# The metric system: Make your case for it and why we should switch to it. (As if we haven't already)

Oh, I love freedom…

I love freedom a bushel and a peck!

Agree with you 100%

This sort of thing still comes up the oil and gas business quite a bit since a lot of US based companies still do work in feet (sometimes US survey-foot, sometimes international-foot !!!) and the difference can add up to a meaningful difference.

It may appear to be a small difference but mixing up one for another can mis-position a well (one potentially costing quite a bit of money) by several tens of feet - enough to put it on another person’s property. And yes, this sort of error can and does occur and getting the geodetics right is a lot more important than many people realize. Worse, some people don’t realize there’s a difference and I’ve seen code written in the last few years that use the two (with different conversions each time) interchangeably. That kind of thing sparks lawsuits.

It doesn’t happen when everybody works in meters, like they should. My preference is to tell my team to work in metric and only convert once (or as rarely as possible) at the end to minimize these issues and so there is less a chance a mix up between US survey-feet vs international feet will skunk a whole project.

And for those who don’t understand why - the (0,0) reference isn’t just anywhere you want it. The origin for a lot of these maps is pre-determined and the X/Y coordinates often run into the millions or tens of millions. So, an error of 2 parts in a million over 10 million can be 20 feet, for example - certainly large enough to make a real difference in real estate.

You are talking to someone who still thinks of distance in Salt Lake City blocks (seven blocks to a mile, 4.4 blocks to a kilometer). If someone says they are 5 miles away, then I think of them at 33rd South, a major road.

Changing anything is difficult, even changing to a better system. It’s unfamiliar and people don’t like unfamiliar things. I really don’t know how much benefit the average person has from switching to the metric system. I’m sure society itself is better off, engineers, scientists, surveyors and specific other jobs and trades are, but how about my elderly mother?

Your elderly mother will certainly be worse off but your children — and your children’s children - will be better off.

I started my education at just about the time that the UK started switching to metric (and to decimal money) so we had to learn both systems in school. You could say we had the worst of both worlds but I am so glad that we did as measuring things is easier now and my elderly mother (God rest her soul) no longer has to worry about measuring things.

I’ve always had two socket sets and tyre pressure gauges and, when I was in the Royal Navy, I often found myself moving from a metric ship to an imperial ship (depth in fathoms, speed of sound in water in feet-per-second) and vice versa. It’s all better now and the old sailors no longer have to worry about measuring things either.

I’ve just moved home to the UK after 25 years in the USA. I still walk in miles and drink in pints (proper English pints, mind!) and as someone above said, I can’t make heads nor tales of litres; I just fill my car up the way I always did. I’m pretty good with °C but when it gets hot, I switch to °F.

I’d say that metric units are only about 7% easier than imperial units but having one set of units rather than two sets is about 80% easier.

I believe the children are our future and our children will thank us when pounds, feet and °F go the way of bushels, hogsheads and cubits.

I agree. And if I were the dictator of the world then I’d force the US to make the change, but with human nature being human nature, I’m not optimistic about people making changes for the benefit of their children.

If you look at this board, there have been a number of people who just couldn’t make the change over to Discourse even though it really wasn’t the big of deal if you just got used to if for a couple of weeks.

I am getting a little of topic here, but is an acre-foot (a unit of volume commonly used for water) based on the standard foot or the survey foot? If i recall correctly, the difference is only about 6 ppm. No one I have ever asked even cares, much less knows the answer.

Both are used, but the acre itself is based on the US survey-foot so, I suppose that is the more ‘proper’ answer.

For most purposes, as an American I intrinsically grok what a mile is better than what a kilometer is, with one exception: eyeballing distances in person. In the vast majority of places, a mile is simply too far to see ahead of you clearly. Even when you are on an almost flat surface of a city/suburb with consistent blocks, by the time you look around a mile away, everything sort of blends in together so it’s difficult to estimate how far away a mile is. And that’s the best scenario, since most of the time there will be something in the way of your vision before a mile.

Whereas a kilometer is short enough that it’s easier to visualize in person.

Yep, this is the best answer.

Doesn’t that almost guarantee that it’s usually a standard foot?

Except it’s not, and this is one of those really dumb things.

Generally, a ‘foot’ in the US according to NIST is a US international foot, pegged exactly to 0.3048m (it used to be 1200/3937 but that got changed several decades ago.

The survey foot is different from this by a small amount and is still used for geodetic datuming. They’re trying to phase it out but it hasn’t been yet.

And guess which one matters more for surveying, which is generally how we measure area, i.e. acres.

So, this is one of those gray areas where it could easily be either.

It’s an example where switching to metric would make it unambiguous. I suppose when they get everything over to the same standard foot, it will also resolve itself but it’s just ridiculous how much work is sometimes involved because we still don’t even have something like a single standardized foot.

Somebody, somewhere has an acre-foot measurement where the “acre” part is in survey feet and the “foot” part is in international feet. Somebody else has the exact opposite.

This was my point. If there’s an opportunity to take an already bad idea, and punch it up to the next level of stupid, I can rely on my countrymen.

I’m not sure why this survey foot vs. international foot is an argument for the metric system. I take the point that calling both a “foot” leads to confusion and that switching to meters would make this unambiguous, but so would eliminating the survey foot, or switching to furlongs or SDMB lengths.

Absolutely. We could measure everything in standard SDMBs, but…

…it would be REALLY stupid to make up our own measurements when there is a system that nearly every other nation on the planet uses.

This is really the reason. Standardization is simply the best. Because I live in a typhoon magnet, I have to monitor the weather forecasts to see if I’m going to need to board up the windows.

The US Naval Oceanography site reports winds in knots, while the Taiwan Meteorology Center reports in m/s. Then the Japan site reports in km/hr. Grrr.

Well, you can’t blame US units for that one…

Metric countries should just pull that bandaid off and measure all velocities (speed limits, etc.) in m/s.

Confusion would result in countries that use km/h for wind speeds. It took Canada long enough to get used to km/h; don’t expect Canadians to do the mental arithmetic necessary to translate 60 km/h to whatever in m/s. Numbers in familiar units, like kilometers, work better and are relatable; I can drive 60 km/h in my car, and I get it. When the weather forecaster on TV tells me that today’s wind speed is 60 km/h, I get it. If the forecaster tells me that the winds are 16.66 m/s, I don’t get it.

Here in Canada, we’re used to the “wind chill” factor in winter forecasts. That’s what it feels like outside, given the wind, in spite of the actual temperature. So it might be 5C below, but the wind makes it feel like it’s 10C below. That, we can all understand, and we can dress accordingly.

So, back in the late 1980s, some nitwit at Environment Canada decided that simple metric for wind chills, such as degrees C, wasn’t enough–we had to go full-blown SI metric in terms of wind chills. As a result, we got wind chills not in degrees C, but in “watts per square meter.” Which meant nothing to all of us. Parents did not know how to dress their kids for school, adults did not know how to dress for their commute to work; nobody knew what the wind chill was–at least, not in units they could understand. Public pressure forced Environment Canada to go back to wind chills in degrees C, and lay “watts per square meter” to rest.

Stick with familiar measurements: kilometers, degrees C, liters, and so on. Leave the science stuff (“watts per square meter”) to the scientists.

Now you’re sounding rather like an American!

I’m not really arguing that everyone should use m/s, mind you, just making a little joke. But it is much the same thing as why the average American won’t switch from customary units to metric. They’re used to their own units, it would be too confusing to switch, leave science to the scientists, etc.

People would get used to m/s or W/m2 or degrees kelvin or anything else if they had to. There would be a generation of mildly confused people and then their kids would have no problem with the new units.

EV owners like myself have started to lose the familiar connection between gallons (or liters) and fuel consumption. But we’re off to a bad start in other ways. We use kWh instead of MJ, and kWh/mi (or kWh/km) instead of N. We could have done this right but screwed up already.

I think we should switch to m/s. And also count time exclusively in seconds. A kilosecond is close enough to 15 minutes for the plebes to adapt. And how far you’ll get in a quarter than an hour is really more useful that how far you’ll get in a full hour anyway.