# Metric Help for Americans

In the 21st century, it is surprising that there is a minority of educated people left on the planet that don’t know how to use the unit system of the modern world, Metric. These people generally live in the US, Liberia and Burma. Even NASA has recently declared the moon to be metric, so it seems time is well overdue for the US to drag themselves thru the 19th and 20th century, and into the 21st.

Having spent the last 20 years using the US ‘system’ on pretty much a daily basis, I have a good idea as to which system is more elegant, easier to learn, and more practical.

One goal of the metric system is to have a single unit for any physical quantity. All lengths and distances, for example, are measured in metres, or thousandths of a metre (millimetres), or thousands of metres (kilometres), and so on. There is no profusion of different units with different conversion factors, such as inches, feet, yards, fathoms, rods, chains, furlongs, miles, nautical miles, leagues, etc. Multiples and submultiples are related to the fundamental unit by factors of powers of ten, so that one can convert by simply moving the decimal place: 1.234 metres is 1234 millimetres, 0.001234 kilometres, etc.

Sounds logical don’t you think?

U.S. customary units, commonly known in the United States as English units (but see English unit) or standard units, are units of measurement that are currently used in the USA, in some cases alongside units from SI (the International System of Units — the modern metric system). All units are defined in terms of SI base units, but at ratios inconvenient for conversion.

Interesting.

In all seriousness, something really helpful in learning and using the Modern Metric System, is this wiki about [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metric_yardstick]Metric yardsticks based on everyday objects[/url]

Length
* One meter equals roughly one (longish) step of a tall adult man. Two cubits as perceived by such a person may come to about one meter.
* The length of a one-second pendulum is approximately one meter.
* One kilometer equals ten minutes’ walk.
* The distance between nails of fingers pressed together is roughly 1 cm or 10 mm.
* the width of a fingernail is roughly 1 cm.
* The cubit arm (forearm from elbow to fingertips) is roughly 50 cm. This is known as metric cubit and has been used in some countries.
* The width of man’s hand is about one decimeter or 10 cm. That is almost the same as the old English unit “hand”.
* The side of a matchbox is 5 cm.

Area
* A large soccer field has an area of one hectare (10,000 square meters).
* The area covered by a large umbrella is roughly one square meter.

Volume
* A cube of one hand (1 decimeter) per side is equal to one liter.
* A drop of water (or water-based solution, like milk, tears, etc.) is very close to 0.05 milliliters. 20 drops make one milliliter. This is an approximation used in chemical engineering. One liter is therefore roughly 20,000 drops.
* Both the British and American pints are close to 1/2 L, sometimes called the “metric pint”.
* Soft drinks are sold in 1, 1.5, 2 and 3 liter bottles.

Mass
* One liter of water weighs one kilogram, and therefore 1000 liters of water (a cubic meter) weighs 1 tonne.
* One tonne (1000 kg) is roughly the mass of an economy motor car.
* One U.S. “nickel” (5 cent coin) has a mass of 5 g.
* One litre of soda has a mass of roughly 1 kg.

Force
* A small apple on Earth exerts a force due to gravity of about one newton (N).
* One kilogram at the Earth’s surface exerts a force due to gravity very close to 10 N.
* One newton-meter torque is roughly the increase in torque by adding a small apple to the end of an outstretched walking stick.

Temperature
* For Celsius temperatures
o 30 is hot
o 20 is nice
o 10 is chilly
o 0 is ice.
* Normal room temperature is roughly 22 °C
* An outside temperature of 300 kelvins means bikini weather.

Pressure
* Normal air pressure at sea-level is around 100 kilopascals. It equals approximately 1 kg/cm2
* Every ten metres’ depth of seawater exerts about one bar or 100 kPa or 1 kg/cm2 of additional pressure.

decisions decisions…

I am pleased you picked up on that deliberate change. Read the Nasa article.

(I’d hate to confuse the American thread readers. As for typos, is that what you have come to TC?)

I find it amusing that my spelling of “metre” is sometimes “corrected” by people who don’t know what the fuck it is.

That’s because you were trying to spell ‘foot’, silly.

but us poor americans can’t change, think how much it’ll cost us. we can’t afford to reeducate all our tradespeople either, and i like my half inch wrench.

anyway, our system is better. jesus used the imperial system, so it is sanctioned by God. and if it annoys the french, so much the better. bring it on.

:taz:

Why are you coming down just on poor Amerikuns? Backward Brits need help too, no? Let’s bring everyone out of the Middle Ages!

I don’t need your stinkin’ metric help. I was in grade school in the 70’s and there was a big push in the public schools to take on the metric system. All my physics and chemistry classes in university used the metric system, so it always seemed second nature to me, and so much more sensible.

When I was working in the UK, I discovered the joys of using the metric system to build things. It’s so much easier to give dimensions in millimeters eg. 2970 (2.97 meters) than doing all that fractions of inches crap. Still, the imperial gallon is an oddity that took some getting used to. And why don’t the Brits give up their precious miles and mph, anyway? And why at this late date in history should you measure weight in stone?

Half a crown and two farthings?

No matter how much I use metric for science, communication with non-American friends, etc, it never takes on the same intinctual feel that US common measures do, never expect it to. It’s just so ingrained in me - I know what the metric means but it still doesn’t have that “real” feel to it.

the terms mile, inch etc are pretty much stuck in the language many people use daily, even in metric countries, so they won’t really disappear over night.

i am fortunate to be able to think in both systems easily (an accident of timing and location from where i was born) but for precision and ease of use the metric system wins hands down. as salvatore points out. the british still use mph in cars (many old cars still driving) but post both kmh and mph signs, and will eventually phase out the mph altogether…

and as soon as we can get the americans to spell it metre and litre (sorry truant), like they were invented, the better. (and centre, favourite, etc… its a bit like simplified chinese. ) or maybe not, we always need something to flog them with. and poor burma.

and while i’m on the topic, why do americans have DIFFERENT quart, gallon, pint, etc sizes to british imperial measures? that just cocks things up even more…

The metric system is warped.

For a start, the earth is a sphere divided into 360 degrees. Circles were divided into 360 degrees because there are approximately 360 days in a year.
360 is also a readily divisible number:- it can be divisible by a total of 24 numbers. 24 is the amount of hours in a day. 24 can be divided by 12 and so can 360. There are 60 minutes in an hour. Hours can be divided into 12.
360 can be divided by every number between 1 to 10 with the exception of 7.

Units of distance measurement use nautical miles as they are the average length over the earth’s surface of one minute of arc. So nautical miles fit into the earth exactly. As a nautical mile is one minute of arc, again we can see that we are fitting in with the system of 12’s - the natural number for measurement as determined by time and the size of the earth.
Speed, distance and time are easy to work out using standard measurements.

Napoleon Bonaparte and the metric system intended that the circle should have 400 degrees, replacing the current 360 degrees in a circle, probably because it was too hard for him to count in twelves. Therefore, a right angle would consist of 100 degrees.
Further more, each metric degree would have to have 100 metric minutes in it therefore giving 10,000 metric minutes in a right angle.
The kilometre is the average length of arc of one metric minute at the earths surface measured along the Rose Line through Paris.

METRIC DEGREES WILL NEVER BE FULLY BE UNIVERSALLY ACCEPTED BECAUSE THEY HAVE ONE FUNDAMENTAL FLAW: FIGURES LIKE ISOSCELES TRIANGLES THAT OCCUR NATURALLY IN MATHEMATICS DO NOT HAVE A STRAIGHT-FORWARD NUMBER OF METRIC DEGREES TO THEIR INTERNAL ANGLES

For example, a standard 60 degrees converts to 66.666666r. metric degrees, turning what should be quite straightforward trignometrical problems into absolute mathematical nightmares.

[quote=“bobepine”]the British still use mph in cars (many old cars still driving) but post both kmh and mph signs, and will eventually phase out the mph altogether…
[/quote]

I’ve never seen KM/h signs anywhere. They will never phase this out. New cars still have MPH as the main measurement on the speedo.
They tried with pounds and ounces but it didn’t work. Even though everything is advertised in grams and kilograms at the supermarket, people still predominantly use pounds and ounces.

Speaking of measurements - does the smaller the country equate to having a bigger chip on the shoulder?

Liechtenstein are metric, no?

No. You’re a good example of that.

whenever anybody points out a flaw/drawback/limitation/fallacy/difference/non-sequitur in an american way of doing things, americans say ‘they have a chip on their shoulder’.
when ever an american points out to someone else that perhaps they should adopt the american viewpoint, or a uniquely american way of doing things, that is “cultural assistance”, “development”, “progress”, even if the change would be a backward step.

thanks.

and BTW, australia is the same size as the USA. fwer people, admittedly, but then that’s the way we like it. and we don’t have french fries on our shoulders, it’s dandruff.

mph/kmh in england: i have seen the dual markings, but only on larger roads in the south. maybe its to help the poor old french? ( and the rich young germans)

[quote=“Dangermouse”]

I’ve never seen KM/h signs anywhere. They will never phase this out. New cars still have MPH as the main measurement on the speedo. [/quote]

You should see the main measurement on my speedo. You’ll need to use meters, or furlongs.

And anyway, torque is much easier to work with in Newton meters or even Kilogram-Force-meters than foot-pounds. Though as a tool manufacturer, having two sets of standards means a lot of people have to buy two sets of spanners. That’s good. You should all buy more spanners.

But for liquids? No measurement surpasses the pint, does it?

I watched Notes of a Scandal the other day, a British film as it were, and in it Queen Elizabeth has a restraining order against her. She can’t get within 500 YARDS of the other woman.

Is that just a leftover fleck of the past too?

I grew up on the US system,yards and miles and such. I prefer metric now, because a 100KM drive to Taichung can be done in an hour!

My brain thinks that KPH is faster than MPH:D

[quote=“Chaon”]
But for liquids? No measurement surpasses the pint, does it?[/quote]
Unless it’s the quart.