# Why won't the U.S. use the metric system ?

Discussion in 'Free Thoughts' started by Challenger78, Apr 27, 2009.

1. ### joepistoleDeacon BluesValued Senior Member

Messages:
22,908
My guess is most Americans wouldn't be able to tell you how many feet are in a mile. And you want them to learn the metric system? The bottom line is Joe Six Pack doesn't want to change and doesn't see the value in changing. Americans involved in the sciences and business probably know and have a practical understanding of metrics as they use them professionally. But Joe Six Pack, ain't no way he sees anything useful in the metric system. Old habits die hard.

3. ### SorcererPut a Spell on youRegistered Senior Member

Messages:
856
I used to watch American Chopper (I know, I know

) and there was a great scene where the guys tried to confuse the old man by asking him what 5/8ths plus 3/16ths added up to, changing the amounts all the time. It really highlighted just how stupid the system is.

5. ### AsguardKiss my dark sideValued Senior Member

Messages:
23,049
that's kind of the point, you don't HAVE to remember how many cm in a m its all based on 10s, there is no silly conversions to make

1km= 1000m = 100,000cm = 1,000,000 mm etc

Messages:
180
We use our own system and learn conversion tables. Until the Brits or French can send someone to the moon and explore deep space we personally don't give shit.

8. ### joepistoleDeacon BluesValued Senior Member

Messages:
22,908
And sometimes we screw it up (e.g. Mars lander). One has to wonder who much living in a world with multiple metric systems is costing us.

http://www.cnn.com/TECH/space/9909/30/mars.metric.02/

9. ### someguy1Registered Senior Member

Messages:
726
Because Americans have the common sense to use the familiar system of ounces and pounds, inches and feet and miles, pints and gallons and quarts; a system developed over centuries and intimately bound with who we are.

We're not automatons in someone's idealistic "rational world" where everybody does things they're way because they know better than us. Who ever appointed them to that task? There are a lot of do-gooders around these days. I prefer to make up my own mind about how to live my life.

I prefer a system where tradition and naturalism are respected. The metric system is the system of the technocrats; and technocrats are doing a very poor job of running the world lately.

As it happens, I'm an American currently living in a country that's on the metric system. I come by my opinion honestly. I vastly prefer the American system to the metric system, but in my daily life I buy groceries by the kilo and gasoline by the liter. I don't notice any benefit to it at all.

10. ### UndefinedBannedBanned

Messages:
1,695
He He. It is still amusing for me to ponder on the rationality of having a decimal currency while retaining the old systems for everything else. Although everyone still keeps to the 12/24 hour clock system of '60' minutes to the hour etc. If I recall correctly, wasn't there at one time an intention of converting to metric system of weights and measures in US but was considered too costly/slow given its populace 'inertia' in adapting to same? Or am I thinking of another country? Anyhow, I wonder for how long the US will retain its old system if they already have metric currency and there are international-trade advantages for easy exchange using a common metric global system? "Bushels' or 'Furlongs' or "Stones', anyone?

Happy new year and stay safe, everybody, whatever your weights and measures system, or however many stones you will carry or feet you may achieve or rods you may step through this new year!

Messages:
180
Yeah have fun thinking you imperial snots are better than everyone else. See you next year.

12. ### UndefinedBannedBanned

Messages:
1,695
Umm, ok; and...er..thanks? Not a good start for the new year for your temper and blood pressure, mate. Just joking, that's all; with a hint of humorous pondering on how long before US switches, given that going forward, given the science and technology metrics and communications/literature are increasingly decimal. Sorry if my humor offended. I take it back (whatever it was offended you). Cheers.

Messages:
180
Hey, we have done just fine creating computers, the internet, the rest of technology, the space program and everything else the world strives on these days.

But YEAH!@ I raise a beer to you in good times. Cheers to the future and hopefully snobs keeps their own head in their ass instead of bringing it into 2014. Don't want to smell farts and greenhouse gases when I wake up tomorrow.

Just fresh air and I will be happy.

Messages:
10,296
We'll probably convert at some point in the distant future.

The only thing I can add to the general discussion is that we tried converting our gasoline (petrol) pumps around 20 years ago. Didn't bother me at all, I'm fully accustomed to using both systems. But it DID confuse the heck out of a lot of people! They could no longer figure their MPG nor decide in advance just how much fuel they were going to buy. And to gain what? I couldn't see that it was making the world a cleaner, better place to live and didn't put any money in anyone's pocket.

15. ### iceauraValued Senior Member

Messages:
28,353
They don't. I mean they don't use the system, and they aren't familiar with it.

I don't know anyone who is actually familiar with more than a corner or two of that garbage house of a system - water at eight and a third pounds to the gallon, how many tons in an acre-foot? quarts in a cubic foot of water? How many ounces in those quarts? - and Americans deal with it mainly by arranging their lives to avoid it as much as possible. We simply refuse to do anything that involves our making such calculations, even approximately.

Americans don't want to learn metric stuff because that would involve learning stuff in the first place, and Americans aren't into learning stuff. They're into pretending they already know stuff.

One of the consequences of that, btw, is a general innumeracy - use it or lose it, and with the systems of measure Americans have to deal with the use of such calculations is often, even usually, a bizarre hassle and frustration. So they end up doing little or no arithmetic for years on end.

As far as what it costs? I've seen a training course for CNC machinists lose a third of its membership upon introducing the topic of converting US tooling sizes and print specifications into decimals.

Metric isn't great - I'd rather work in base 12 than base 10 - but at least it has a base: a system that changes base with every change in scale and object type is a damn nuisance.

16. ### KittamaruAshes to ashes, dust to dust. Adieu, Sciforums.Valued Senior Member

Messages:
13,938
Far as I'm aware, at one time we (America) had intended to transition over... and we were simply too stupid to figure it out and teach it in schools *shrugs*

Messages:
10,296
Incorrect. In fact, it's BEEN taught in our schools for decades. Still is today.

18. ### KittamaruAshes to ashes, dust to dust. Adieu, Sciforums.Valued Senior Member

Messages:
13,938
Huh... I know at least here in PA, it was never taught in school... it was briefly glanced over (as in, mentioned enough to state it was base 10) but that's about it... lol

19. ### SorcererPut a Spell on youRegistered Senior Member

Messages:
856
Then there is paper: letter versus A4.

20. ### Billy TUse Sugar Cane Alcohol car FuelValued Senior Member

Messages:
23,198
I only read the last 15 or so posts. I agree there is built in inertia, but the main reason is more difficult to over come: There is a huge stock of machinery in the US with screws bolts etc in English units. Go to your local hardware store and try to buy a metric bolt. I think some cars that are exported also have metric machine screws in their US versions so their dealerships is where you may find metric screws and bolts, etc.

The re-education problem is simple compared to the mechanical conversion problem.

21. ### AsguardKiss my dark sideValued Senior Member

Messages:
23,049
why? you just sell both which is what still happens here. Every socket set I have ever seen has both imperial and metric sockets for example

Messages:
21,803
Australia switched completely to the metric system of weights and measures in the late sixties, and our monetary system from pounds shillings and pence, to dollars and cents in 1966.
Both metric and Imperial systems were taught in schools before those dates, and that along with blanket advertising saw the switch made with minimal confusion.
I must admit though even today, if I am told something is 5 mtrs long, I sometimes mentally imagine that in feet and inches.

Didn't NASA lose a Mars mapping orbiter through someone applying metric instead of Imperial?

23. ### iceauraValued Senior Member

Messages:
28,353
The machinery is being converted more rapidly than the conventional knowledge base - "metric" bolts and so forth are becoming standard rack display as people need to fix their Chinese and Japanese manufactured machinery, etc, socket sets are sold with metric and US (it's not quite the same as Imperial) sockets standard, most of the computerized stuff runs in metric unless deliberately set differently. The machine shops and factories near me spend thousands of dollars to convert the software etc to Brit language from its original metric, not to adjust to the bolts etc (they all have perfectly good metric sizes) but to adjust to the operators.

The inculcated (by a bad system) ignorance carries over to the metric, btw - I recently put a gadget together with metric scale parts and fasteners, and rather than refer to them by their metric sizes they were packaged and labeled with big capital letters - and that's what the directions used, just as they had with the Brit sizes of my youth. Obviously they had done their market research.

Anyone actually familiar with Imperial machine parts and tools is usually working in decimals anyway - in a machine shop around here it's a .375 center mill, not a 3/8 inch, and the old pros have them all memorized - because that's what you need to use in calculating clearances etc. So they've cleared the major hurdle for Americans - the metric stuff is just a different set of decimals. But that's a small minority of Americans.

My memory goofed - here's a better synopsis: http://lamar.colostate.edu/~hillger/unit-mixups.html

Last edited: Jan 2, 2014