"WHEN FASCISM COMES TO AMERICA IT WILL BE WRAPPED IN THE FLAG
AND CARRYING A CROSS." -SINCLAIR LEWIS

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Countries That Don't Use The Metric System

That's right: Liberia, Burma and the United States of America. Fine company we find ourselves in, no? The last industrialized Western nation to switch over was Canada and even that was almost four decades ago. Maybe President Obama can rub some change on this problem as well, but I'm not holding my breath: when it comes to this simple and practical issue we Americans are extremely stubborn, to the point of actually taking pride in the fact that we're being so different and non-conformist by not adopting the system used by the rest of the civilized world.

Remember that satellite we crashed into Mars a decade ago? It burned up in the planets atmosphere because one of NASA's subcontractors used the wrong units in their thruster software and it cost us over $327 million. Remember the national outcry by the American people to finally officially switch over to the metric system to avoid massive fuck ups just like that one? Neither do I. Ask the average American how many kilometers there are in 100 miles and they'll stare at you blankly. It's embarrassing, and it's what Obama is talking about when he says he wants to return science to the White House (but as I said, I'm not holding my breath on this particular issue) and one of my great hopes is that he'll be the leader who makes smart cool again. Dumb has had a free ride in this country for way too long.

[Update: I just ran across this new rule from Bill Maher that puts our national anathema to the metric system into better perspective:
]

[Update II: Forget it, we've lost. M. Lavinashree will own us all soon.]

10 comments:

one L bill said...

Right there with you, but it will probably take a lot of notable folks in my, and related, professions before this kind of change goes down. Money works in round numbers... why shouldn't buildings?

Van Zan said...

Temperature....

Zero Celsius is when water freezes (32 Fahrenheit).
20 is comfortable. 30 is for a nice BBQ. 40 is hot. Way over 40...then you're where I am.

Fahrenheit is named for a German who lived in the 18th century and is described in Wikipedia thus:
"Today, the scale has largely been replaced by the Celsius scale; it is still in use for non-scientific purposes in the United States and a few other countries such as Belize"

Belize.

Maher is wrong on one big thing though.
Soccer is not bullshit.

CS said...

JBW,

Americans are coming around to realising how ridiculously stubborn your establishment can be. I suppose its part of the ego-trip of being considered the world's lone "superpower", and it hasn't helped that your country was invaded by 8 years of baboons in the white house who exploited this ego-trip status to great heights.

Glad to hear that people like yourself are not averse to showing a little humility and requesting change.

Don't let me get started on the curse words that came out of my mouth while performing conversions in subjects like Thermodynamics and Fluid Mechanics!

Newtons to Lb Force? What a fucking (pardon my French) waste of time.

JBW said...

Glad you guys think I'm making sense here. VZ, one L has already tried with me on this score and you're not going to make any more headway then he: soccer is just plain boring. Sorry, bud.

Mrs. Brashear said...

Great article. I'm a math teacher and my students could not believe that there are only 3 countries in the whole wide world do not use the nice and easy metric system.

JBW said...

Thanks, Mrs. Brashear. Might I suggest making Brain Rage required reading for your students? There's more to shaping young minds than just math...

Thomas said...

I remember the Metric Conversion Act of 1975 vividly, even though I was 8 years old at the time. The most visible sign was gasoline sold by the liter. The price of gasoline was more than $1/gallon for the first time, and the dials cannot handle this. Selling by the liter was a stopgap measure which confused many people who did not know a liter was about equal to a quart. McDonald's had McMetric rulers at the time as well, in an attempt to get people to make the switch. It was unsuccessful. Vanity might be an issue in deciding which units to use. A somewhat overweight person might want to use kilograms, resulting in a smaller number, but a weightlifter might feel like a wimp for the same reason. A weightlifter might want to use newtons, which is technically correct but not normally used. Some body measurements are more impressive in centimeters than in inches, a fact I discovered from the beginning. Speeds are more impressive in metric than statute.
21.9 km/h sounds faster than 13.6 MPH or 11.8 knots.

Jennifer said...

We drive to Michoacan,Mexico every year. Every year I do the same thing. I see a sign that says 250KM until destination- I look at the speedometer to convert into miles. LOL I can not keep the metric system straight in my American mind. ~~JJ

Jing Chai said...

Car goes 100 km/h on the freeway, 50 km/h in the city. Just use that and you'll be fine.

Unless you can find out how many inches are in 47 and 7/32 miles or how many cubic inches are in 57 gallons without a calculator, then by all means stick with US.

So unless we plan to sell our products to only Liberia or Myanmar forever, we need to switch to metric eventually.

Jing Chai said...

Car goes 100 km/h on the freeway, 50 km/h in the city. Just use that and you'll be fine.

Unless you can find out how many inches are in 47 and 7/32 miles or how many cubic inches are in 57 gallons without a calculator, then by all means stick with US.

So unless we plan to sell our products to only Liberia or Myanmar forever, we need to switch to metric eventually.