Why the United States refuses to go metric


"Let's be bold -- let's join the rest of the world and go metric," said Democratic presidential candidate Lincoln Chafee when he announced his bid for the Oval Office. CNN interviews John Bemelmans Marciano, author of Whatever Happened to the Metric System?, about why the US is the only industrialized nation not to use the metric system in business, or most other fields. (Above, U.S. Office of Education public service announcement from 1978.) From CNN:

"People say the metric system makes sense," Marciano says, "But in nature we don't think about dividing things by 10, do we? We think of halves and feet and thirds."

Acres, for instance, were based on the amount of land a man could plow in a day.

"Throughout history we have measured things by ourselves," Marciano says. "We are really losing something with metric."

And another thing: People think the metric system has something to do with science. It doesn't, Marciano says, except that it is used in science and every scientist will probably put forth a convincing argument for why it's silly not to be metric.

"That's the biggest misconception," Marciano says. "The metric system has everything to do with capitalism. It's all about a selling system."

"Refusing to Give an Inch" (CNN)

Whatever Happened to the Metric System?: How America Kept Its Feet (Amazon)

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Technically, the US has been using the metric system since 1893

Since 1893, all the units of measurement that we use in the United States — from miles to pounds — have been officially defined in terms of metric units. What is a mile? That's easy. It's 1.6 kilometers. I can only conclude that Americans either really like irony, or we really enjoy converting everything from one unit of measurement to another. Read the rest

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An LCD pixel and a grain of sand are roughly the same size

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