Why are Americans (and some Canucks) SOOOOO conservative about metric?

An aside: I was speaking to a British Engineer(she told me she was an engineer numerous times) she was upset that the 'Yanks" called it ‘English’ measure. Why oh why did not the US use metric. She was of an age where she could convert easily. I find it interesting when watching British cooking shows they still use Imperial measure first, ie cups/ tsp/ etc.

Reluctance to switch systems isn’t political, but it is conservative. In fact, a reluctance to change to something new is pretty much a definition of conservative.

The main benefit of switching to the metric system would be that we wouldn’t need to convert between systems. Sure it won’t affect how long your drive to work takes if your driving at 60 mph or 95 kph but when a kid grows up learning everything in feet and inches and then becomes a scientist do you really want him having to back convert to make sure your car’s breaks work at either speed.

Or a more practical example is that I have no idea how many pints are in a gallon or ounces are in a pound but I can defiantly tell you how many grams are in a kilogram. The time spent retraining the scientific population once they get to college is tremendous I had a class that focused almost entirely on units and conversions, admittedly I use the oilfield system at work and its more messed up then the English system. Sure it won’t change a individual person’s life enough that they notice but if you take the time out that is spent converting and teach conversions that is where you will see a difference.

Excuse me I have to go figure out what the ft^3/ft of my well bore means for the bbls of displacement.

You’re falling into Valteron’s stereotype. Neither is like Esperanto.

I have no problem switching to kph when driving abroad. Sure, judging familiar distances in a different unit would be an extra test, but aren’t these the ones most often measured in hours or minutes, anyway? Thanks to the British half-metricated situation, I’m happy able to work in celsius or fahrenheit for most everyday temperatures, but far prefer the suitable precision (in that context) of the former.

I very much doubt there’s as much uniformity in this as you suggest. (And I very much doubt they were using cups as a measurement!)

[Abe Simpson] The metric system is the tool of the devil! My car gets forty rods to the hogshead and that’s the way I likes it! [/Abe Simpson]

Likewise, when people say Celsius is better I wonder if they really mean they are more used to it.

The advantages of Metric for distance and volume is undeniable. It’s so much easier to calculate with units based on 10. That doesn’t really factor much into the Celcius vs Fahrenheit debate, though.

I used to work a job that regularly used both Fahrenheit and Celsius, and required us to frequently convert back and forth between the two. I became “fluent” in both. In general, I find the Fahrenheit scale slightly superior for recording and discussing weather. Not so superior that life and work would grind to a halt if the world universally changed to Celsius. Everyone would get used to it and manage just fine. But I’d feel a twinge of professional regret that we’d switched to the (in my opinion) lesser scale.

Another question is, why does it both you so much? Your post is almost entirely about Celsius, where the 10-based math advantage of Metric is almost entirely absent, and hardly at all about kilometers and liters, where the case for the metric system is overwhelming.


Look, the advantages of either scale over the other are trivial at best. Ultimately it’s going to come down to personal preference. If you’re used to such specificity, though, you’re not going to see much point in giving it up for the sake of a really trivial advantage like “water freezes at 0 C.” It’s hardly a difficult task to remember a single number (32 F), and 100 C is so hot as to be irrelevant in discussions of everyday weather. For me, trading in Fahrenheit for Celsius would feel like exchanging my HDTV screen for a lower resolution model. I’d get by just fine, but my question would be, why bother?

I don’t see why we should switch either. Count me in as another of those “bone-headed, stick-in-the-mud, f-k off-and-don’t bother-me” conservatives. (And I’m not conservative politically!)

As other people have pointed out, you have given us no real reason to switch. You just think we should because…well, I’m not really sure why. I don’t think it warrants spending all that money to switch over. And I don’t think we need to march 100% in step all over the world. I like Fahrenheit , I’m familiar with it, I know enough of the Celsius system to get by, and at this point I’m 31 and not in a field where I need to worry about it. The average layman* just doesn’t care*.

Go put your thermostat on 75. Let it stay that way for a few days. Then put it down to 70. I assure you, you’ll know the difference.

Why do all metric vs. non-metric threads turn into U.S.-against-the-world? They still use miles in Britain, too.


Why don’t we switch? Because we’re big enough to get our own way. If the US were a smaller country, and if there were a large, metric, superpower in place instead of us, we’d probably have already switched.

But hasn’t a significant part of the private sector already switched? You buy your super-sized coke at Safeway in 2 liter bottles, right? And aren’t most car manufacturers using metric in their cars now? And not just in the nuts and bolts, but you get your Mustang with a 5 liter engine, not a 350cc engine (or whatever).

Stones, pounds and ounces for human weight and feet and inches for human height are common, even among young people. Pints are the measure for beer. The newspapers tend to use centigrade for cold temperatures (which is anything below 0 here) and fahrenheit for our heatwaves (80 degrees: whew what a scorcher!).

Does NASA use metric or imperial?


I use to work in set contruction for movies. Due to the vast lumber trade back and forth with the U.S. a specs are still done in “inches” and “feet”. Drill bits, saw blades etc. all “inches” (although most Canadian made products have both), because the manufactureres for north American products seem to have a U.S. bias.

I grew up using the metric system and that’s what I’m most comfortable with. I’ll talk “celcius”, “kilometers” and “centimetres” but if my industry is harmonized with the U.S. industry and I’m getting specs sent to me from LA, you betcha we’ll be talking “feet” and “inches” otherwise we build stuff that doesn’t line up right because it’s out by a few millimetres. If the U.S. finally get around to adopting metic I’ll be happier, but for now, but using the imperial system is necessary in my (former) industry.

I don’t consider myself a “hold out”, I just adapted to inudstry standards which follow the U.S.'s.

Somebody somewhere made the comment that the drug industry has already made the metric switch - you buy your heroin or coke in grams or kilos (although I suppose a “rock” of crack is an Imperial measurement), and you shoot other dealers with a 9mm.

Add 273.15, you silly person. 0C is 273.15K.
As a scientist, I prefer metric, it’s so damned easy.

Here in the semi-metric UK powdery drugs are measured out in grams, while the more obviously organic things are in ounces. I don’t know why.

The legit drug industry, too. You get so many cc’s for your injection and take this many mgrams of your favorite pain killer.

Most of the people who find the old inch/pint/Fahrenheit scale so much more “natural” and “convenient” never have to manipulate measurements.

The metric system intermeshes nicely.

Take an example. You have an aquarium. It’s a cube, 1 yard on a side. How much water will it take to fill it? How much will it weigh? Off to the conversion tables we go!

In metric, 1ml of water occupies 1cc and weighs 1g. If that aquarium was 1 meter on a side, it would have a volume of 1 meter cubed = 1,000,000cc (100cm x 100cm x 100cm). That means it would hold 1,000 liters (1,000,000 ml) of water and weigh 1,000kg (1,000,000g).

And as for temperature, all you need to know about Celsius comes from this little poem:

0 is freezing
10 is not
20 is comfy
30 is hot

Nitpick: Celsius actually is a centigrade scale, having 100 degrees between the two “anchor points” (water freezing and boiling). Its formal name was changed from Centigrade to Celsius, but I don’t go too hard on people who slip.