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

I remember turning one gigasecond old. It’s the only order of magnitude age that I remember, or am likely to remember…

I liked w/m^2 wind chill reporting, and I wish they’d go back to it. I realize I’m in a very small minority on this. And mostly it’s not because I find it intuitive or anything, I just hate hate hate it when people talk about the “feels like” wind chill “temperature” as if it’s the actual temperature.

When I was a kid in Saskatoon we got an educational clip of local weatherman Greg Barnsley explaining it to us. 2400 W/m^2 means you become a popsicle in 30 seconds, if I recall correctly.

EDIT: I’m with Gorsnak.

I remember when two liter soda bottles were introduced. Not only were they the first 2 L bottles (the largest common bottle before them was the quart glass bottle) they were also the first plastic soda bottles. The notion that they were selling two liters at a two quart price or less helped sell people on the plastic bottles.

Ha! I have read some, not all, of this thread. Old battles shall never be resolved. USA tried to go metric in my remembered past. It didn’t take. Why didn’t it take? In my mind, it will always come down to TV ads like this:

Ooh, I hated those little guys. I hated their song, but I really hated that bouncy thing they did at the end. I don’t know if I were ever convincable as far as switching to metric goes, but this wasn’t going to do it. The US Office of Education blew it that time.

Now, for me anyway, it’s beyond hope, because of everyone who says “K” for thousand. Ooh, I hate that! You can hear that in a Yosemite Sam voice for maximum impact.

I guess also I never liked kilometers instead of miles. Change everything else, but please keep road signs in miles! Whenever I read the word “kilometers”, in my head it’s in an undetermined foreign accent, somewhere between French and Hindi - “keel-o-meetairs”. I guess that means I’m sort of a xenophobe, and I’m sorry, but I like miles.

Metric is:

  1. Easier to figure in your head.
  2. Easier to convert to different types of measurements (liter of water is 1 cubic decimeter, and is also a kilogram)
  3. No random memorization of oddball numbers that were thought up by some oddball king (5,280 feet in a mile)
  4. Lack of friction when learning about science, or traveling internationally. You already know what a kilogram is, you don’t have to stop and figure that .454 of them is a pound.

There aren’t any rationalizations for the English system except:

  1. Financial cost of change. It costs money to relabel and republish everything.
  2. Resistance of habit. I grew up knowing that 98.6F is average body temperature. To me this feels like an immutable cosmic constant. Calling it 37C seems like a communist takeover. Celsius degrees are just too darned large! How can I possibly express smaller gradations like I did in Fahrenheit? Decimal numbers are just too nerdy!
  3. Libs love metric. Therefore I hate it.

And we’re back where we started. Where we always end up.

The names change, but everything is irruncible.

You can’t win this one by making sense.

PS Some libs hate metric too - why would you think they wouldn’t?

This misses the logic underpinning of SI units.

It is not about adding small numbers: that is a matter of getting used to something.

It is about logic connections between different quantities.

1kg = ~1l of water
1000 l of water = ~ 1m3
1 Pa (pressure) = 1N/m2
1kg exerts ~10N of force
1N/m = 1W
Now we can link kg and meter to electrical units
Guess what the conversion factors are.

In American units you need a reference manual to go from 1 atmosphere (1 bar, 1x10^5 Pa, 1m of water) to PSI —what is the pressure under 10m of water? ~ 10bar/1x10^6 Pa, I can do all that without a calculator. Have fun calculating how much energy is needed to raise 1 imperial ton of water 3ft : in SI to raise 1 ton of water (1000l/1000kg) 1m you need 10000J. This will take you 1000W pump around 10s.

Imperial units are a mess.

If you want, you can say “klicks” and pretend you’re in the military.

It’s good for mental math, but 1 atmosphere at STP is about 1.3% higher than 1 bar. Really it was just luck that 100,000 N/m^2 was roughly the pressure at sea level. You wouldn’t use that approximation for anything important.

Likewise, it’s just luck that the acceleration of gravity is ~10 m/s^2.

The underlying coherence of the metric system is unrelated to these coincidences. 1 joule is exactly 1 N of force over 1 m, and so on for the other units.

A liter of water being a kilogram isn’t quite a coincidence, since that was the original definition, but now it’s something else. It was only ever true at a certain temperature, anyway.

Yes, the choice of some of the units have been fortuitous. Are you arguing this in favor of Imperial units? What are you trying to say?

Or @Hatchie can pronounce it the mangled Canadian way “claw-mitter”.

Not odd. It was a carefully considered regularization of a mishmash of distance units:

Of course, what made a useful unit centuries ago does not make a useful unit now.* But don’t denigrate the past simply because their priorities were different than ours now.

*I’m all for switching completely over to metric. Once you live for any while in a metric country, it’s clearly easier to use.

Here in Britain, the .gov has now re-legalised selling loose goods in pounds and ounces again.

They’re trying, anyway.

Of course, the UK went metric before it joined the EU, so that begs the question why, other than an appeal to populism, they would want to now that they’re back out of the EU.

But they are only taking the step of permitting their citizens to sell in pounds and ounces. That seems to be part of the hesitation of converting to metric as if it is some sort of government imposed religion to mandate such a conversion, which in Europe it is that way.

Why in the hell was it ever illegal in the first place to sell in customary units? If metric is so great and so much better, it should occur naturally without any coercion.

Aye; that’ll work. How did we not see that we don’t actually need any laws at all!


Wasn’t this extensively discussed above? You can’t make up arbitrary units for official purposes. And the way it mostly went is they replaced the 100-odd different local units in use with one standard unit, not 2 or 3 or 5 officially permissible units. So, you can ask the grocer for a quarter pound of whatever, and perhaps receive it, but that’s not what the receipt will say (in most countries). Inspectors can come and inspect your scales, too.

Nobody is “making up arbitrary units.” Those are well known units and can be inspected to see if they hold true. It is simply thought control and a demand from ivory tower rulers that the people are simply too stupid to use measures that they wish to use.

No way they are coming up with an extra “well-known unit” and inspecting it, EEA or no EEA. I guarantee it’s all defined in terms of reproducible SI units and that’s how they are inspecting them. Can you imagine the staggering costs of maintaining a parallel set of Imperial Watt balances and so on?

It’s true the UK is sometimes fighting the EC for the right to dual-label goods, but I cannot tell you to what extent this is currently tolerated.