How do you feel about the Metric System? For those of you (like older Canadians) who started their lives on pounds, miles, Fahrenheit, and gallons, how painful was the switch to Metric?
I remember visiting Canada some 40-50 years ago. The conversion to the metric system was in high gear. TV meteorologists could mention Fahrenheit, but they had to say the Celsius temperature first for one year, then only Celsius after that. I’d be curious about other “carrot and stick” motivations that Canadians endured to accelerate the conversion. Are Canadians happy that they switched?
As an over-zealous advocate of the Metric System, I just don’t understand why the USA is so stubborn in its refusal to do more than sell Pepsi in 2-litre bottles.
As an American and a college graduate with a Science degree, I got used to the metric system and feel comfortable with it. For most Americans, it’s a foreign idea that has no place in the US. They say why fix something that isn’t broken, even though it would make life easier in the long run.
I don’t see it changing in my lifetime, but hopefully it will happen before the turn of the century, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Then, you’re probably old enough to remember the U.S.'s push to adopt the metric system in the 1970s, which largely failed to gain traction.
I suspect part of it was the fact that, unlike in Canada (or England), the U.S. government likely has less power to absolutely mandate adoption of a system of weights and measures by private individuals and companies.
Those Canadian television meteorologists you mention? If they were on the CBC, they were working for a Crown corporation, which is operated by the government. Their counterparts in the U.S., on CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, etc., are all working for private corporations.
Also, Americans (as a whole) seem to have a tendency to want to actively resist changes being made to their everyday lives (see the fact that we still have pennies and dollar bills). This seems to be especially true if part of the argument is, “but it works so well everywhere else,” which seems to raise Americans’ hackles even more. I don’t know if it’s American exceptionalism, or what.
FWIW, the metric system has absolutely crept in, in certain aisles of the grocery store, as companies moved to use consistent packaging sizes across countries – for example, the traditional “fifth” of alcohol is now typically a 750ml bottle. But, those were voluntary moves made by manufacturers, and not mandated by the government.
Wood construction would be a huge changeover. I think it would be great to have 2cm lumber instead of a “one by” which is actually 3/4 of an inch thick.
How difficult would it be for small garage business to change over? I’ve been given to understand that there are US automobile companies using metric fasteners.
I’d love to see it but at this point imperial measures are such a conservative shibboleth that I don’t know if it’s something America can ever formally do. Any attempt to legislate a move to metric will be seen as another liberal plot to corrupt our children or something.
This. There’s nothing like a government mandate to get an awful lot of Americans to dig in their heels and say, “no way in hell,” especially if it means changing something that they see as “American,” in favor of how those damned socialist Europeans do it.
If you do want to switch, the method is just to use market forces. Increase the number of metric-based products on the market and get the public exposed. A few decades later, start disincentivizing products with imperial units. Never ban it, just let it die out as it becomes irrelevant to modern life.
That said, Fahrenheit is a better measurement system for climate. It will be a shame to lose that one.
What I remember from upper elementary (circa 1970 and onwards) is that we spent a lot of homework iterations on converting stuff from pounds and feet and gallons to metric and vice versa. Metric unto itself is elegant but there’s nothing elegant about being forced to memorize 2.2 pounds equals a kilogram or a kilometer is 0.62 of a mile or whatever.
Yep. If everything switched over to metric overnight it would take a couple of days for the general public to adjust to changes in speed limit and distance signs. Engineer and more technical work might take longer, but still it’s best to just switch instead of working on translating miles to kilometers, etc. seems to me.
One degree Celsius is approximately 2 degrees Fahrenheit (technically, 1.8 degrees). They are larger, but not awkwardly so for everyday use, IMO. It’s not like one degree in Celsius translates to a wide range of Fahrenheit degrees.
Would you act differently if your U.S. weather forecast predicted a temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit, versus 71 degrees? Both of those convert to 22 degrees Celsius.
I’m all for the metric system, and used it constantly while practicing medicine. And I’ve memorized the chant “30 is hot, 20 is nice, 10 is cold and zero is ice” to embrace Celsius in my day to day life.
But I still like the range of temperatures with the F scale vs the C scale. With Fahrenheit, zero is really cold, 100 is really hot, but it’s all within the range of the weather we experience. While in Celsius, zero is sort of cold and 100 is dead.
I know, it’s not logical, and I’ll either outgrow it or die off so it won’t matter in the long run.
This is what I remember also. The issue, as I saw it, was the focus on the conversion math. That was an epic failure of marketing message. Yes, we needed to understand the conversions, but more casually (a Liter is just like a Quart! A Meter is just like a Yard!), but it needed to be messaged differently. The over all elegance of the base-10 system is undeniable.
However, I also agree that us Americans are just ornery individualistic cusses who reject a lot of good stuff that the rest of the world has figured out long ago.