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Old 11-17-2018, 04:15 AM
Jim B. Jim B. is offline
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The USA and the Metric System.

I don't need a cite for this one. The USA is one of only two countries in the world that hasn't yet switched over to the metric system. The other one is some obscure country in Africa, I forget the name just now.

My questions:
  1. Why hasn't the USA switched to the metric system?
  2. Will we ever?
  3. And what are the consequences, if any, of being one of the only countries to do this and be this way?

Thank you in advance for all for your responses

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Old 11-17-2018, 04:42 AM
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1) Because the American market is big enough that American manufacturers don't have to worry about other markets.
2) Because industry can use the metric system to manufacture products without the consumer needing to go along; e.g., I imagine that Apple's products are designed using the metric system, even though they they are marketed in the US using inches and pounds.
3) Because Americans like the system and don't want to change.
4) Because early attempts to change were stupid. For example, they'd say things like right field is 117.4 meters when the 385' measurement was just rounded off. This made the metric system look complicated.
5) Becuase 'murica

Last edited by Batano; 11-17-2018 at 04:43 AM.
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Old 11-17-2018, 04:42 AM
thelurkinghorror thelurkinghorror is offline
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I think that county is supposed to be Myanmar (Asia).

We already use it, both everyday (beverages) as well as in official capacity alongside US customary (scientific and government adoption, customary units expressed as conversions from metric).

And many of the "metric countries" really aren't, especially the English speaking ones. Feet and inches are common, especially describing human height. And for human weight, pounds or even the more archaic "stones." And UK and other countries still prefer miles and pints.

The standard reasons why not is it will be very expensive. And the will is not there; it doesn't hurt that much, as long as we learn from previous mistakes
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Climate_Orbiter

Last edited by thelurkinghorror; 11-17-2018 at 04:43 AM.
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Old 11-17-2018, 05:35 AM
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Here is a fun video on YouTube about why the US does not go metric. Near the beginning, the narrator mentions three countries which are not metric: the United States, Myanmar, and Liberia.
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Old 11-17-2018, 08:39 AM
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I read somewhere that the official definition of US units....is given in metric.
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Old 11-17-2018, 09:05 AM
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Just for - sorta - fun

Metric is Coming by The Four Bitchin' Babes

Because we won't use a system designed by the French!
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Old 11-17-2018, 09:41 AM
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Why hasn't the USA switched to the metric system?
Because there's no compelling reason to do so.

Quote:
Will we ever?
Probably. Perhaps decades from now. It will happen slowly and organically.

Quote:
And what are the consequences, if any, of being one of the only countries to do this and be this way?
Few, if any.

It's just not that important of an issue.
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Old 11-17-2018, 09:54 AM
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Because industry can use the metric system to manufacture products without the consumer needing to go along; e.g., I imagine that Apple's products are designed using the metric system ...
Also Ford, GM, Chrysler. Essentially every auto mechanic in the USA has a full set of metric tools, in daily use.
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Old 11-17-2018, 01:21 PM
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Also Ford, GM, Chrysler. Essentially every auto mechanic in the USA has a full set of metric tools, in daily use.
There's some natural law that the first socket to go missing in a socket set is the very useful 10 mm.
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Old 11-17-2018, 01:35 PM
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There's some natural law that the first socket to go missing in a socket set is the very useful 10 mm.
For sure! I'd vote the 13mm as a close second though.
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Old 11-17-2018, 02:20 PM
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I use metric whenever possible. My speedometer in my car is set to kilometers. My thermostat at home is in Celsius. I have to remember to use feet instead of meters when talking elevation with people. It's just a much simpler system than Imperial.
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Old 11-17-2018, 02:37 PM
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I use metric whenever possible. My speedometer in my car is set to kilometers. My thermostat at home is in Celsius. I have to remember to use feet instead of meters when talking elevation with people. It's just a much simpler system than Imperial.
Nitpick of nitpicks, but it's US customary, the US doesn't use Imperial. They're mostly the same but the main difference encountered is in liquid measures - US fluid ounces are 4% bigger, but more of them go into the UK larger measures (e.g. 128 US ounces of 29.57 mL per US gallon vs. 160 UK ounces of 28.41 mL per UK gallon).

I am pretty used to metric, but the one I hate with a passion is Celsius. It might be better for chemistry, but for the human experience it's not.
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Old 11-17-2018, 02:42 PM
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I am pretty used to metric, but the one I hate with a passion is Celsius. It might be better for chemistry, but for the human experience it's not.
To be fair, I’ve seen plenty of folks who only ever use Fahrenheit talk about cold temperatures in the most intuitive human-experience way possible.

“Freezing? Yeah, it’s below zero out there.”
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Old 11-17-2018, 02:46 PM
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...I am pretty used to metric, but the one I hate with a passion is Celsius. It might be better for chemistry, but for the human experience it's not.
I agree. One makes up for this by using a decimal point. My aquarium temperature is 27.1C.

Xema, the last toolkit I purchased for the car has sockets and wrenches in metric and English.
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Old 11-17-2018, 04:39 PM
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... the last toolkit I purchased for the car has sockets and wrenches in metric and English.
You have a model that uses both?
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Old 11-17-2018, 04:45 PM
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You have a model that uses both?
Surprisingly, even modern vehicles have the odd SAE bolt, amongst all the metric fasteners.
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Old 11-17-2018, 05:13 PM
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Please define "switching to the metric system"? Are you limiting us to highway signs? Or are you forcing publishers to no longer print cookbooks with US customary units? Do you mean re-education camps for people that refuse to use centigrade?

It's irritating, though, that doctors tell me my daughter's weight in pounds and decimal ounces.
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Old 11-17-2018, 05:21 PM
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What do you consider as "switched over to the metric system"

The US defined the pound and the foot off the metric system in 1893. This is exactly the same as Celsius is a quantity equation to the official unit of Kelvin. The US actually made this move earlier than almost all of the rest of Europe

While we should move to the SI units to make things easier but laziness and convention block this. The official units of the US have been based off the metric system for far longer than most of the world.

I doubt that laziness and convention will change without being forced as the conversion factors are exact and taxation and trade is almost exclusively metric today anyway.

Last edited by rat avatar; 11-17-2018 at 05:21 PM.
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Old 11-17-2018, 05:23 PM
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… My speedometer in my car is set to kilometers. …
I adjusted my speedometer to read in m/s, because that is what we used in HS physics. Km/h just seems so kludgy.
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Old 11-17-2018, 05:26 PM
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The USA is one of only two countries in the world that hasn't yet switched over to the metric system.
Cite please?
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Old 11-17-2018, 05:30 PM
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He says he doesn't need a cite.
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Old 11-17-2018, 05:39 PM
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What is meant by this is that the US hasn't legislated and mandated that all commercial engagements are to use the metric units.

The US government is metric, our standards are metric, but our commercial activities are not.

The challenge here is that the states have to legislate this and no state is willing to go first because it will cause issues with other states and be unpopular. It is related far more to being a huge republic of independent states with a federal system with limited power than anything else.

Making conversion mandatory outside of domains it controls is just not possible for the federal government. The political will would have to come from the individual states to force a move.

Last edited by rat avatar; 11-17-2018 at 05:40 PM.
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Old 11-17-2018, 05:50 PM
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He says he doesn't need a cite.
In Great Debates, it's commonly expected that one provides cites.
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Old 11-17-2018, 05:54 PM
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Ideally, yes, but he said he doesn't need one. Sounds like you think he's incorrect, maybe you should skip the professor act and just post your cite?
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Old 11-17-2018, 05:57 PM
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While I would prefer to switch to SI, it is interesting that post Brexit backlash against metric happened.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/...=.2751ba47758c

Road speed signs and the sale of beer, bread and milk were politically contentious and were never converted, which is why the OP probably can't provide a cite as the standard for what metrication is opaque and full of exceptions.

Telling someone they can no longer sell 2x4's is challenging even if they aren't 2" X 4" anyway.

Last edited by rat avatar; 11-17-2018 at 05:59 PM.
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Old 11-17-2018, 06:10 PM
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Ideally, yes, but he said he doesn't need one. Sounds like you think he's incorrect, maybe you should skip the professor act and just post your cite?
No, the person making the claim is the one that needs to provide a cite.
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Old 11-17-2018, 06:13 PM
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Ok keep up the good work.
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Old 11-17-2018, 06:20 PM
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I just looked it up. The CIA factbook names Burma, Liberia, and the US as the only countries who haven't officially adopted SI.
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Old 11-17-2018, 06:45 PM
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I just looked it up. The CIA factbook names Burma, Liberia, and the US as the only countries who haven't officially adopted SI.
The question there is what is "officially adopted" which apparently is always undefined.

The US Federal government has adopted it https://www.nist.gov/pml/weights-and.../metric-policy

And why does the UK pass, when officially they exempted most of the goods that people work with from day to day.

Quote:
12. The changes to the law will afford businesses the opportunity to innovate
as regards pack sizes but the extent to which they opt to do so must be a
commercial decision.
http://www.mcisystems.co.uk/legislat...ges_Jan_09.pdf

Note how they just "Exempted" a massive amount of items and quantities to allow trade in imperial units for beer, tea, bread...etc...

The EU passed Directive 2007/45/EC to deregulate prescribed packaging of most products besides wines and liqueurs which are both sold in the metric system in the US.

While I agree with the goals of the claim in moving us to the SI system, it seriously seems like this is cherry picking and in no way an objective claim.
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Old 11-17-2018, 07:41 PM
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As far as I know, the entire world uses inches for selling monitors and TVs by size.

Cite: Amazon.fr, Amazon.de
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Old 11-17-2018, 08:29 PM
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European here with graphic design background. I share your pain ordinary fellows Americans. I have to use and convert DPI's an PPI's to metric on daily base ... Got even vorse. TV's used to be sold by centimeres, now we lick inches.

Last edited by yo han go; 11-17-2018 at 08:29 PM.
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Old 11-17-2018, 09:26 PM
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XKCD had part of a solution yesterday...
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Old 11-17-2018, 11:41 PM
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That reminds me of hearing hardcore “weight-weenie” cyclists talk about this Campy derailleur that weights only 155g, almost 90g less than the next best Shimano, and I have a hard time wrapping my head around those numbers. Though, to be fair, if they were talking ounces, I doubt I could make much more sense of it. I mean, Campy is good stuff, but the only thing I could ever justify was a cloth hat.
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Old 11-18-2018, 12:38 AM
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In the 1970s, as you may know, there was a concerted effort to move the US toward metric. We were told that it would aid us in foreign trade and scientific accomplishments, and many industries did go metric. But US President Ronald Reagan's victory in 1980 represented a backlash against Pres. Jimmy Carter's foreign policy, energy policy, and social policy. Lyn Nofziger, as adviser to the recently elected President Reagan, was opposed to metrication and saw that the government commission promoting it was eliminated in the Reagan budget cuts. Journalist—and adviser to several Democratic officials—Frank Mankiewicz wrote in Nofziger's obituary:
"in 1981, when I reminded him that a commission actually existed to further the adoption of the metric system and the damage we both felt this could wreak on our country, Lyn went to work with material provided by each of us. He was able, he told me, to prevail on the president to dissolve the commission and make sure that, at least in the Reagan presidency, there would be no further effort to sell metric.”
Though officially a budgetary move, the backlash against metric was very much in line with the cultural and political currents that had dismissed Jimmy Carter as not being a true believer in American Exceptionalism, and brought Reagan to the presidency.

It's worth remembering that the metric system took almost 50 years to catch on in France. People have always resisted imposition of new weights and measures by government authorities. Though metric has great advantages in decimal calculation, that's not the only criterion by which to judge utility. The ease of halving and quartering measurements in traditional systems shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. Andros Linklater's book Measuring America has a fascinating account of the historic tension between folks who need to easily divide by 10 and those who more commonly divide by 4. I'd suggest that a lot more everyday household calculations are dividing by 4 than by 10.
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Old 11-18-2018, 01:20 AM
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I'm working overseas at the moment and getting along pretty well with metric except for celsius. I always need to convert in my head. Question for native metricians: are your thermostats settable in half degrees? I can clearly tell the difference in 1F. One degree C would be a huge swing in room temperature.
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Old 11-18-2018, 02:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Batano View Post
I'm working overseas at the moment and getting along pretty well with metric except for celsius. I always need to convert in my head. Question for native metricians: are your thermostats settable in half degrees? I can clearly tell the difference in 1F. One degree C would be a huge swing in room temperature.
Celsius works by the 10's.
> 40C: Too hot to be outside.
> 30C: Hot weather.
>20C: Warm weather, beach weather.
>10C: Sweater
>0C: Need a jackey
<0C: Snow!

Same way with height
1.6M:Short for a man
1.7M: Average
1.8M: Tall
1.9: Very Tall
2.0: Extremely Tall

Go one forward for a woman.
  #37  
Old 11-18-2018, 02:39 AM
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Originally Posted by thelurkinghorror View Post
Nitpick of nitpicks, but it's US customary, the US doesn't use Imperial. They're mostly the same but the main difference encountered is in liquid measures - US fluid ounces are 4% bigger, but more of them go into the UK larger measures (e.g. 128 US ounces of 29.57 mL per US gallon vs. 160 UK ounces of 28.41 mL per UK gallon).

I am pretty used to metric, but the one I hate with a passion is Celsius. It might be better for chemistry, but for the human experience it's not.
0°C for water’s freezing point, and 100°C for its boiling point. What’s not to like?
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Old 11-18-2018, 08:18 AM
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0°C for water’s freezing point, and 100°C for its boiling point. What’s not to like?
Except, my brother lives at around 1600m, where the boiling point is about 95°. And water does not freeze at 0°C, ice fully melts at that temperature. 0°F seems to be around the temperature where ice stops having any liquid at all on its surface. I think it is based on the temperature at which snot crystallizes in your nose.

Last edited by eschereal; 11-18-2018 at 08:19 AM.
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Old 11-18-2018, 08:48 AM
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Except, my brother lives at around 1600m, where the boiling point is about 95°. And water does not freeze at 0°C, ice fully melts at that temperature. 0°F seems to be around the temperature where ice stops having any liquid at all on its surface. I think it is based on the temperature at which snot crystallizes in your nose.
No, your brother lives at 5,250’ elevation! And, snot crystallization depends on color. Clear snot freezes before green snot does.
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Old 11-18-2018, 09:12 AM
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0°C for water’s freezing point, and 100°C for its boiling point. What’s not to like?
Celsius is more intuitive for cooking, but IMO water's freezing and boiling point is too compressed a scale for climate. It's obviously not unusably compressed, but I feel like it's more satisfying for 0 to 100 to be close to the extents of the temperature range. Obviously this depends on area, when I lived in Arizona we got up to 120, and in Central Oregon we only really go from 25-60. Alaska gets well below 0. There are some extreme outliers, but I feel like Farenheit's range communicates temperature differences better than 5 degrees being such a noticeable variation in comfort (for me at least) in Celsius.

I do think Farenheit isn't perfect. The ideal system may place freezing at 0, comfortable (for most people) at 50, and fuckoff hot but still habitable (for most people) at 100 (maybe around where 120 is now), but the wider scale Farenheit uses is nice. (The one I just proposed may not even have linear unit sizes, but I do think it's more intuitive in theory).

Last edited by Jragon; 11-18-2018 at 09:12 AM.
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Old 11-18-2018, 09:13 AM
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A lot of people say they distinguish between individual Fahrenheit degrees, but I've never seen nor heard anyone actually doing so. What's the temperature today? It's in the low 40s. Or the high 80s, or the single-digits, or whatever. You might set your home thermostat to, say, 72, but none of them are that precise, anyway.

The American system is fine for anyone who doesn't actually use units at all, which to be fair, is most people. But if you're not actually using units at all, it shouldn't matter to you what system is used by the people who are using them. And the people who do use units, almost universally prefer metric.
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Old 11-18-2018, 09:23 AM
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A lot of people say they distinguish between individual Fahrenheit degrees, but I've never seen nor heard anyone actually doing so. What's the temperature today? It's in the low 40s. Or the high 80s, or the single-digits, or whatever. You might set your home thermostat to, say, 72, but none of them are that precise, anyway.

The American system is fine for anyone who doesn't actually use units at all, which to be fair, is most people. But if you're not actually using units at all, it shouldn't matter to you what system is used by the people who are using them. And the people who do use units, almost universally prefer metric.
My point is that for climate science, people are probably going to be using an SI unit anyway. For everyday use, I like the "feeling" of how far apart "really hot" and "really cold" are numerically. The individual degrees aren't important, so much as the feeling of the distance between noticeable temperature gradients.
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Old 11-18-2018, 04:40 PM
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The question there is what is "officially adopted" which apparently is always undefined.
It's true that it's a continuum, but exceptions don't disprove the fact of metrification if metric units are predominant. In Canada, for instance, oven calibrations are generally in Fahrenheit as are most temperatures specified by recipes, and sports traditions like references to "yards" in football remain intact, but few would dispute that Canada is officially and in every practical sense metric. Metrification became official many years ago and ever since then, highway signs have been in kilometers and speed limits in km/h, gas sold by the liter, food by the gram or kg, temperatures other than for cooking specified in Celsius, etc. The exceptions are just oddities of life and leftovers of tradition that don't much matter.
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I just looked it up. The CIA factbook names Burma, Liberia, and the US as the only countries who haven't officially adopted SI.
And in fact Burma (Myanmar) has made several announcements in recent years about officially moving to metric, but apparently due to changes in government and general chaos it's gotten delayed. But according to this, it's become largely metric anyway: the article says that because cars are all imported from neighboring countries, their instrumentation is metric so road signs in Myanmar are mostly metric, fuel is sold in liters, and temperatures reported in Celsius. So really, Liberia and the USA are now pretty much the last holdouts.
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Originally Posted by Batano View Post
I'm working overseas at the moment and getting along pretty well with metric except for celsius. I always need to convert in my head. Question for native metricians: are your thermostats settable in half degrees? I can clearly tell the difference in 1F. One degree C would be a huge swing in room temperature.
Every digital thermostat I've seen is settable in half degrees Celsius, and the default hysteresis is generally a maximum of half a degree above and below the setting, so that the maximum temperature variation is at most one Celsius degree, but sometimes less. The precision of the set point really has nothing to do with the variation the thermostat allows.
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Old 11-18-2018, 05:39 PM
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As far as I know, the entire world uses inches for selling monitors and TVs by size.
I'm working in supply chain for one of the major Japanese electronics firms and all the TVs and flat screen panels we sell in Oceania (and afaik throughout SE Asia) are in cm.
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Old 11-18-2018, 05:52 PM
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I think there should be a unit of 5 kilometers, which we can call the “league”, because that is adequately close to the classical unit. “League” is easier to say, and probably more useful, being longer than Kms.
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Old 11-18-2018, 05:53 PM
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You might set your home thermostat to, say, 72, but none of them are that precise, anyway.
You meant accurate. I'm not sure at all how accurate my home thermostat is, but it is precise. At the beginning of the season, I set it. If I'm chilly, I push it up 1 degree F and I can tell the difference.
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Old 11-18-2018, 05:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Batano View Post
I'm working overseas at the moment and getting along pretty well with metric except for celsius. I always need to convert in my head. Question for native metricians: are your thermostats settable in half degrees? I can clearly tell the difference in 1F. One degree C would be a huge swing in room temperature.
My car's AirCon offers decimal degree control on temperature.

You can have say 22.1C on the drivers side and 22.2C for the passenger.
And if that translates into any measurable, let alone discernible difference for anybody in the seat I'd be stunned. Would be similarly surprised if the differential was 1C.
  #48  
Old 11-18-2018, 06:07 PM
UltraVires UltraVires is online now
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Originally Posted by Crafter_Man View Post
Because there's no compelling reason to do so.


Probably. Perhaps decades from now. It will happen slowly and organically.


Few, if any.

It's just not that important of an issue.
I agree with all of this. There is simply no good reason to have a national campaign to eradicate standard units of measure.

I can think of two metric measures that have actually taken hold in the United States: The two liter bottles of soda and the 750ml bottles of liquor.

In the latter examples, people still refer to them as "fifths" of liquor meaning one-fifth of a gallon. Would metric conversion criminally or civilly punish liquor stores from referring to them as fifths?

People do, however, refer to two-liter bottles of soda as "two liter bottles." How has that made a positive impact on my life? If I had to buy two quart bottles of soda would I suffer from some sort of depression?

If we were simply starting from scratch, I would agree with the arguments that some metric units are better, but some are not. But the proposal is a massive and forced change from the established system to a different one with no real benefit. I can say that my car gets 25mpg and everyone knows what I am talking about. If you want to say that your car gets so many km per liter of gasoline, then nothing is stopping you from doing that.

I don't understand why having units divisible by ten is such a supposedly overwhelming advantage. Most people can divide by two, four or eight as well and given the emergence of computers, computation is even easier.

As others have mentioned, Fahrenheit is far more useful for everyday temperature observations. Why is it easier to say that water freezes at 0 rather than 32? 0F to 100F represents the reasonable range of most temperatures that human beings are exposed to. Below zero is exceptionally cold and above 100 is exceptionally hot.
  #49  
Old 11-18-2018, 06:27 PM
thelurkinghorror thelurkinghorror is offline
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Originally Posted by penultima thule View Post
I'm working in supply chain for one of the major Japanese electronics firms and all the TVs and flat screen panels we sell in Oceania (and afaik throughout SE Asia) are in cm.
Looking at Amazon.co.jp, looks like inches if that's what V means. Either that or they love tiny TVs.
Edit: should be V型

Last edited by thelurkinghorror; 11-18-2018 at 06:30 PM.
  #50  
Old 11-18-2018, 06:43 PM
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Originally Posted by UltraVires View Post
I don't understand why having units divisible by ten is such a supposedly overwhelming advantage. Most people can divide by two, four or eight as well and given the emergence of computers, computation is even easier.
One correction here, decimal is a true PITA in computers.

The binary equivalent of (0.1)10 is not representable in a finite number of bits, and computers have a finite number of bits.

(0.1)10 is aproximated as (0.00011001100110011001100110011001100110011...)2

Having units divisible by ten is only advantage due to the happenstance that our number system ended up being base 10.

If only the Dozenal Society had been better at politics a few thousand years ago. But the standards foundations had to work with what they had. Having one international system of measurement is the main advantage. The metric system is far from perfect in several aspects but it is what we have on the international stage.

Last edited by rat avatar; 11-18-2018 at 06:47 PM.
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