Measuring Options

A while back, Craig and I were discussing the merits of the metric system over what we use here in America.  Craig was trying to convince me that the metric system is better, because it works by the rule of 10, but I’m in favor of the current method used in the States.

On the one hand, yes, ten is a nice, round number that is easy to add up, and is constant.  BUT  if we go with the metric system, things don’t compute logically, to me, at least.

Whenever I travel overseas, and I see the temperature is 13 degrees (Celsius), I immediately think it’s cold, because 13° is very close to zero, which is the freezing point in Celsius.  I have no idea how to translate that number to the Fahrenheit equivalent that would make more sense to me.  But if I hear the Fahrenheit equivalent (55°) first, that lets me know it’s nice out, but that I might want a jacket, because 55 is closer to 100 than 13 is, and 100 means “hot” in my head, so 55 is mid-way.  Yes, I think that it makes more sense to say that 0° is the temperature that water freezes (as opposed to our 32°), but after that, the rest of the numbers are just too low to coincide with how it feels outside.

Now maybe 13 degrees would sound warmer to me, had I grown up with that way of measuring temperatures, but I wasn’t.  Nor was most Americans.  We were taught to use a system of measuring that’s known as the United States Customary System, which is an extension of the English Units (or System), or Imperial Units (or System).

So, which is the better way?

Metric SystemI don’t really want to get into that argument, because I’m sure there are pros and cons to both sides.  Scientists will, I’m sure, prefer the more precise metric system, which gets translated out several decimal points against the US Customary System, and it can seem easier to multiply by 10s, as the metric system does.  However, take my temperature example for . . . well, an example.  Do the Brits (or other countries, for that matter) really set their ovens to 180 degrees, when baking a loaf of bread?  Over here, that temperature barely warms up the oven.  Though, maybe the appliances over there are also modeled after the Celsius numbers, I don’t know.

Instead, let’s talk about how difficult it would be to change from the US System to the Metric System.  While the Metric System was officially adopted by most countries in the late 1800s, I can imagine how difficult and frustrating it must have been for people who were used to measuring with the Imperial System prior to the change.  The two systems are in no way easily relatable to each other.  A centimetre is almost 4 tenths of an inch, a gram isn’t even half an ounce, and to make matters worse, a gallon is either 3¾ or 4½ litres, depending on whether you’re using the Imperial System or the US Customary System.

If we had to adopt the Metric System over here in America, I can see there would be several years of trying to acclimate to the new way.  I know MY brain would be muddled for quite a while.

And, how do you go about changing a country as large as ours from one measuring system to another, anyway?  Is it something that they’d do in one fell swoop?  “You will stop using the US Customary System as of X date?” or would the powers that be do it as a gradual change?  Are we in the midst of that gradual change even now?  I know that items in the grocery store have “oz” as well as “g” and/or “ml” measurements on them already, so is this their way of easing us through the transition?

How do you feel about the Metric versus the US Customary Systems?  Are you in favor of the more precise measurements?  Am I just one of a few relics left out there, clinging to the old ways?

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Camille Minichino/Ada Madison
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 08:30:55

    As you predict, Alyx, I find the metric system easier to use because of its symmetry and prefixes that really make sense. It would probably take one generation for Americans to “feel” that room temperature is 20-25 degrees, just as it takes that long to adjust to a new technology.

    Reply

    • Alyx Morgan
      Apr 12, 2013 @ 08:40:59

      LOL I’m not surprised at all, Camille, that you’re in favor of the metric system. And yes, the prefixes totally make sense. I guess we’ll have to wait & see if it truly gets adopted over here. Maybe I’d better brush up on learning it now, to get a head start on the generation of learning. ;o)

      Thanks for stopping by today.

      Reply

  2. Maddy
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 08:49:15

    A combination :- Porridge [oatmeal] in cups, paper in inches and fractions of an inch, Bus for sizes of vehicle comparisons, furlongs for sprinting distance, time in nanoseconds, hundredweight for buying flour [we do a lot of baking] acre for fields, and wolf for speed of eating.

    Reply

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