of the aforementioned metric road signs still stand today, particularly near the Canadian and Mexican borders.
borders, as well as in Hawaii (which gets a large number of visitors from Japan).
** The metric system did take hold in manufacturing, as companies wanted to build things that could be easily repaired overseas, hence Music/VanillaIce singing about his "Five Oh"[[note]]A "Five-Oh"[[note]] A Ford Mustang with a 5.0l [=5.0L=] V8[[/note]] and not his "three oh two.""three-oh-two".



** Note that the Metric System is the '''official''' measuring system of the United States, as designated by legislation in the 70s. It's just that no one ''required'' the phasing out of the US system, and, due to the changeover costs, inertia meant that the old labels stuck around. A great deal of things are consequently labeled in BOTH metric and US, with it being maddenly inconsistent as to which is dominant. Contracts with the US government legally require measurements to be in metric units; however, an almost blanket exemption is trivially obtained (and, the original law routinely ignored), so, well, we're stuck with the US system because of apathetic government.
* September 23, 1999: NASA lost the $125 million Mars Climate Orbiter because [[UnitConfusion one engineering team used metric units while another used imperial units for a key spacecraft operation]]. The software keeping track of the small forces reported by the spacecraft's accelerometer gave results in pound-seconds of impulse, while the software that used this data to compute the spacecraft's course expected impulses in newton-seconds. The craft descended too low into the Martian atmosphere and was destroyed by atmospheric stresses and friction.
* Not to mention the infamous "[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gimli_Glider Gimli Glider]]" incident, in which a Boeing 767 [[OhCrap ran out of fuel in mid-air]] due to this error, and only the amazing piloting skills of its captain, who just happened to also be an experienced glider pilot, enabled him to land the aircraft.
* The US uses SI units for some things because no equivalent "traditional" units exist. For example, all electrical units are SI -- watts, kilowatts,[[note]]strictly speaking horsepower measures the same thing as watts, but no one uses horsepower when talking about electricity[[/note]] amperes, etc. The units of volume for sound (the bel and the more commonly used decibel) are SI as well.
* When the metric system was introduced in the United Kingdom, ''Punch'' did a satire which was purportedly a government information pamphlet that accompanied the switch from "Biblical" measures to Imperial (how many cubits in a yard?). Which was quite funny considering that there were people who wrote complex theories trying to justify the Imperial system, which differs quite significantly from the weights and measures used in the Bible, on religious grounds, demanding that it should be maintained against the "godless" Metric system.
* Pakistan went metric in the 1970's, replacing the Imperial system. The process is still not totally complete. Celsius has replaced Fahrenheit completely (except in medicine) and liters are used more than ounces and KM are increasingly replacing miles, although the later is still commonly used. OTH, inches, feet, yards etc are used in everyday life. Its 6 feet, not 1.82 m. A person weigh 200 pounds, not 91 kg. Seriously, try and use the metric system for anything. In the business world, the Imperial system is still used.
* Nearly all physiological measurements used by medical professions are quantified in metric units, which are very well-suited for calculations of dosage, concentrations, etc. Body temperature is an occasional exception, as it's the one physiological variable to which the average person is able to assign a desired numerical value: convincing patients who grew up with Imperial units that 37.0, not 98.6, is an ideal number to read on their home thermometers is often more trouble than it's worth.

to:

** Note that the Metric System is ''is'' the '''official''' measuring system of the United States, as designated by legislation law in the 70s. 60s (after an international treaty legally redefined traditional units in metric terms). It's just that no one ''required'' the phasing out of the US system, old system and, due to the changeover costs, inertia meant that the old labels stuck around. A great deal of things around.
*** Thanks to a law passed during the Johnson years and expanded in the 90's after NAFTA, many consumer goods
are consequently labeled labelled in BOTH metric and US, customary, with it being maddenly maddeningly inconsistent as to which is dominant. dominant – generally it's whichever number is better-rounded; that's why soft drinks are sold in both traditional and metric sizes. Contracts with the US U.S. government legally require measurements to be in metric units; however, an almost blanket exemption is trivially obtained (and, (and the original law routinely ignored), so, well, so we're stuck with non-metric for the US system because of foreseeable future thanks to apathetic and cheap government.
*** There are a few packaged products that are labelled ''only'' in customary or metric, which is where it gets really weird. [[labelnote:Here We Go]] Milk (labelled in divisions of a gallon) was specifically exempted by Congress from ever having to go metric. Same with Beer (listed in ounces). Wine and spirits, by contrast, are metric-only – this was acceptable to the public because, by lucky coincidence, the common bottle size of [=750mL=] is extremely close to the volume of the classic "forty" ([=757mL=]).[[/labelnote]]
* September 23, 1999: NASA lost the $125 million Mars Climate Orbiter because [[UnitConfusion one engineering team used NASA and JPL were using metric units while another Lockheed used imperial units for a key spacecraft operation]]. The software keeping track of the small forces reported by the spacecraft's accelerometer gave results in pound-seconds of impulse, while the software that used this data to compute the spacecraft's course expected impulses in newton-seconds. The craft descended too low into the Martian atmosphere and was destroyed by atmospheric stresses and friction.
friction. Unsurprisingly, NASA has since made ''damn'' sure that all its contractors are on the same (metric) page.
* Not to mention the infamous "[[http://en.[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gimli_Glider Gimli Glider]]" "Gimli Glider"]] incident, in which a Boeing 767 [[OhCrap ran out of fuel in mid-air]] due to this error, and only the amazing piloting skills of its captain, who just happened to also be an experienced glider pilot, enabled him to land the aircraft.
* The US uses SI units for some things because no equivalent "traditional" units exist. exist… or if they do, they're too obscure. For example, all electrical units are SI -- watts, kilowatts,[[note]]strictly speaking kilowatts[[note]] (strictly speaking, horsepower measures the same thing as watts, but no one uses horsepower when talking about electricity[[/note]] electricity)[[/note]], amperes, etc. The units of volume for sound (the bel and the more commonly used decibel) are SI as well.
* When the metric system was introduced in the United Kingdom, ''Punch'' did a satire which was purportedly a government information pamphlet that accompanied the switch from "Biblical" measures to Imperial (how many cubits in a yard?). Which was quite funny considering that there were people who wrote complex theories trying to justify the Imperial system, which differs quite significantly from the weights and measures used in the Bible, on religious grounds, demanding that it should be maintained against the "godless" Metric system.
system. [[note]] There are a large number of people in America, mostly in fundamentalist circles, who genuinely believe this to this day. SI being created in France does ''not'' help.[[/note]]
* Pakistan went metric in the 1970's, replacing the Imperial system. The process is still not totally complete. Celsius has replaced Fahrenheit completely (except in medicine) and liters are used more than ounces and KM km are increasingly replacing miles, although the later is still commonly used. OTH, OTOH, inches, feet, yards etc yards, etc. are used in everyday life. Its It's 6 feet, not 1.82 m. 82m. A person weigh 200 pounds, 200lb, not 91 kg.91kg. Seriously, try and use the metric system for anything. In the business world, the Imperial system is still used.
* Nearly all physiological measurements used by medical professions are quantified in metric units, which are very well-suited for calculations of dosage, concentrations, etc. Body temperature is an occasional exception, as it's the one physiological variable to which the average person is able to assign a desired numerical value: convincing patients who grew up with Imperial units that 37.0, 0º, not 98.6, 6º, is an ideal number to read on their home thermometers is often more trouble than it's worth.
25th Nov '16 1:41:12 AM PaulA
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* DavidDrake's ''Literature/{{RCN}}'' has Cinnabar use the imperial system while their enemies the Alliance (''not'' TheAlliance) use metric -- but [[WordOfGod Drake]] says, in the foreword for the first few books, that's just TranslationConvention because he believes that after more than a thousand years, humanity will have scrapped both systems in favor of something else.

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* DavidDrake's Creator/DavidDrake's ''Literature/{{RCN}}'' has Cinnabar use the imperial system while their enemies the Alliance (''not'' TheAlliance) use metric -- but [[WordOfGod Drake]] says, in the foreword for the first few books, that's just TranslationConvention because he believes that after more than a thousand years, humanity will have scrapped both systems in favor of something else.
18th Nov '16 3:08:14 PM HiddenWindshield
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** Australia, with a colossally larger land mass, made the switch from Imperial to Metric road signs starting on the 1st of July 1974. A new metric sign was erected along side each old sign and a large [[PublicServiceAnnouncement public education campaign]] took place. The old signs were gradually removed over the course of a month. In a country consisting to [[LiesDamnedLiesAndStatistics 90%]] of deserts.

to:

** Australia, with a colossally larger land mass, made the switch from Imperial to Metric road signs starting on the 1st of July 1974. A new metric sign was erected along side each old sign and a large [[PublicServiceAnnouncement public education campaign]] took place. The old signs were gradually removed over the course of a month. In a country consisting to [[LiesDamnedLiesAndStatistics 90%]] of deserts.
11th Sep '16 6:39:36 PM Premonition45
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* Lampshaded in ''TheSimpsons'':
--> '''Judge Harm:''' From now on, the restraining order is set at 200 feet.
--> ''(Everyone in the room gasps)''
--> '''Judge Harm:''' That's 61 meters.
--> ''(a Dutchwoman, a Frenchman and a German in the back row gasp)''

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* Lampshaded Parodied in ''TheSimpsons'':
--> '''Judge
''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'' episode "On a Clear Day, I Can't See My Sister":
-->'''Judge
Harm:''' From now on, the restraining order is set at 200 feet.
--> ''(Everyone -->''(Everyone in the room gasps)''
--> '''Judge -->'''Judge Harm:''' That's 61 meters.
--> ''(a -->''(a Dutchwoman, a Frenchman and a German in the back row gasp)''
10th Aug '16 8:57:11 PM UmbrellasWereAwesome
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** Whenever a waypoint was placed on your {{HUD}}, it always measures distance in either metres or kilometres.[[note]]Except, strangely enough, the PC version of ''VideoGame/HaloCombatEvolved'', which uses feet and miles.[[/note]]

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** Whenever a waypoint was is placed on your {{HUD}}, it always measures distance in either metres or kilometres.[[note]]Except, kilometres[[note]]Except, strangely enough, the PC version of ''VideoGame/HaloCombatEvolved'', which uses feet and miles.[[/note]][[/note]].
19th Jun '16 11:09:12 PM ImperatorZor
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** Canada officially adopted metric in 1977, but its adoption by the general public has been hit and miss - for instance, many people use Celsius for outdoor temperature but Fahrenheit for indoor and/or body temperature (and always for oven temperature), or measure long distances in kilometres but short and medium distances in inches and feet... unlike Brits who are more likely to use centimetres and metres for short and medium distances, but miles for longer distances.

to:

** Canada officially adopted metric in 1977, but its adoption by the general public has been hit and miss - for instance, many people use Celsius for outdoor temperature but Fahrenheit for indoor and/or body temperature (and always for oven temperature), temperature, or measure long distances in kilometres but short and medium distances in inches and feet... unlike Brits who are more likely to use centimetres and metres for short and medium distances, but miles for longer distances.
6th Jun '16 10:47:10 AM Jake
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Added DiffLines:

* Despite the occasional request from modders looking to reenact the Apollo program in as much detail as possible, ''VideoGame/KerbalSpaceProgram'' uses metric for all in-game measurements.
8th May '16 7:21:13 AM dmeagher13
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** The usual cited reason for not changing is the sheer expense of changing pretty much ''every roadsign in the land that has a number on it''. Every distance sign and speed sign would need to be replaced, which would be a colossal undertaking for little practical benefit -- not to mention that whatever they may have learned in school, pretty much everyone uses miles, feet and inches in everyday conversation.

to:

** The usual cited reason for not changing is the sheer expense of changing pretty much ''every roadsign in the land that has a number on it''. Every distance sign and speed sign would need to be replaced, which would be a colossal undertaking for little practical benefit -- not to mention that whatever they may have learned in school, pretty much everyone uses miles, feet and inches in everyday conversation. There's also a massive safety consideration, especially for things like speed limits. A driver might see the sign, and not know what unit its in or, even if the unit is marked on the sign, just glance at it and not realize the units.
16th Jan '16 3:25:20 AM Anddrix
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* ''Series/StarTrekTheNextGeneration'', and the follow-on serieses ''[[Series/StarTrekDeepSpaceNine Deep Space Nine]]'' and ''Series/StarTrekVoyager'', consistently use the metric system, to the point of changing the scriptwriter's wording if necessary. This caused a scientific error at least once: During the production of the ST:TNG episode "The Royale", they "converted" a temperature to Celsius (presumably to make it more "futurey") by [[ViewersAreMorons simply swapping the unit names]]. The original temperature was -291 °F (-179.4 °C), but the lowest possible temperature (absolute zero) is -273.15 °C... whoops.

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* ''Series/StarTrekTheNextGeneration'', and the follow-on serieses ''[[Series/StarTrekDeepSpaceNine Deep Space Nine]]'' and ''Series/StarTrekVoyager'', consistently use the metric system, to the point of changing the scriptwriter's wording if necessary. This caused a scientific error at least once: During the production of the ST:TNG episode "The Royale", they "converted" a temperature to Celsius (presumably to make it more "futurey") by [[ViewersAreMorons simply swapping the unit names]].names. The original temperature was -291 °F (-179.4 °C), but the lowest possible temperature (absolute zero) is -273.15 °C... whoops.
15th Dec '15 9:43:23 AM TheKaizerreich
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Added DiffLines:

* ''Creator/GamesWorkshop'' products, due to GW being British, are in Imperial units (such as using inches for measurements). The German-made and later officially adopted fan game named ''TabletopGame/BattlefleetGothic'' for ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer40000}}'', on the other hand, measures in metric units, namely centimeters.
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