How can the U.S. be metricized?

A while ago, there was a thread here in Great Debates asking why the U.S. isn’t going metric. There was even a thread discussing the notion that the metric system may not be all it’s cracked up to be.

That’s not what I want to discuss in this thread.

What I’m interested in is, assuming for the sake of argument that it would be a good idea for the U.S. to convert to using metric units for its average citizens (e.g. road signs in km, speed limits in kph, building codes in cm and square meters, food packages predominantly labelled in grams only, thermostats and ovens with Celsius temperature scales, etc.) then:

HOW could we go about “metricizing” the U.S., starting today, in a way that’ll actually work in less than a decade?

IIRC, the metric system was developed in France. Therefore, there is no way the US could go metric. At least not until 2008.:smiley:

Well, apparently the US can’t be metricized by law.

This must have been done before somewhere-- Australia? NZ? What’s the deal in the UK? Seems like they have a sort of mixed system there.

We have metric in Australia. The best thing about it is that you can easily convert measurments and that it’s easier to teach to the rednecks. America should adopt it if only to prevent its expensive planetary landers making craters in the surface of Mars.

I don’t know how it could be metricized but I can see why it hasn’t been. Basically, the USA is the #1 economic, military power in the world and when you are #1, there is little reason for you to chnge to what others may be using, even if that system is better, more convenient, more popular, etc. It seems it would be a good idea to change (and soon) before we no longer are the #1 power.

We have metric here in Canada, but we use yards for football fields, inches and feet for height, and pounds for weight generally. I don’t think it’s possible for the US to ever go completely metric, especially since other types of measurement are so ingrained on you and in some cases better if you ask me.

Ah – you’re probably talking about the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA), which stipulates that certain types of packaging must be labelled in dual units (inch-pound system units and metric units).

As of late last year, the non-governmental [URL=]U.S. Metric Association and the U.S. Dept. of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are pushing for the FPLA to be amended. They would like to allow (but not require) packaging that currently has be labelled in dual units to instead be labelled in metric-only units, if the producer so chooses.

Personally, this sounds like a major step forward to me, and one which the manufacturers probably won’t put up a fight against (since all it does is ease one labelling requirement).

Of course, there might still be some old-time congressmen who will oppose the amendment on the basis that metric units were used by the Communists. :rolleyes:

Oops – messed up the URL.

That’s the U.S. Metric Association.

** America should adopt it if only to prevent its expensive planetary landers making craters in the surface of Mars.**

Ouch, baby. Very ouch!! Well, the Martians haven’t complained yet

Basically, the USA is the #1 economic, military power in the world and when you are #1

Um, hombre, the US military uses the metric system. :smack: Helps us work with our NATO pardners. Of course our overwhelming military power is arguably based in our being able to operate with equal effectiveness in metric and, uh…what IS the other system called anyways?

Introduction of metric rulers in classrooms. Every student gets the 30 cm (12") wooden/plastic ruler and the math books change all word problems to metric (If a train leave NYC at 7 am going 50 kmph west…). No other way than indoctrination, that’s what we did.

I would agree that from a human scale point of view the metric system is homely. Am I 5’6” or 1.63 m or 163 cm or 16.3 dm? Ick.

Just force the entire nation to switch to metric en masse. And none of this “dual-label” crap, either – just toss out the English units and go metric, cold turkey. Everyone will have adjusted within a year.

Legislate for bungee cords’ lengths to be labeled exclusively in m.

People will see graphic desmonstrations of the disadvantages of thinking in feet and yards.

I’m a member of Canada’s lost generation. We went Metric when I was in grade school.

I can do larger weights in pounds or kilograms, small weights in grams, but a really big weight is in tons, distances in either up to a metre or a yard, at which point it goes imperial until we get to a mile, when it switches over to kilometres until there are more than ten of them, by which time you’re driving and I give the figures in minutes or hours, which given 100km/h as a speed limit works out nicely.

Liquids come in ounces unless they’re a pint, but after that it’s litres, until gallons start to make more sense.

The main benefit is not the easier conversion or the ability to understand what people from other countries are talking about, it’s the PSAs they run during the changeover.

It’s sort of like Schoolhouse Rock, but cheesier.

Were we but in the Pit, I would mention the instant benefits to the ego of going from six inches to 15 centimetres, but we aren’t and nobody around here does that anyway.

Well, being a 41 year old Aussie, I’m old enough to remember the transition in 1973. Certainly, for a few years, there were certain aspects to the economy which proved hard to move across - like fuel still being sold in cents per gallon etc.

But within 5 years the transition was complete. There were grumbles here and there, obviously, and interestingly, certain measurements to this day remain imperial here in Australia due to their sheer convenience.

To wit…

The hieght of people, and the size of the surf, and the number of beers you’ve brought to a barbeque.

Because the 6 foot barrier remains a relatively recognisable human characteristic, most youngun’s still measure the surf in feet - regardless of what the TV news tries to do.

And the number of beers? I reckon that’s just an anachronsitic throwover. It matters not that 12 or 24 equals a dozen or a “slab”… or that 375 mls equals 10 fl ozs… it’s just the way the beer makers go about their business and we’re all happy thank you very much.

In terms of kilometers per hour? Just accept the following…

A 100kph is 60mph (roughly).

200kph is really life threatening.

300kph is Formula One territory.

320kph equals 200mph or near enough. If you’ve broken 300k’s, you’re really, REALLLY flying and you deserve to be locked up.

Canada went metric when I was in high school. Mine was probably one of the last years where everything was taught in the Imperial system, and although I can use metric when necessary, I find that I am still comfortable using Imperial for a lot of things.

To try to answer the OP, I’d say that the US can be metricized, but it would have to be done gently, and with everyone (or at least, a clear majority of Americans) buying into the idea. That didn’t happen here, IIRC, and there were a lot of bad feelings about having it foisted upon us. I won’t go into detail, but it would be fair to say that in my world anyway, very few Canadians welcomed the coming of the metric system.

Next, you have to make sure that nothing uncomplimentary happens during the changeover. In our case, I well recall the news stories about the gas station owner whose pumps were locked and he himself arrested for refusing to convert his pumps to litres. There were also many stories of butchers, for example, having their scales confiscated because they weren’t in metric. You don’t want your “metric police” (which is what they came to be known as) to be too vigilant, because it was extremely bad PR, and I’m sure it’s one of the reasons we’re still using Imperial in certain situations, as was mentioned above.

Further doubts were raised in the public’s mind when an Air Canada airliner ran out of fuel because of differences between the units calibrated on the dipstick and what the man in charge of filling up the airliner’s tanks thought they were in. Forget unmanned Mars landers; these were real people at risk of falling out of the sky, thanks to a metric mixup. Thankfully, the airliner was over land when it ran out of fuel and was able to make a safe landing at an old airstrip.

But these are the things that you don’t want to have happen, which is why I say that you first need to convince a majority to buy into the idea, and then you need to implement it gently. You don’t arrest people for refusing to change, and you don’t force a change that might compromise public safety until everybody understands what units are going to be used from here on in. Having learned everything in Imperial, I found that learning the metric system was like having to learn a whole new language when nothing appeared to be wrong with the old one. Partly because of the way it was forced and partly because of the news stories about problems during the changeover, neither I nor my friends were ever convinced that metric was the superior system; or indeed, that a change was even necessary.

No, tracer. I’m talking about the law passed a number of years ago which required conversion of everything to metric. Do you recall the spate of new highway signs with both km/hr & mph speed limits? That was one result (apparently, the only) of that law.

Matchka, when I mentioned the USA’s military, I did not mean to imply that it did NOT use the metric sytem. My point being, if you are #1 militarily (and economically), then you are almost assured of being #1 in everything else.
And when you are #1, the rest of the world has to tolerate certain eccentricities of your particular country (such as reluctance to go metric).
Sorry for any confusion this may have caused.

It is the “American Standard System” or “US Standard System”. The ignorant like to call it the “English System”, but it isn’t. Before both the UK and the USA explicitly based their measurements on derivatives of the SI (that’s what replaced the “metric system” many decades ago, but the uneducated do not realize this) in 1960 (for the most part), there were differences in every unit.

Even the basic units of length were different. The US foot was slightly longer than the British foot.

Yeah, and then we can also learn to salute the Great Leader every morning, too.