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Old 02-09-2009, 02:31 PM   #1 (permalink)
Piwoslaw
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US switching to metric system?

While fooling around with metric/imperial/US conversions I started wondering what are the chances of the US switching to metric? What would be the disadvantages (b/c the advantages are numerous)? How long would it take? Who would protest the loudest? And how long after the switch would it take to "get it out of the blood"?

I know that somewhere in the 1970's Congress passed something about going metric and that was that, folks. I know of 1 (one) road sign in both miles and kilometers (on the freeway going from Durham NC to RDU airport, it gives the distance to somewhere as 4 mi, 6 km). And I've spent half of my life in the US. Juggling between units takes getting used to, but the metric system is just sooooo much easier to use. I mean, we all use a base 10 number system, so using base 10 units would be logical, wouldn't it? Why stuff your memory with random numbers from archaic measuring systems such as the temperature at which water freezes or boils, how many feet are in a mile (nautical mile, statute mile, USGS mile - all three are different), how many ounces are in a pound and how many in a quart? I remember talking about this with an American once and he said "Well, it's easy to remember - a pint's a pound the whole world round. And how much does your liter of water weight?" At least the US uses the same time measurement system as the rest of the world. And the same calender (which isn't the case in Russia).

The only thing that is useful in the US system is that fractions of feet and inches are usually given as powers of 2 (1/4, 3/8. 7/32, etc.). I can't think of anything else.

Are there any countries besides the US which still don't use the metric system?
How did the transition look like in coutries which have done it? Was it all overnight, or were both systems officially in use for weeks or months? Would it be less painful if it was done little by little? Say, first the temperature would be switched to C, then maybe weights, and then volumes and distances?

The switch wouldn't be that hard, I guess. Today, you find both systems on food. I remember that my first encounter with the metric system was in middle school science class. Plus textbooks in physics and mechanics use metric units, not imperial like in the 70's. Scientists wouldn't have much of a problem switching, immigrants and naturalized Americans would feel at home. But then there'd be voices of trying to take away what's american and so on.

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