why woun't USA go metric

UK just did. They have abandon pound and gallon.

The metric system is also used by NASA

Charles P. Goslee, Kodak Vice President, Chief Quality Officer, and one of the primary sponsors of the metrication program, stated, “Using the system of measure the rest of the world is using becomes a must for a global company to effectively operate and realize the many benefits of global parts sourcing, service, componentry, and to have the ability to technically exchange information on a common measurement basis around the world.”

Besides: isn’t the metric system a more scientific measure ?

Here is a relevant link:

U.S. Metric Association (USMA), Inc.

The U.S. Metric Association (USMA), Inc., with headquarters in Northridge CA, is a national non-profit organization, founded in 1916. It advocates U.S. conversion to the International System of Units which is known by the abbreviation SI (ess-eye). SI is also called the modern metric system. The process of changing our system of measurement units to the metric system (i.e. SI) is called metric transition or metrication.


I believe that inside every American there is an European trying to come out :smiley:

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.

The US tried to go metric before. It didn’t stick. Give it a few more decades and maybe it will.

Mr. Goslee appears to not be in the loop.

American industry long ago went metric - they just didn’t inform the public. :smiley: Just about every industry sells its products at home and abroad, or uses components made abroad, so products are made on the metric scale, and the English units are pasted on labels for products made for American consumption.

As for why public units of measure still use the English system, it’s traditional, and, as business has gone metric, there is really no great cost benefit to changing all those speed limit signs from 65 MPH to 104 KPH.


Our spirit of rugged individualism.

SuaSponte is right. The USA long ago went metric in law and in fact. Only within the US are units still given in feet, pounds, etc. Almost anything that is intended for export, and that is amost everything, is usually manufactured using metric measure.

[quip response]What’s next, driving on the left side of the road?[/quip response]

real response: Tradition, indiviualism, people shooting down KPH signs, huge cost of overnight container alterations. We are slowly moving towards metric, we just have to do it stealthily to advoid people who think we are still living in the isolationist 30’s.

Does it really even matter what measurements anyone uses? I have a hypothesis that if you put someone in a car with no speedometer or odometer, and told them to drive in the desert (no landmarks) for exactly 27 miles, no one could do it. Or 27 kilometers, either. People just don’t know what measurements mean past a certain point, so what does it matter what we call them?

Here’s what can happen during these conversions.


[sub]The story above is a good read for those interested and has a happy ending in case you were concerned[/sub]

Dang it, I meant to mention that therefore, we should go metric so everyone’s on the same page – there’s no need to be so attached to the old system because it’s not like it matters.

POWER_station wrote, in the OP:

Now, hold on just a cotton-pickin’ minute here!

SI is not the same as the system of units used in most “metric-speaking” countries. Consider these differences:
[ul][li]The kilogram is a unit of mass in SI, while the SI unit of force is the Newton. In most metric countries, the kilogram is treated as, and used as, a unit of weight or force, and the Newton is not used directly.[/li]
[li]The SI unit of volume is the cubic meter. In most metric countries, the unit of volume is the liter (litre).[/li]
[li]The SI unit of temperature is the Kelvin. In most metric countries, temperatures are measured in degrees Celsius.[/li]
The SI unit of velocity is the meter (metre) per second. In most metric countries, velocities are measured in kilometers (kilometres) per hour.[/ul]

Tars Tarkas wrote:

You mean like Ronald Reagan did in 1982, when he disbanded the U.S. Metric Board and canceled its funding? (I can just see his reasoning now: “They use the metric system in the Soviet Union! It must be a Communist system!”)

A much simpler designation of speed than KPH or MPH is FPF, or Furlongs per Fortnight.

60 MPH is roughly 160,000 FPF.

I don’t know what would make it a more ‘scientific’ measuring system unless you mean that it is the preferred measuring system used by most scientists. Beyond that any measurement is pretty arbitrary. Pick any length, volume, etc. and call them what you will and you have a new measuring system.

Maybe it’s because thet metric system is based on units of ten that make it seem more practical…I dunno.

In addition to what others have said, it ought to be pointed out that the US is most definitely shifting (somewhat) to metric in one area, namely liquid measures. It helps that the English system of liquid measurements is even more stupid than the rest of the system. Hopefully, once everyone starts thinking in liters, we can work on that whole “1 liter of water weighs exactly one kilogram” thing and bring metric measurements in there.

Metric distance measurements are probably the sticking point; Feet and inches are so entrenched in US thought that it’s probably impossible to change without absolutely requiring metric units everywhere by law. Even If that happened, there’s a huge amount of mechanical and engineered infrastructure that’s designed in fractional inch measures; nobody wants to switch to entirely incompatible metric designs. I would actually suspect that metric distance measure wiould take an entire generation (~20 years) of deliberate effort to gain acceptance, and only after the other units have been generally accepted.

Says who? What has changed in the UK of late is that it’s become illegal for shops etc. to use only imperial measures. There’s nothing to stop you selling a 1 lb bag of sugar, provided it’s also at least as prominately labelled as being 0.454 kg. (And anecdotally this sort of situation is apparently rather common with bits of wood: inches merely converted to give odd metric amounts.) The recent “metric martyr” media coverage has been about a trader who was stubbornly refusing to use metric at all.
That said, it seems inevitable that most imperial measures will die out here eventually simply because the schools stopped teaching them in detail c. 1970. Most Britons under thirty now probably do think more naturally in metric terms in most instances; it’s a two litre bottle of Coke or a kilo bag of sugar. However body weights are still imperial, weather temperatures interchangable etc. (Actually, if it’s hot I think in F, if it’s cold in C, but most of the time the weather in Britain’s such that the temperature’s just some vague “normal”.)
The only hard case in the long-term is road signs. Those are all still in miles and mph and there’s no evidence of any government enthusiasm for the hassle and expenditure of changing them.

But, famously, not necessarily when going to Mars.

… well, okay, Reagan didn’t kill metric conversion, he transferred it to the Office of Metric Programs in the Dept. of Commerce, so it wasn’t quite as bad as all that.

Hey, we’re bilingual!

The way I see it, Americans speak two languages–metric and Imperial. Like many bilingual countries, we use one language for some things, and the other for other things. We acknowledge that we are part of the world community, so we try to use the more common worldwide language (metric) for anything that is worldwide in scope. We also recognize that metric is more suited to scientific endeavors, so we use it for that. But we weigh ourselves in Imperial and it works just fine. Switching to metric won’t make us any skinnier.

I see absolutely nothing wrong with having and using two measurement systems. They seem to coexist pretty peacefully. I go to the lumberyard to buy 2x4s, and I go to the drug dealer to buy grams of coke (kidding!). Whether by tradition or for practicality, I find Imperial good for some things, and metric good for others.

I say we stick to our bilingual ways. And if you don’t agree with me, I’ll whack you with a 5.08x10.16!

Yep, and the teachers at my junior high were convinced Reagan didn’t bother to change the law that made it illegal to teach non-metric after a certain date, so they went on and on about how they were teaching clandestine measurements in defiance of federal law. Having learned how long a foot was when i was four, I just drew pictures of monkeys.

Some Guy wrote:

The real stupidities of the Old System of measurement don’t really become apparent until you get outside the realm of household measurements.

F’rinstance, sure, you might think it’s a little screwy that there are 3 teaspoons to a tablespoon, 2 tablespoons to a fluid ounce, eight fluid ounces to a cup, etc., but that’s just peanuts compared to what happens when you get up into the larger units. Quick, how many gallons are there in a barrel? Well, that depends on what kind of a “barrel” it is. If it’s a standard barrel, it’s 31.5 gallons; if it’s a hogshead barrel, it’s 63 gallons; if it’s a barrel of crude oil, it’s 42 gallons. Oh, and did I mention that by “gallon” here, I mean U.S. Liquid Gallons? An Imperial (British) Gallon is a little over 1.2 U.S. Liquid Gallons, and a U.S. Dry Gallon is around 1.164 U.S. Liquid Gallons.

Units of weight are even worse. How many ounces are there in a pound? 16, right? Not if you’re talking about precious metals, there aren’t! Precious metals are weighed in the Troy system, where there are 12 ounces to the pound. An ounce of gold weighs more than an ounce of hamburger, but a pound of gold weighs less than a pound of hamburger – because there are two different types of “ounces” and “pounds” at work here. Fortunately, there is no such thing as a “Troy ton”, but unfortunately, there is a U.S. ton (also called a “short ton”) and a British ton (also called a “long ton”). How many pounds in a ton? That depends on what country you’re in. And whether it’s a pound of gold or a pound of hamburger.

And lengths? Didja know that there’s more than one kind of “inch” in use today? The International Inch is exactly 2.54 centimeters, but the inch used by surveyors is 2.540005 centimeters – just enough different to cause some very very subtle errors over long distances if you’re not careful. Don’t even get me started on nautical miles.