#1 By: Maggie Koerth-Baker, August 20th, 2013 14:04
#2 By: micah, August 20th, 2013 14:15
Actually a mile is 1.609344km. But who's counting?
#3 By: greenberger, August 20th, 2013 14:21
Despite my many criticisms of America's backwards policies, I actually appreciate the fact that we measure things differently than, say, everyone else. In this technology-obsessed world that's always trying to become more efficient and dividing everything into a compact, base-ten system, it makes me happy to know that we're stubbornly stuck on twelve inches and sixteen ounces. It's a little Baron Munchausen in a world in love with progress.
Now daylight savings, on the other hand, has GOT to fucking go.
#4 By: Charlie, August 20th, 2013 14:27
The US has always been partially metric. Some things are better in metric. Like, for example, some kinds of standards. And money.
Some things are better in systems that have more whole divisors. Like, for example, carpentry, architecture for human beings and livestock, and arguably temperature (at least that was the argument Dr. Fahrenheit made).
People who advocate one system for everything are insufficiently versed in the things they want to command. They are kind of like Ronald Reagan claiming trees cause pollution after someone explained floral respiration to him.
The United States chose non-metric systems for certain things after the metric system was in common use, and this choice was made knowingly and logically. "Everything should be as simple as possible - but no simpler".
#5 By: Tim, August 20th, 2013 14:34
I get why (for example) eggs are sold by the dozen, but I've never seen any logical rationale for things like using miles instead of kilometers. The U.S. Military uses "klicks" (kilometers) to describe ground movements for good reason.
#6 By: bzishi, August 20th, 2013 14:48
I think the problem that most Americans have with conversion to the metric system is figuring out temperatures. Here is my little trick to make it easy: when counting up from freezing simply subtract 30 and divide by 2, and when counting down subtract 35 and divide by 2. For most temperatures that we use (in the band of -15 F to 90 F), this is good enough and you can do it in your head.
Examples: 60 F ~= 15 C
90 F ~= 30 C
15F ~= -10 C
#7 By: Charlie, August 20th, 2013 14:49
Personally I think miles aren't very useful any more. The majority of citizens no longer use horses for transport or plow land with mules and oxen, so the furlough/daywork/mile/perch etc. measurements aren't terribly meaningful. But we nearly all do travel in cars, where klicks make more sense.
I do like me some inches and feet, though!
#8 By: Scott Belyea, August 20th, 2013 14:54
The point is to work in the metric system, not to be forever converting. It doesn't take long to adjust, particularly for weather. Start with hot (30C), mild (20C), cool (10C) and cold (0C) and carry on.
Converting just delays things and wastes time.
#9 By: bzishi, August 20th, 2013 14:59
No, I'm right and you are wrong.
How do you expect this instant change? People are going to convert whether you like it or not. And eventually they will get used to the values intuitively. You can teach schoolchildren the hot-mild-cold system now, but that isn't going to help to people who have used the Fahrenheit system for decades**. And the knowledge of schoolchildren isn't going to be useful if every temperature instrument and weather forecast continues in F. Both systems need to be used together until the public is able to abandon the obsolete one.
** And btw, every schoolchild in the US has been taught the metric system since at least the 1960s, if not earlier. It is not knowledge, but usage that is the problem.
#10 By: Tim, August 20th, 2013 15:03
And we'll defend those policies to the death, using our vast arsenal of 9-millimeter firearms if necessary!
#11 By: bzishi, August 20th, 2013 15:10
When I was studying engineering I remember that it was law that 2.54 cm equals an inch. All the other lengths are derived from that.
#12 By: Archvillain, August 20th, 2013 15:15
No, carpentry etc works fine (if not better) with metric. People who grew up doing their woodwork in imperial are generally going to find imperial a lot easier, because their mental shortcuts and thought processes are founded in it, and generally vice versa for people who grew up doing it with metric. These things have their own institutional inertia, and it is that which held back transition in some areas - the USA did not switch these trades to metric then choose to selectively switch back, people who were sufficiently isolated from science/tech work to not have to adapt simply never transitioned.
But it's been slowly and steadily happening over the decades regardless, because among other reasons, running an extra redundant system in the USA costs and wastes a lot, and the world is globalizing which puts a squeeze on that kind of inefficiency. For example some tool shops need to maintain twice as many tools and parts just to do the same job because some of what comes in their door uses imperial fasteners and sizes. (And not just purchase cost, my own workbench is cramped by duplicates of tools that I shouldn't need yet have to keep on hand, cluttering up the place.)
Globalization also raises the availability of sourcing parts from around the world, so going metric can broaden your options. Carpentry is still somewhat more distanced and insulated from all that than many other things, so people go with what they're used to and perpetuate their institution, but I expect even that will continue to drift metric over the coming century.
#13 By: Lloyd Cogliandro, August 20th, 2013 15:17
Having been in school during the 1970s I can tell you that we were constantly told that Metric was simpler, but then were bogged down with endless conversion calculations. At no point did we just use meters, liters, or Celsius, but were incessantly quizzed on conversions. I'm still not sure if this was some sort of wrongheaded idiocy to ensure that we understood the change, or a purposeful bureaucratic roadblock.
#14 By: Timothy Reeves, August 20th, 2013 15:17
military uses more 7.46mm than 9mm.
#15 By: Scott Belyea, August 20th, 2013 15:19
You/re trying to put a lot of words in my mouth that I didn't say.
- I did not suggest "instant conversion" (whatever that is ... you don't explain).
- I did not suggest not using both systems together in public announcements/publicationsfor some time.
All I suggested was an attitude/approach that I believe will help many (most?) people. Sorry you seem to find a suggestion so offensive.
... isn't going to help to people who have used the Fahrenheit system for decades
Well, it helped me (currently 67) and my family and a number of other people I know. Only a few data points, to be sure, but more than you provided.
#16 By: Jeff F, August 20th, 2013 15:20
Right, and that's what micah was using.
2.54cm/in = 25.4mm/in
1mi 5280 ft/mi 12in/ft * 25.4mm/in = 1,609,344mm in a mile
1,000,000mm/km, so micah's conversion is exact. 25.4mm/in dates to the 1930s. The late 19th century definitions used the yard as the basic Imperial unit, and matched that up to the meter.
#17 By: bzishi, August 20th, 2013 15:22
And you started out your post "Wrong." You made a judgement, not a suggestion. I gave a helpful tip and you essentially said I was an idiot for doing so. Then I explained it and now you are trying to walk back your statement.
#18 By: Paul Renault, August 20th, 2013 15:22
In french, you can remember "Un ciseau neuf" (a new chisel) for 1.609.
#19 By: Maggie Koerth-Baker, August 20th, 2013 15:24
This discussion should probably simmer down by about half an inch (1.27 centimeters).
#20 By: Jeff F, August 20th, 2013 15:27
By 7.46mm, I believe you mean 7.62mm. Which happens to be exactly the same size as .30 caliber...
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