Why Hasn't the US Gone Metric?

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by goofyfish, Jan 28, 2002.

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  1. goofyfish Analog By Birth, Digital By Design Valued Senior Member

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    Should Americans (re)adopt the metric system? The US was supposed to go metric back in the early to mid 70s, but the effort just seemed to fizzle and die. The increased accuracy in measurements, reduction of errors in production facilities and improved scientific thinking of those in the education system would seem to make this conversion inevitable, but the cost would be enormous.

    Everything from street signs and road maps would all have to be converted (some are already). Less obvious are the impacts on the manufacturing sector. The producers of machine tools, equipment and parts would face massive retooling costs in many cases. Sadly, going metric is much like a decision as to what side of the road you will drive upon. You can't do a partial adoption or gradual changeover to such a comprehensive policy. Swift conversion to metric would represent an astronomical cost, which seems to be the ultimate disincentive for America to do so.

    Peace.
     
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  3. Congrats Bartok Fiend Registered Senior Member

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    ...and very few people have the vision to see past the comfortable day-to-day routines of saying 'foot' and 'inch'. In other words, a lot of Americans are stubborn.
     
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  5. goofyfish Analog By Birth, Digital By Design Valued Senior Member

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    What do you mean... we won't be able to go to the ball park and ask for a ".30 meter-long with chili and cheese??" We'll loose those tired phrases like: "give 'em 2.64 centimeters and they'll take 1.61 kilometers??"

    Jeeez. What WILL we do?

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  7. Congrats Bartok Fiend Registered Senior Member

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    What I think would work would be changing the actual system to metric yet keeping our American names. That way computation gets easier but we don't have to introduce some sort of toxin to American culture.
     
  8. Mr. G reality.sys Valued Senior Member

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    Simple.

    The US hasn't needed to go Metric in order to become the single most accomplished nation since the formation of the planet.

    Why should we be dragged down to everyone else's level of performance?

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  9. Imahamster Registered Senior Member

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    Engineering Standards of Measurement

    (A friend passed this on to this hamster.)

    Process work, as you know, involves getting people to change the way they do things. Here is a little story that explains many things.

    The US standard railroad gauge (width between the two rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used? Because that's the way they built them in England, and the US railroads were built by English expatriates. Why did the English build them like that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used. Why did "they" use that gauge then? Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons which used that wheel spacing.

    Okay! Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing? Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that's the spacing of the wheel ruts. So who built those old rutted roads?

    The first long distance roads in Europe and England were built by Imperial Rome for their legions. The roads have been used ever since. And the ruts in the roads?

    Roman war chariots first formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels. Since the chariots were made for (or by) Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.

    The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches derives from the original specification for an Imperial Roman war chariot. Specifications and bureaucracies live forever!

    So the next time you are handed a specification and wonder what horse's ass came up with it, you might be exactly right, because the Imperial Roman war chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war horses. Thus, we have the answer to the original question.

    Now the extraterrestrial twist to the story...... When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on it's launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs might have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory had to run through a tunnel in the mountains. The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, ..... and the railroad track is about as wide a two horses' behinds.

    So, the major design feature of what is arguably the world's most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse's ass.

    And you wonder why it's so hard to make things change.
     
  10. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    For a start, you Americans would lose fewer multi-million dollar space probes if you went metric along with all the sensible countries of the world.
     
  11. Mr. G reality.sys Valued Senior Member

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    Pocket change to US, life-savings to you.

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    Perspective.

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    If the rest of the under-performing world wasn't so dependent on metri-phonics the US wouldn't suffer the infrequent consequences of conversion confusion.

    Which metric-standard spacecraft has accomplished more science than the typical non-metric standard, high-endurance US spacecraft -- like Pioneer 10, 11, Voyager 1 or 2, Hubble, a Bazillion other US spacecraft, or any of the KH-11 or 12's and others?

    Metric is a conformal standard, not a performance standard!
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2002
  12. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    US scientists already use metric. There must be a reason for them to do that.
     
  13. wayne_j Registered Member

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    the only reason us builders use the metric system is to convert it back to english decimal.

    a prime example of metric vs english decimal

    build a chain with 1000 pieces each 10 mm and having a tolerance of .05 mm each piece must have a degree of the listed tolerance built into it.

    build a chain with 1000 pieces each .3875 (3/8ths) of an inch give it a tolerance of .05 of an inch each piece must have a degree of tolerance built into it.

    why not say you can't have a tolerance? because in this setup prototype we are taking real world mass production into account. no 2 pieces of metal are going to have the same grain. during production machines heat up so metal expanse effecting the setup. one shift might not check each lot has closely has the next and so on. :bugeye:

    now pull on the chain and see which one has more stretch.

    you guess it. the metric chain. why? because .05 mm is not as small, thus not as accurate, as .05 inches.

    This is why even today they use english decimal for precise machining in japan

    it might not sound like much but in a machine like the space shuttle that has 1,000,000 parts that .05 mm is a hugh difference.
     
  14. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    wayne,

    That's a strange argument against the metric system. Also, it doesn't work.

    If you want a certain tolerance, you want a certain tolerance. The units you quote it in make no difference to the physical specification.
     
  15. Mr. G reality.sys Valued Senior Member

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    James R.,

    Shhh. That's supposed to be a secret.

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  16. Xelios We're setting you adrift idiot Registered Senior Member

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    I once asked an American why the US still uses it's system of measurement rather than the metric. I asked "Why don't you guys switch to the metric system like the rest of the world? I mean, there's only about 4 or 5 countries that still use feet and inches."

    To which he replied "Yeah, but those are the better countries." Typical American

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  17. Teg Unknown Citizen Registered Senior Member

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    Yeah American=stupid. I can attest to that. The problem goes back to the education system here. We are taught in metric in science class and then in both systems in math class. Then we are told to throw away the metric system. Too many mixed messages. We are taught evolution and then some go around spreading the idea that such knowledge is useless. Even the teachers don't take any stances. I once had a teacher that was ambushed in a discussion about his view on evolution. He responded using bible symbology to validate his position. We are that backward. The other problem: every person becomes a rennaisance man. Talk about overload, even into the college system we are meant to take a variety of classes. The result: confusion. Now onder we still use inches. Wait it gets worse, we use ounces, but then liters are also presented. Probably no person here, including myself can articulate an amount of liquid in terms higher than tsp and tbsp. It is a sad state indeed.
     
  18. Red Devil Born Again Athiest Registered Senior Member

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    US Currency

    The US Currency is already "metric" eg: divisible by "10".....

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  19. Congrats Bartok Fiend Registered Senior Member

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    It never wasn't! It almost went to some strange system based on Spanish currency, with like 594 centimes equalling a 'mark'.

    True, yet if you measure a dollar bill in America, what side of the ruler will you use? Tell me?
     
  20. Red Devil Born Again Athiest Registered Senior Member

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    Congratulations

    As I neither live in the US nor have a $ bill, I'll pass on that one!

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  21. Congrats Bartok Fiend Registered Senior Member

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    Try it- it'll change your life.
     
  22. Red Devil Born Again Athiest Registered Senior Member

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    Congratulations

    Try it- it'll change your life.

    I wish!

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  23. Ana Registered Senior Member

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    HEY HEY HEY!

    I'M A TEACHER....it's not fair to lump us all in one category. I INSIST my students learn the metric system and if they turn in ANY paper -- lab report or science project in the English system....they are screwed....they get so many points off it leaves them spinning!

    Anyway, when I passed by Arizona....at least in Tucson....they have road signs in both miles and kilometers. I find that cool. Eventually they'll be changed (I hope) to just kilometers.

    As far as the "give them an inch and ...." idioms.....hell, there are many archaic idioms no longer relevant in today's world....new ones are being formed all the time....why should we confuse the next generation with multiple systems of measurement just to keep idioms around?

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