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Should the USA go metric?


Do you think the USA should go metric?  

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  1. 1. Do you think the USA should go metric?



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I'd like to propose a 3rd option. Who cares?

I find it humorous that people in countries other than the USA feel so strongly about how things are measured in a different country.

I've traveled throughout the world for 15 years and have had, literally, zero trouble converting between the various systems in the different places I go. Its not just units of measure either. Every place has a different culture and how they communicate measurement is just as different. Even in places where they use, apparently the most wonderful thing to ever happen to humans, metric. People still uses colloquial terms to describe various measurements.

As was mentioned all measurements are arbitrary. Celsius is based on the boiling point of water. What a lame colorless, flavorless compound to base temperature off of. I think it would be much cooler to base the temp off the various states of mercury. Much greater granularity. No confusion either, if mercury boils I'm staying in where it is air conditioned.

All that matters is that everyone in collaboration understand the units. It doesn't matter if it is based on the thickness of a pube or the freezing point of water.

Working in research, it's immensely irritating when I find a paper whose results are meaningless to me because they're in Imperial. One of the components for my experimental rig had to be ordered from America. All its fluid connectors are imperial sizes. I had to spend extra money out of the budget to buy connectors to attach it to my metric pipework. Just two examples that have affected my everyday life in the UK due to the US using imperial.

That's not true, you are just used to it. Metric is base 10, fractional inches are base 2 (just stop writing it as 1/64th of an inch, instead use 0.00001 inch, where the "decimal" is in base 2). Base 2 is actually more fundamental than the arbitrary number 10 as seen in computer science or by 2 being the smallest number for which using it as a base makes sense; but even computer science students often cannot calculate well in base 2 because they never got used to it.

But even with the fractions of an inch being in base 2, 12 inches to a foot and three feet to a yard doesn't fit nicely into any base system.

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That's not true, you are just used to it. Metric is base 10, fractional inches are base 2 (just stop writing it as 1/64th of an inch, instead use 0.00001 inch, where the "decimal" is in base 2). Base 2 is actually more fundamental than the arbitrary number 10 as seen in computer science or by 2 being the smallest number for which using it as a base makes sense; but even computer science students often cannot calculate well in base 2 because they never got used to it.

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So for practical purposes, I'm going to take any measurement from a fractional rule, convert it to floating point binary, perform any mathematical operations necessary, then convert it back to a fractional measurement? No thank you please, I'm better off remembering high school algebra and trying to figure out how to divide 15 and 5/16 inches into 3 equal portions. I have yet to see a ruler or tape that indicates length in floating point binary.

That 10% of area has more than 20% its population. All the empty space between cities does not require much signs (maybe one every 10 kilometers of road; yes, kilometers, not miles :sticktongue: ).

That 7% of US area contains 8% of the US population and 42% of France's population (2014 data). The size of the population is not the problem, the State of Texas alone has 79,535 center line miles (127,999 Km) of roadway. The US interstate system requires a marker placed every mile for both emergency purposes and for use in designating exits. So given the 3,233 miles of Interstate in Texas alone, it would require 2080 markers if you placed one marker on each side of the highway every 5km. The average cost for a mile marker sign to be installed is approximately $500-$700 each. Now include the signage for exit, speed limit, distance signs, etc. There is a problem of scale,not to mention Federal, State and Local governments. with the mass conversion of the U.S. from imperial to metric. Do I think it should be done? Yes. Do I think it's going to happen anytime soon? No.

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The US interstate system requires a marker placed every mile for both emergency purposes and for use in designating exits. So given the 3,233 miles of Interstate in Texas alone, it would require 2080 markers if you placed one marker on each side of the highway every 5km. The average cost for a mile marker sign to be installed is approximately $500-$700 each. Now include the signage for exit, speed limit, distance signs, etc. There is a problem of scale,not to mention Federal, State and Local governments. with the mass conversion of the U.S. from imperial to metric. Do I think it should be done? Yes. Do I think it's going to happen anytime soon? No.

My car's speedometer and odometer are in km, yet my car still works on American roads. And if you can place a marker at a rather arbitrary 5km interval, why can't you place one at 1.6 km intervals? Heck, a lot of highway signs on the interstate in the western states already have both metric and imperial. It may be prohibitively expensive to change over all the signs and markers as a group replacement, but it can be done on an attrition basis for far less money. Why not get started? The journey of a thousand miles 1609 kilometers starts with a single step...

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So for practical purposes, I'm going to take any measurement from a fractional rule, convert it to floating point binary, perform any mathematical operations necessary, then convert it back to a fractional measurement? No thank you please, I'm better off remembering high school algebra and trying to figure out how to divide 15 and 5/16 inches into 3 equal portions. I have yet to see a ruler or tape that indicates length in floating point binary.

It is quite easy to translate into binary; especially here, because instead of using the fractions, you could directly use the ruler's markings. But as you mention, this is also directly resolved by having floating point binaries. Or people learning to do fractions with denominators a power of 2. There are many solutions, all of them not harder than learning decimal. So in the end my point stands: your objection is only based on being used to it.

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Every US engineer and scientist I ever talked to uses metric system at work.

I'm in Civil/Survey. We use decimal feet, and we LIKE it! Of course 0.01 feet is more or less 1/8", so conversions aren't too bad. Oh wait, we use US Survey feet. The conversion is 1200m/3937USft = 0.3048006.... International feet are 0.3048m/ft. exactly

That makes a BIG difference if you're converting coordinates around 6x10^6 feet.

What's REALLY sad is that CalTrans was operating in metric for a few years, and then they went back to English units:

http://enr.construction.com/news/transportation/archives/050314.asp

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As was mentioned all measurements are arbitrary. Celsius is based on the boiling point of water. What a lame colorless, flavorless compound to base temperature off of. I think it would be much cooler to base the temp off the various states of mercury. Much greater granularity. No confusion either, if mercury boils I'm staying in where it is air conditioned.

As someone from a country with real winters and a lot of saunas, I find Celsius anything but arbitrary.

-30°C – uncomfortably cold

-20°C – really cold

-10°C – cold

0°C – the point where everything changes qualitatively

+10°C – nice cool weather

+20°C – warm

+30°C – hot

+40°C – really hot

+50°C – somebody forgot to heat the sauna in time

+60°C – the sauna isn't ready yet

+70°C – Is this some kind of Swedish/German/American sauna?

+80°C – warm

+90°C – hot

+100°C – really hot

+110°C – uncomfortably hot

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So in the end my point stands: your objection is only based on being used to it.

Used to it? I'm fairly certain I don't even understand it, I think I may have a basic understanding though. Any references/links you could point me to?

+110°C – uncomfortably hot = smokers about ready for the brisket.
Edited by DDay2021
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The apollo guidance computer was programmed in metric, and did conversions for the display

Yes, but it was coded with rope memory, which of course uses knots.

Edit: I killed the thread, which in this case means Mission Accomplished. USA! USA!

Edited by Wesreidau
Good-natured gloating.
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Used to it? I'm fairly certain I don't even understand it, I think I may have a basic understanding though.

I was talking about decimal (in the metric system) in contrast to binary (in the imperial system) there.

Any references/links you could point me to?

What for exactly¿ I am a bit confused and fear we might have talked a bit past each other.

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What about the US adopting the International Date Format? i.e 2015/6/12 instead of 6/12/15.

I am in favour of anything that does not put the months on the outside; why would you ever sort things by middle/smallest/largest...¿

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Guess that's due to the language used (I mean June 6 is easier than 6th of June) ? In mine, it's really more convenient to say it dd/mm/yy or dd/mm/yyyy.

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Writing dates as yyyy.mm.dd is better because it's easier to sort in chronological order, and it avoids the confusion of wondering if the month or day is first.

But when spoken, I prefer "[month] [dd], [yyyy]." Sounds less unwieldy to me.

Like "August 31, 2007" instead of "the 31st of August, 2007"

Edited by Pipcard
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It's much more fun for visitors if they get to experience that archaic system when over there. So... no?

[/flawless logic]

But yeah, that date thing is really weird, and you guys should stop doing it.

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Yes, but it was coded with rope memory, which of course uses knots.

Edit: I killed the thread, which in this case means Mission Accomplished. USA! USA!

If I remember correctly the Apollo missions actually used metric units, which where converted for the guys in the pod as aviation uses more traditional units. I guess the engineers are pragmatic and modern, while pilots adhere more to tradition and might be slightly more chauvinistic :D

That last bit is a joke, if anyone might feel offended.

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If I remember correctly the Apollo missions actually used metric units.

Yes, but the lunar module program was held in two cubic feet of rope memory (and used a cubic foot of ram) - note cubic feet, not cups or sticks

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I already use metric.... and English instead of American....

I am more European than American.

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Working in research, it's immensely irritating when I find a paper whose results are meaningless to me because they're in Imperial. One of the components for my experimental rig had to be ordered from America. All its fluid connectors are imperial sizes. I had to spend extra money out of the budget to buy connectors to attach it to my metric pipework. Just two examples that have affected my everyday life in the UK due to the US using imperial.

But even with the fractions of an inch being in base 2, 12 inches to a foot and three feet to a yard doesn't fit nicely into any base system.

Base sixty, but we should use base ten, not sixty.

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So for practical purposes, I'm going to take any measurement from a fractional rule, convert it to floating point binary, perform any mathematical operations necessary, then convert it back to a fractional measurement? No thank you please, I'm better off remembering high school algebra and trying to figure out how to divide 15 and 5/16 inches into 3 equal portions. I have yet to see a ruler or tape that indicates length in floating point binary.

That 7% of US area contains 8% of the US population and 42% of France's population (2014 data). The size of the population is not the problem, the State of Texas alone has 79,535 center line miles (127,999 Km) of roadway. The US interstate system requires a marker placed every mile for both emergency purposes and for use in designating exits. So given the 3,233 miles of Interstate in Texas alone, it would require 2080 markers if you placed one marker on each side of the highway every 5km. The average cost for a mile marker sign to be installed is approximately $500-$700 each. Now include the signage for exit, speed limit, distance signs, etc. There is a problem of scale,not to mention Federal, State and Local governments. with the mass conversion of the U.S. from imperial to metric. Do I think it should be done? Yes. Do I think it's going to happen anytime soon? No.

Dont replace it with metric until you would have replaced it anyway.

Edited by LABHOUSE
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Neither system is better or worse, really. It's the conversion from one to the other that gets ya. :P

So yes. Or the rest of the world could adopt the imperial system of measure.

I disagree, metric is better in my eyes. Very simple scaling up and down, but being able to measure more complicated stuff than the US system! Just what I would want in measurement.

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I disagree, metric is better in my eyes. Very simple scaling up and down, but being able to measure more complicated stuff than the US system! Just what I would want in measurement.

Well, I find that I like metric for working with numbers and imperial for working with people. It's easier to say you're a foot from something than 30.48 centimeters. And it's easier to put 30.48 centimeters into the calculator than it is to put 3/16ths of an inch.

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It's easier to say you're a foot from something than 30.48 centimeters.

I hope you aren't serious with that example...

I also don't see why fractions are harder than decimals. Decimals _are_ certain fractions. And entering them into a calculator is the very same number of button presses in your example (I even added one for the fraction in case you want to convert first).

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