We can put an end to imperial units

“In metric, one milliliter of water occupies one cubic centimeter, weighs one gram, and requires one calorie1 of energy to heat up by one degree centigrade—which is 1 percent of the difference between its freezing point and its boiling point. An amount of hydrogen weighing the same amount has exactly one mole of atoms in it. Whereas in the American system, the answer to ‘How much energy does it take to boil a room-temperature gallon of water?’ is ‘Go fuck yourself,’ because you can’t directly relate any of those quantities.” Wild Thing by Josh Bazell.

I have not read Wild Thing, and I do not have any idea about who Josh Bazell is, but I love this quote. It brilliantly summarises how superior the International System of Units (i.e., the modern form of the metric system) is to the system of imperial units, as shown in the following illustration:

Visual comparison of metric and imperial units

Yet, nowadays…

The USA is the only industrialised country in the world that still uses a system of units developed from English units (i.e., the United States customary system), as well as the only industrialised country in the world that has not adopted the International System of Units2(see Metrication in the USA).

Canada and the UK have adopted the International System of Units, but their metrication process is far from being complete (see Metrication in the UK and Canada).

Despite the fact only a minority of countries have not adopted the International System of Units, the majority of countries are still contaminated by the system of imperial units. Think about it… Even in continental Europe, where the metric system comes from and where the imperial units are nowhere in the education curriculum, screens are measured in inches, aircrafts’ altitude is measured in feet, watercrafts’ speed in measured in knots, etc.

The problem is that, to anybody who grew up with the International System of Units, an advertisement of a 55” TV screen tells very little about the actual size; a captain announcing that the plane is cruising at 30,000 feet tells very little about the actual altitude; a speedometer showing that the boat is cruising at 20 knots tells very little about the actual speed.

This is ridiculous and has got to stop. Governments of all countries adopting the International System of Units have to enforce that this system is used in absolutely every application and that any trace of imperial units is consigned to history.

If you are a man or woman of science, or if you simply have common sense, please share this post on every social network, and tag your tweets and instagrams with the tag #banimperialunits.

Here are some examples of tweets that you can send to your politicians.

Inch is not an official unit in Norway. Why are screens measured in inches and not centimetres? #banimperialunits

Foot is not an official unit in Italy. Why does the aviation industry use feet and not metres? #banimperialunits

Knot is not an official unit in Spain. Why does the ship industry use feet and not metres? #banimperialunits

Together, we can put an end to imperial units.

Footnotes

  1. One may argue that calorie is not a unit of the metric system. In the International System of Units, which is an evolution of the metre-kilogram-second (MKS) system of units, which in turn is a variant of the metric system, both mechanical and thermal energies are measured in Joule. However, in the centimetre-gram-second (CGS) system of units, which is another variant of the metric system, the thermal energy is measured in Calories. Therefore, I would still consider Calorie as one of the units of the metric system, although not of the International System of Units. Besides, I do not think Josh Bazell aimed at being scientifically rigorous, so I would excuse him for not clarifying which variant of the metric system he refers to.
  2. The two other countries that do not adopt the International System of Units are Myanmar and Liberia, while the four other countries that adopt Fahrenheit for everyday applications are Bahamas, Belize, the Cayman Islands, and Palau.

50 Comments

  1. Dave Alexander

    5 July 2017 at 15:07

    Being an Antipodeans from Scottish/English stock, whose Father and his Father before him served with the Royal Navy, of
    whom built great Ships to the Imperial Measure as with many other Products, why should a non-European Country change our well proven Measurement, as Measurements at Sea and the in the Air are measured in Nautical Measurements and Knots. Why because the World may appear round to People that fly and use Boats or Ships it is Oblong, thus Longitude
    & Latitude. That is the Reason that Kilometres cannot be used. A Naval Instrument the Sextant uses Longitude & Latitude and the Stars and not Kilometres. So perhaps you have to change Mr.Italy. After all were the Italians not some of the infamous, Soldiers in both World Wars like the French whom ran away from the conflict, instead of engaging it? So please do not lecture us Imperialists, it is the young whom are happy about change as with learning the 12 x Tables, now the brains of the young have shrunk because they use Calculators instead of
    their Brains for Calculus? Neither do they want to know that their Grandfather gave his life so that they can have their’s, just a thankless, clueless bunch of unpatriotic thugs, who also “Suck up to the other “Pacifist come Communist” Corbyn’s Porky Pies” and voted twice, don’t worry I’m sure this Italian Professor will save their Hides from Fraud and the Metropolitan Police. That they have been involved with, as it is a Criminal offence to vote twice in an Election!

    • The International Civil Aviation Organization—the agency of the United Nations that codifies the principles and techniques of international air navigation—recommends a system of units based on the International System of Units (see http://cockpitdata.com/Software/ICAO%20Annex%205 ). If my arguments are not convincing you, perhaps the ones of an agency of the United Nations will. That said, citing the World Wars and offending the Italian people, the French people, and the millennials just because I suggest to abandon the imperial units was unnecessary. I would recommend you vent your frustration with life on other fora. Peace!

  2. Chris Jay Mountain

    7 January 2017 at 23:58

    Hey, Alessandro – you have my full support. Your blog is very insightful and informative – it’s refreshing to know that there are other people that appreciate the metric system. Right now in the UK, units of measurement are all over the place…roads and motorways measured in miles, yards and feet- vehicle speed measured in miles per hour and fuel consumption measured in miles per gallon! The most annoying and illogical part is that fuel is only ever sold in litres now – yet, we continue being forced to use MPG like we’re stupid and unable to be educated. A fairly recent addition to fuel consumption was “grams per kilometre” for measuring CO2 output – again, a completely wasted and useless unit of measurement until the imperial system is abolished…There must be an easier and more logical approach to metricating our roads and putting an end to the joke that is the imperial system once and for all.

  3. I like how “SI=SuckIt” called you a pampas asshole. You know, somebody who likes to roam around out on the pampas grass.

    At least you’re not a pompous asshole!

    Though if I were a knee-jerk reaction kind of guy that word would have come up.

    a) Defending the cgs version of metric is every bit as wrong as Imperial. SI was created in 1960. mks won. If you LOVE the universality of the metric system, then you have to let go of cgs units and go SI. Or else it isn’t universal, and the metric system doesn’t have anything going for it.

    b) I am a geneticist. So in biochemistry, all the biologists use kcal for reactions, and all the chemists use kJ, and I’m always trying to figure out units they used in a paper, and which way the x 4.2 goes. I hate it. DIE, cgs, DIE.

    c) NO ONE IN THE WORLD USES IMPERIAL UNITS ANY MORE.
    So, you make a false argument.
    Yes, the US uses an older, but ultimately similar system. Referred to in the US as “English units”, and formally called USCS (United States Customary System).
    Thomas Jefferson, in 1790, proposed the first decimal system of measure to a legislature anywhere in the world. But Congress was leary. It was too new, not at all universal, and “strange”. When the Northwest Territory demanded a decision in 1795 so it could be surveyed, Jefferson’s successor standardized on a particular subset of English units and the survey commenced.
    Three decades later, the British decided to standardize on their own. But, of course, the British weren’t about to copy unit decisions from their former colonies in the States, and the US wasn’t going to change units just because the British abandoned English units and made up new ones. At that point, they would rather have converted to the French metric units — except the darn French had abandoned them too! (1812-1837) So the US continued on. The British came up with the Imperial system, using a “decimal gallon”. (10 pounds of water), which actually works very well for calculating BTUs. However, since they kept 8 pints to the gallon, they never REALLY went decimal. The British, the UK, the British Empire, and the Commonwealth all switched to Imperial. But, compared to “English units” in the US, every fluid volume is different, every dry volume is different, and so are stone, hundredweight, and tons.
    When the UK went metric in 1965, that was the END of the Imperial system. (Except for British roads.) So, Imperial is no more. It is the proverbial Dead Parrot.

    So, let’s assume you repeat all your rant except substitute “USCS” for “Imperial”.

    d) I’m surprised that TVs sold outside the US use diagonal inches. Why not metres? For that matter, maybe diagonal measures are liked by the screen-manufacturing industry because it is a proxy for area, and thus cost, but the diagonal measure is used by NOBODY who wants to figure out what size TV to get. Why not horizontal inches? The screen ratio is almost always fixed (16:9 here in the US), so the horizontal is 87.157% of the diagonal. Why not use that, so you can actually see if your TV will fit on the wall? (Probably because the diagonal number is bigger, and we all know bigger is better.)
    Let’s just all convert to horizontal metres.

    e) What the metric system has going for it is near-universality. It makes those international conversations easier. (Then, we can start talking about a universal date format.) There is no question that any system of units that is universal is great, in our interconnected world.

    f) But wait a minute, on bashing USCS. ANY consistent system of measure will work, if it’s universal. EVERYTHING Josh Bazell or you said praising SI and bashing USCS is wrong. Just plain wrong. I don’t blame you for wanting the universal system. But don’t make it out like USCS is some kind of system made up by baboons or something. And don’t make it out like SI is some kind of system handed us by the gods. EVERY existing system of units has good points and bad points.

    1) In USCS, one pint of water weighs one pound, and requires one BTU of energy to heat up by one degree Fahrenheit —which is 1 percent of the difference between the coldest day of the year and the hottest day of the year. If you choose to boil a pint of water at room temperature, 72 F, you have to heat it 140 degrees F with 140 BTUs of energy. Whereas in the metric system, the answer to ‘How much energy does it take to boil a room-temperature litre of water?’ is ‘Go fuck yourself,’ because you can’t directly relate any of those quantities.
    (Room temp is about 22C, so you need to raise it 78C to boiling. But calories are deprecated, and Joules requires that stupid x 4.2 thing because it’s one kg-m/s^2, and how does THAT relate to heat???)

    (A mole of atoms is an experimental number DEFINED as the amount of carbon atoms weighing 12 grams. There is another Avogadro’s Constant for 12 ounces of carbon atoms. Think of it as a USCS mole. So what? All science is done in metric everywhere, and no one else knows what a mole is except for an annoying, burrowing rodent.)

    2) Knots are used by ships and airplanes, even Spanish ones, because they have to NAVIGATE. A nautical mile USED TO be defined in USCS, Imperial, and other units, but today is PURELY METRIC. 1 nautical mile is exactly equal to 1852 m. It is exactly one minute of latitude on the globe, which makes navigating on the ocean or through the air MUCH easier. (1 nmi * cos(latitude) = 1 minute of longitude, but I digress.)
    The metric system tried to go to decimal degrees (100 in a right angle), but utterly failed. Now, SI doesn’t even HAVE an angular unit of measure, since a radian is one metre per metre, the units cancel out, and a radian is “unitless”. Radians are used in math and science some times, but NEVER in navigation, or in ANY practical endeavor of actual humans.
    As to why a little speedboat has knots on its speedometer? No reason. It could certainly have km/hr. (Which is a HORRIBLE speed unit, by the way. SI would want m/s.) Personally, I think the little speedboat has Big Boat Envy, and copies the same units that ships have to use to navigate.
    And why is km/hr so ugly compared to m/s? Because the French TRIED to make decimal time, but everyone hated it. Even the French.

    3) Italian aircraft have to use feet of altitude BECAUSE ITALIANS DIDN’T INVENT THE AIRPLANE. Sorry. Or, ‘Scuzi.

    We could go on.
    I could mention how the metre is SUPPOSED to be 1/10 millionth of the quarter-circumference of the Earth, but one of the two surveyors made a mistake in the first year of the survey, and so it’s 0.2 mm short. They KNEW it, but people had already started using the prototype metre, so they hid the mistake so as to not discourage people from having confidence in the metre.
    I could mention how they thought the gram would be a good measure, but it’s really too small for almost any useful purpose, so the kilogram became the base unit. Except base units aren’t supposed to have prefixes. 1 N = 1 kg * 1 m/s^2. Why is there a kilo in that equation??
    An a Joule. What a joke. The energy it takes to lift one apple one metre. (We’re using apples as measurements now?) It is so stupidly small that everyone uses kJ, MJ, or GJ.
    And all of our electricity is measured in kW-hr. Because it’s a reasonable size. Why not MJ? Because, secretly, everyone HATES Joules. That’s why they use kW-hr and calories.
    And there are two sizes of calories. 1 big C Calorie = 1000 little C calorie. What the heck kind of metric is THAT?
    And yes, Celsius or Centigrade goes from freezing to boiling of water. (Though Celsius’s own scale actually had 0 at boiling and 100 at freezing.) But Fahrenheit set his scale to the ambient outdoor temperature, 0 for the coldest day of the year and 100 for the hottest. BOTH are arbitrary. Tell me again why Celsius is somehow better? Did you know that Kelvin, who invented absolute zero degrees, got tagged with Celsius size degrees only because Rankine had already set the absolute zero scale based on Fahrenheit size degrees? Kelvin used Fahrenheit degrees all his life!
    And those metric prefixes? Sure, it’s useful for scientists trying to relate the energy in the spin of an atom to the energy in a nuclear reactor, or some such thing. But other than that? It is more useful in the kitchen to know that two cups make a pint, 2 pints a quart, 2 1 quarts a pottle (half gallon), 2 pottles a gallon.

    The bottom line is, ANY consistent system of units is adequate. The one YOU are familiar with is always best. Either SI or USCS would work. Si is the nearly universal one, and will probably become the universal one some day. But it’s not because it is inherently superior. It’s just French.

    • Bill, please see my answers below:

      a) Agreed
      b) Agreed
      c) No, the metrication in the UK (as well as Canada) is far from being complete and imperial units are still used in everyday applications—You may want to read Chris’ comment https://alessandrorossini.org/we-can-put-an-end-to-imperial-units/#comment-198. And yes, I used “imperial units” as a synonym for “any system developed from English units, including USCS”—I should have clarified this in a footnote.
      d) I am as surprised as you are. Besides, Apple uses inches to measure the screen of the iPhone, the MacBook, etc., but mm to measure the screen of the Apple Watch, even in the USA.
      e) Agreed
      f) I consider the International System of Units superior because of its decimal nature. That said, the International System of Units is not perfect and your arguments are valid.

      A final remark: as I mentioned multiple times before, the USA has the right to stick to USCS. The only point I am trying to make is that there is absolutely no reason for countries adopting the International System of Units to see traces of imperial units in everyday applications. Cheers!

      • BTW – I want to say, thanks for prompting all this discussion. Bazell’s remarks were wrong and your requoting and praise felt annoying to me — but that’s all in the fun of having a discussion, and I think this one is useful.

        About Imperial vs USCS — they are all “English units”. In fact, the US used to call its system English units, until the English went (mostly) metric, and then the clumsy acronym USCS was developed. Sorry about my upset at your calling American units Imperal; I’ve been fighting a war on Quora, on which the majority of posters come from India and the US, and all the Indians (with their British training) assume out of ignorance that the US was part of the Empire*, and uses Imperial. So I carried that frustration into our conversation.

        (* Some date the British Empire to the 16th/17th C.; I think it really started with the defeat of Napoleon, when America was already off and running on its own.)

        About Chris and the UK’s continued Imperial units:
        – All the Brits I talk to say the UK is entirely metric. Well, except for the roads. So, let’s call it 95% metric.
        – Yes indeed, the UK uses Imperial for its motorways and its railroads. The railroads are a world unto themselves, and I guess they do it for historic reasons. It probably doesn’t matter whether they change or not, but changing to km wouldn’t be like tearing down St. Paul’s or anything. As for the roadways, I have NO IDEA why the Brits felt they could change everything else, but not miles and mpg. Some bizarre political compromise.
        – I think the most important thing to change is bridge heights — in feet rather than metres. If a French lorry driver goes under a British bridge, will he know whether he can fit?
        – The other Imperial units the UK continues to use are human body measures — the feet & inches of height and the stone and pounds of weight.
        (The stone is my most fun, bizarre Imperial unit, and yet another difference from USCS, which skips stones. Because of that, USCS has a decimal “hundredweight” — 1 cwt = 100 lbs, while Imperial makes up hundredweights out of stone – 1 stone = 14 lbs, 1 cwt = 8 stone, therefore 1 cwt = 112 lbs. (It bothers me that a “hundredweight” is not a hundred pounds. But that’s my USCS-centric view.) As a consequence, 1 ton = 20 cwt in both systems, but the different cwt means the US has the short ton of 2000 lbs, and the Brits have (had?) the long ton of 2240 lbs.)
        – There are still various reactionary uses of Imperial measures in the UK that crop up from time to time. Most shops are permitted to double label (£/lb, £/kg), and sometimes they “forget” to display the metric prices. Etc. But it seems like the UK is 95% metric.
        – I’m told by several Brits that, 40-50 years since metrication, there are now 2 generations who didn’t learn Imperial as the primary system, and in another 30 years the rest of the old ones will be dead, and metrication will be complete. It seems that is the standard for conversion – the old ones have to actually die out. Not even Brexit will prompt the Brits to go back to Imperial. (except on their roads and bodies)

        In an odd echo of the British use of miles on roadways, my American state of California used to be unique in not numbering its exits like the rest of the states. In the Midwest, exit numbers are important, as it can be many miles between Interstate highway exits. The roads are measured in miles from the southern or western border of the state (or the start of the road), a standard started in 1961 and mandatory since 1971. Exits, which in the 1940s and ’50s were numbered consecutively, are all numbered to match the closest mile marker, So, if you are going 60 mph, and heading to exit 100 from milemarker 40, you know it’s an hour away. Except in California, in which most of the freeways were already built and signed by 1971. It had directions (North, South) and exit names (street name or city), but not exit numbers.

        But California finally started adding exit numbers to signs in 2002, whenever each particular sign is replaced or modified. After an initial burst of changes, it has slowed down, and there is no end date planned for all exits being numbered — because signs cost money, and exit numbers aren’t in the Top 10 list of priorities.

        The great sadness for me was, here was a whole state — and a big one — which was unnumbered, and they funded (at least in the early 2000s) modifying or replacing EVERY exit sign in the state. And they didn’t go metric. They COULD HAVE been the first state in the nation to number roads in km. But that violated the 1971 federal mandate for Interstate (and therefore Federally funded) highways, which required miles.

        Sigh.

        Now, the state has spent so many millions putting mile numbers on exits that the chance it will repeat the expense to renumber them in km is zero. Not even “nearly zero”, but just plain zero.

        (Unless Trump’s big Infrastructure initiatives provide Federal money to re-sign all the freeways… Money would make it happen. In fact — that was my suggestion in 2008 to fix the Great Recession — just change all the road distances and speeds in America to km and km/hr. That ALONE would have stimulated the economy enough to create jobs and recover. But that never caught on as a recovery mechanism, and so we limped out of the recession over the next 9 years.)

        The issue of metrication in the US is a little bit about people’s resistance to change, but is a LOT about the cost. I don’t know of a study that has totalled it up, but I’m sure it would be 1 to 2 trillion dollars, total, to convert the US to metric. It’s not just retraining everyone, and replacing all the yardsticks and scales. It’s adopting new standards. Changing from 1/4″-20 bolts to 6 mm bolts. Changing from 2×4″ lumber to 5×10 cm lumber. Changing from 2×4′ office lighting panels to 60×120 cm lighting panels. Replacing every single 12 oz soft drink and beer dispensing machine. (Even in its current metric uses – the US has odd standards. 75 cl bottles are called “fifths” because they were about the size of 1/5 gallon. And from that, smaller wine and liquor bottles are 375 or 187 ml. No one in their right mind would pick those as standards — instead of 200 ml, 500 ml, 1 L, etc.)

        The cost of replacing all of those standards is enormous.

        But if it ever does happen, it will be little by little.

        Pepsi invented the 2L bottle in 1970, advertising it was oriented to the future. Most bottled water, popularized in the 1990s, is metric. (e.g., “16.9 oz, 500 ml”) Automobiles are becoming more and more metric. (Because even American cars are made of mostly foreign components. And foreign makes are made in America. It’s confusing.)

        I could absolutely see the US slowly, gradually, shifting one standard at a time, one industry at a time. But that will take a century or two, before someone says, OK, we’re mostly metric, let’s just finish it.

        Finally, I have had these chat style conversations with hundreds of people in the US and around the world about USCS vs SI, decimalization, and convenience. While SI fans tout the inherent superiority of decimal unit conversions, and USCS people are generally confused about why they are perfectly happy about their units, what I find is that:
        – Both systems are mostly coherent, logical, usable systems
        – Either system is usable for all matters
        – Each system has pros and cons
        – Most people only convert units to the next size up or down. Only scientists convert with large powers of 10.
        – Because of this, it’s about as easy to know there are 100 cm = 1 m as 36 in = 1 yd. Once you learn it, it’s natural to you.
        – To people who learned the metric system, powers of 10 seem like the only correct unit conversion, and 2, 12, or 60 seem medieval, like before they discovered you should wash your hands before surgery on someone.
        – To people who learned USCS, they don’t always remember the odd conversions (5280 ft/mile, 8 pints/gal). But they remember them enough, or they don’t need conversions because measuring cups have lines with cups and ounces, tape measures show feet & inches, etc. No conversions necessary.
        – The greatest problems for people inside the USCS system are conversions in school. It’s a part of what many people hate about school — learning the conversions within USCS, and then learning the USCS-metric conversions. They learn them enough to pass the test, and then run away screaming and never think of conversions again. If we would either convert to metric, or we would give up on metric and just stay USCS, then no one would have to deal with conversions. But we torture our children by telling them metric is coming and they have to learn how to convert. But we never pull the trigger and actually convert.
        – Oh, and fractional drill sizes. Machinists end up knowing them well, but figuring out which drill size is between 9/16″ and 5/8″ is hard for those who don’t do it every day. (19/32″) For THAT, metric is WAY EASIER.
        – Conversion to SI (outside France) came circa 1970, coincident with the rise of the digital calculator. I believe that having a decimal calculator DOES make the metric system easier to use. USCS (English units and Imperial) were designed for when all conversions were done in your head.

        MOST IMPORTANTLY:
        – Whatever system you first learn becomes the only system that will ever seem right, natural, and inherently superior to YOU.
        – SI is unquestionably the system to use throughout the world. But it’s because of the commonality that it is unquestionable, not its decimalization. (Decimalization is often useful, but it has pros and cons too.)
        – USCS (and Imperial road distances in the UK) will survive in their little pockets of the world for the foreseeable future.

        Again, thanks for the 2-year-long discussion!

        • OMG – I forgot the Imperial Pint! The most important unit in the British Isles.

          Though an Imperial ounce was smaller than a US ounce, they increased the number in a pint from 16 to 20 to compensate — making a British pint larger than a US pint.

          So, in the pub, always order an Imperial pint!

        • You are welcome. Thanks for sharing so much detailed information!

  4. Fuck your one world order mentality, fuck the EU, fuck the euro, fuck the kilogram, fuck Norway and fuck you Alessandro, you arrogant, pampas asshole.

  5. I agree that the imperial system of measurements is flawed, but to say ban it because it inconveniences you is ridiculous entitlement. You see, those of us who grew up on the imperial system get inconvenienced any time we have to use the metric system for anything but we don’t call for a banning of it. Do you not have a smart phone that you can put a conversion app on? “Hmm, that TV is 55″ what is that in cm? *clickity-click* Oh, roughly 140? I know how big that is now! I CAN HAS SMART!” Try it sometime.

    • People who grew up with the system of imperial units represent a small minority of the world’s population. Just because most of these people and their governments are in denial and do not want to adopt the International System of Units, I do not see why the vast majority of the world’s population should be inconvenienced. The point is not how easy it is to convert units. The point is to avoid converting units in the first place.

  6. Annoying though it is, I’ve been raised with both. Inches are a better scale for many things, but if I’d been raised in metric I’d not have that issue.

    Another annoyance is that in the UK we use Stone & pounds for weight of a person, which literally makes life impossible – the US uses pounds, the EU uses Kg! And feet & inches, rather than just inches… And various things have different tonnes, too. And gallons are different in the USA to the UK – how did that happen? And fractions? Even Google struggles to convert those. At least a decimal inch tells you something useful!

    Lives are lost every year, and millions of [currency] through messed up measurement conversions. I know I lost about half an hour yesterday converting 64ths of an inch, 32nds, etc to get the mm equivalent, and it was quite quick, because the American engineer lady had already done the conversions to decimal inch, because otherwise she could not draw them up in CAD anyway!

    Millimetres are so much easier for anything technical. Even just a trivial cross sectional calculation becomes a big job in fractional inches!

  7. Deuce Sevenoff

    18 August 2016 at 03:57

    You seriously want your government to ban the use of “55 inch TV!” splayed across a box at the electronics store? Good god, could you possibly be any more of a totalitarian? Why not demand everything be printed in Esperanto? It’s clearly “superior.”

    BTW, a 2×4 stud is always going to be a 2×4. If you want to force the name to be 5.08×10.06, well, good luck with that catching on. That’s how language works, you see, and units of measure are an extension of language. People choose what they want to use, regardless of what the “experts” tell them they should use. Ask the French if they’ve stopped calling it “email” just because L’Académie Française says all self-respecting francophones should call it “courrier électronique.”

    • Yes, I do seriously want my government to enforce the use of “140 cm TV!” and ban the use of “55 inch TV!”. The former would be much more effective than the latter for anyone who has never studied nor used the system of imperial units. With the notable exception of the USA, Burma, and Liberia, all countries in the world have gone (or are going) through the metrication process, which means that all governments in the world have enforced the use of meters, grams, etc. and banned the use of the deprecated units at a certain point in history. I do not see why the electronics or aviation industry should be exempted from that. The point I am trying to make is that the International System of Units is indisputably superior to the system of imperial units, and that there is absolutely no reason for the countries adopting the International System of Units to see traces of imperial units here and there.

      • Deuce Sevenoff

        27 August 2016 at 05:39

        Again, please let me know what they call a 2×4 in your country. I really am curious. Also ask some precious metal traders what they trade gold in. Unless you live in China I’m going to guess it’s troy ounces. As I stated, the reasons why countries adopting metric still “see traces of imperial units here and there” is because it’s baked in, already.

        It’s also a big world. Should we ban the use of your native language at home because English is this world’s current lingua franca? Why should I have to look at that same TV box and have instructions printed in Spanish, French, German, Italian, and maybe a half-dozen other languages?

        Coincidentally the US quite comfortably use both metric and imperial. No one has ever called for the government to ban metric just because imperial is the generally preferred system here in every day life. People buy liters of soda and gallons of milk at the same supermarket, and drive 10 miles to run in a 10K, all without confusion. Context seems to work fine for most people.

        Maybe just accept that 55″ means something in particular in a TV. The world already knows that you’re not really getting all 55″ of viewable space anyway; and that the bezel can make things even bigger, so there’s no use going by that number if you want to figure out if it will fit on your shelf. In essence the measurement is a relative one, to other TVs. They could dispense with meaningful numbers altogether and start lettering them: a 13″ TV is an A, a 22″ is a B, etc. Maybe your 55″ would be an E+. Plenty of other industries have done things like this. Should that be banned, also?

        It just hardly seems necessary for the governments of the world to get involved in. What exists seems to work fine for most people. I don’t see the great imperative—and in fact see plenty of downside.

        • I had never heard about “2×4” before. I assume you refer to a common size of timber in the USA. I have no idea if there is an equivalent in Europe. If there is, it is definitely measured in centimetres.

          I do not question that the status quo works fine for most people. My claim is that avoiding contaminations of imperial units in countries adopting the International System of Units would work even better for everyone.

        • There is no 2×4 in Europe. We use other dimensions in meters and centimeters 🙂
          And if you want to buy and sell gold you use gramms and kilogramms.

          • Deuce Sevenoff

            29 November 2016 at 17:54

            Really? Most of the prices I see are for troy ounces. But whatever. My point seems completely lost on the giant brains of Europe: it matters not what measurement is used on your TV box, because it’s relative. The TV industry could just decide to get rid of screen measurements in inches and invent their own, called “Small, Medium, Large, Mega,” etc. Just like they did with things HD, Ultra HD, and so forth. If you really think the box telling you that this is a 55″ television means your TV will fit in a 139.7cm space, you’re already an idiot. The 55″ is a relative measure of screen size and tells you nothing about how large the set is (the bezel for example could add a lot more size). so 55″ is about as meaningful as saying “Mega Super Huge TV.”

            That was my point. The point that is eternally lost while people feel the need to argue about 2x4s and troy ounces. But good luck, I hope someday your politicians all rise to the occasion of keeping you safe from having you and your children see those obscene imperial units while you stroll through your local FNAC.

      • Guess what Alessandro, it is easy to beat inches for tv’s. So in the international system of units there is a prefix we never use and its a shame – deci (0.1). 1 litre is actually 1 decimetre(dm) cubed. So when it comes to tvs express their sizes in decimetres. An 80cm tv would be an 8dm or for short an 8, a 120cm tv would be a 12. If we rounded to exact decimetres then inches would rapidly be destroyed by the simplicity of using the metric system the way it was intended, to make life easier.

    • Unfortunately, a 2″ by 4″ stud isn’t actually 2″ by 4″. Its 1.5″ by 3.5″ (38 mm × 89 mm). The 2×4 is “nominal” (in name only). Not sure if that helps or hurts your point, but either way its probably a bad example.

      • Deuce Sevenoff

        29 November 2016 at 17:56

        It makes my point perfect. If you’re correct (and I’ll assume you are), the name 2×4, though nominally in inches, doesn’t even represent the true size. It’s just a designation. Just like “55 Inch TV!” tells you little about how large your TV really will be; it’s just a relative designation to help you decide on a general size.

        • Worse yet, if you convert to a metric stud, 5×10 cm, it isn’t 5×10 cm either, just like a 2×4 isn’t 2″ x 4″. A 50×100 mm stud is actually 45 x 95 mm.

  8. Three comments (more or less):
    a: Why is it the metric countries of the world have gotten weaker than America with regards to fractions?
    This is because the metric world uses decimals and doesn’t need to learn fractional math. The downside to this is that some math is singularly required to be done in fractions alone.
    My point being, metric makes some things so easy, that the metric world is becoming lax in fractional math.

    b: If metric is all so fired good, why haven’t the metric people of the world gone over to a metric clock??
    This is probably because time is based on imperial units. The earth is approx 24,000 MILES in circumference and spins at approx 1,000 MILES per hour, thus giving us 24 hours in a day. This shouldn’t be an issue, but time is based on distance, distance is the basis of maps, and there are longitude and latitude are all based on MILES and imperial “seconds” (fractions of map co-ordinates). In fact, the earth isn’t 24,000 in circumference, but closer to 25,000 miles, while it’s almost exactly 40,000 kilometers in circumference.

    If you used the standard two pass method (night and day), then you could break a clock down to a ten metric hour day and ten metric hour night. You could then break a metric hour down to 100 metric minutes and 100 metric seconds. Of course, you would only be able to work for a 7 metric hour day because what company would pay you for .31 metric minutes (the equivalent of 8 imperial hours (I did the metric hour imperial hour conversion once, but misplaced the work so the conversion isn’t accurate))? Of course, companies that employ people are compassionate and such generous, free giving entities that they would never think to ask people to work 8 metric (8+ imperial) hours long while paying you based on imperial hours (meaning you would work longer for less).

    I would really feel bad for a child who goes to school that used metric clocks; if you think an imperial hour takes forever to pass, then try a metric hour (82 imperial minutes long), or just imagine the added stress of watching a metric second hand pass! Actually, it would spin at about the same speed, BUT the increments of “seconds” would be 100 instead of 60, so the perception that “time flies” would be compounded.

    My point being and all this amounting to: Maps would have to be redrawn. Borders will be in dispute. Wars will likely ensue. Work unions will likely strike companies for more wages.

    GREAT concept this converting over to metric! Have you metric folks REALLY thought out how far reaching converting over will be or are you just going through the motions of saying “we are 100% metric!” while really being only about 3/4 (oops! forgot you metric folks don’t know your fractions… that is .75 percent) metric while turning a blind eye to the imperial units still used in your lives?

    On a side note, it really sounds like a mixed metaphor when you metric folks say “100 kilometers per (imperial) hour.”

    c: If something isn’t broken, why fix it? Metric isn’t more accurate than imperial. Machines are geared to work on metric and can be exceedingly accurate, but they could be equally exceedingly accurate if they were built to imperial standards. It is simple propaganda spread by companies with metric machines that metric is far more accurate than imperial machines. Machines are the only ones who use or can recognize exceedingly accurate measurements anyway, and that is what all this hubbub is all about, isn’t it?

    Ask the average (metric or imperial biased) person to show with their fingers how big a centimeter or meter (or; inch or foot ) is and they will likely be close, but if a person was asked the same question about 1 millimeter (or 1/64″) and they will likely be wrong. Why? Because if left to their self for representation (no rulers or tape measures for assistance) people aren’t that accurate.

    In the end, my feet are 12″ long (or one foot, which is the basis that imperial measurements was based off of) while your feet are probably .3 meters long. If you (metric) and I (imperial) were left to count out a measurement with your feet, I would have the simpler task of knowing how many feet long something is.
    My math: 365 foot steps = 365 feet
    Your math: 365 foot steps = 365 x .3 meters =109.5 meters
    So, my math is simpler and isn’t that why you are claiming metric is better because it’s “simpler”?

    Final point: Making changes to how people live (converting over to metric) is simply trying to get everyone to comply to a standard fashion sense. You don’t see us trying to ramrod “convert over to imperial” down your throats. If it was a matter that people were dying because they used imperial, you might have a case, but instead all it comes across as is petulant oppression of one methodology.

    (Part of this comment is intended only for hilarity, with an underlying seriousness, while I tried to keep the snarkiness down to a minimum.)

    If it’s any consolation, most mechanical items are made outside the US nowadays anyway. They close down more material and production plants each year. Eventually, we will make nothing here and you metric folks will have the upper hand. On that day; rue. Because there is nothing worse than a bunch of pissed off, unemployed Americans who have “the metric world” to blame.

    #stopthemetricidiocy

    • First, I am not trying to convince Americans to use the International System of Units, but I am trying to convince anyone else in the world not to use the imperial units. I would suggest you to learn what a Straw man is: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man

      Second, your arguments are so flawed that I will not spend time to disprove them. I would suggest you to learn that the Second is the base unit of time of the International System of Units and that its origin has absolutely nothing to do with the imperial units: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second

    • Let’s address your points in order, as the OP seems not to want to waste his time, understandably so, trying to educate you.

      “Three comments (more or less):
      a: Why is it the metric countries of the world have gotten weaker than America with regards to fractions?”

      Unless you can show some very good data for this, this is not only a strawman, it is patently untrue. As seen here ( http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/stats/Education/Mathematical-literacy ) Americans lack behind the next 17 countries that use metric as opposed to imperial. So your argument is based on thin air?

      “This is because the metric world uses decimals and doesn’t need to learn fractional math. The downside to this is that some math is singularly required to be done in fractions alone. My point being, metric makes some things so easy, that the metric world is becoming lax in fractional math.”

      Again, could you provide a proof for the supposition you are making? Burden of proof is on you, as you made this claim. Are you also arguing against the decimal system?

      “b: If metric is all so fired good, why haven’t the metric people of the world gone over to a metric clock?? This is probably because time is based on imperial units. The earth is approx 24,000 MILES in circumference and spins at approx 1,000 MILES per hour, thus giving us 24 hours in a day. This shouldn’t be an issue, but time is based on distance, distance is the basis of maps, and there are longitude and latitude are all based on MILES and imperial “seconds” (fractions of map co-ordinates). In fact, the earth isn’t 24,000 in circumference, but closer to 25,000 miles, while it’s almost exactly 40,000 kilometers in circumference.”

      As the previous reply stated, SI time is based on seconds only.

      “If you used the standard two pass method (night and day), then you could break a clock down to a ten metric hour day and ten metric hour night. You could then break a metric hour down to 100 metric minutes and 100 metric seconds. Of course, you would only be able to work for a 7 metric hour day because what company would pay you for .31 metric minutes (the equivalent of 8 imperial hours (I did the metric hour imperial hour conversion once, but misplaced the work so the conversion isn’t accurate))? Of course, companies that employ people are compassionate and such generous, free giving entities that they would never think to ask people to work 8 metric (8+ imperial) hours long while paying you based on imperial hours (meaning you would work longer for less).”

      So because those doing the conversion are terribly bad at math (most likely below the top 10% of countries in mathematical literacy, we should not use a logical system? (Please note, devil’s advocate due to the nature of the strawman argument proposed.)

      “I would really feel bad for a child who goes to school that used metric clocks; if you think an imperial hour takes forever to pass, then try a metric hour (82 imperial minutes long), or just imagine the added stress of watching a metric second hand pass! Actually, it would spin at about the same speed, BUT the increments of “seconds” would be 100 instead of 60, so the perception that “time flies” would be compounded.
      My point being and all this amounting to: Maps would have to be redrawn. Borders will be in dispute. Wars will likely ensue. Work unions will likely strike companies for more wages.
      GREAT concept this converting over to metric! Have you metric folks REALLY thought out how far reaching converting over will be or are you just going through the motions of saying “we are 100% metric!” while really being only about 3/4 (oops! forgot you metric folks don’t know your fractions… that is .75 percent) metric while turning a blind eye to the imperial units still used in your lives?”

      So your argument against removing imperial remnants from our day to day lives is that there are remnants of imperial measurement in our day to day lives? Do I have to explicitly state that that is circular reasoning at it’s finest? As well as using an ad hominem regarding math capability based on a straw man argument? So, logical fallacy compounded by logical fallacy wrapped in a logical fallacy. Do you understand how rationality works?

      “On a side note, it really sounds like a mixed metaphor when you metric folks say “100 kilometers per (imperial) hour.””

      Have you heard how insane you sound when you say that an ounce weighs less than an ounce? Please, what is the mass in ounces of a fluid ounce of water?

      “c: If something isn’t broken, why fix it? Metric isn’t more accurate than imperial. Machines are geared to work on metric and can be exceedingly accurate, but they could be equally exceedingly accurate if they were built to imperial standards. It is simple propaganda spread by companies with metric machines that metric is far more accurate than imperial machines. Machines are the only ones who use or can recognize exceedingly accurate measurements anyway, and that is what all this hubbub is all about, isn’t it?”

      Again, a strawman argument. No one has claimed this. However, please explain how a 1/32″ is simpler than 7 mm?

      “Ask the average (metric or imperial biased) person to show with their fingers how big a centimeter or meter (or; inch or foot ) is and they will likely be close, but if a person was asked the same question about 1 millimeter (or 1/64″) and they will likely be wrong. Why? Because if left to their self for representation (no rulers or tape measures for assistance) people aren’t that accurate.”

      So now we resort to reverse appeal to higher authority. Or rather, accepting mob mentality as a guidance in rationality. Please, could you make at least one single rational argument, NOT based on logical fallacies?

      “In the end, my feet are 12″ long (or one foot, which is the basis that imperial measurements was based off of) while your feet are probably .3 meters long.”

      So some more made up statistics? Fantastic. As you are a proponent of the Imperial system, let’s look at some actual scientific data. The mean average ,length of a foot in North America is 26.3 cm. That’s 10 1/3″ long. So not even close to 1 foot. So your basic comparison, that a foot is a foot long, is incorrect. But let’s look at the rest of your rather poor argument.

      “If you (metric) and I (imperial) were left to count out a measurement with your feet, I would have the simpler task of knowing how many feet long something is.”

      Let’s use a football field, shall we? Or soccer, as handeggtackle is a bit confusing to anyone in the majority of the world. A football field is 100 metres long. That’s 328 feet, just FYI.

      To measure said field in feet, you would have to take painstakingly small steps, making sure to touch each foot’s big toe to the heel of the other, and repeat this 328 times.
      The average adult human male in North America has a stride length of approximately 75 centimetres. So every fourth step is 3 m. thus to measure the same football field, I would only have to take 128 steps. I also use my natural, normal gait, and don’t have nearly as large a problem of inaccurate measurement, due to having to take less steps, thus less margin for error through repetitive error.

      “My math: 365 foot steps = 365 feet
      Your math: 365 foot steps = 365 x .3 meters =109.5 meters
      So, my math is simpler and isn’t that why you are claiming metric is better because it’s “simpler”?”

      See above, your math is harder, not simpler.

      “Final point: Making changes to how people live (converting over to metric) is simply trying to get everyone to comply to a standard fashion sense. You don’t see us trying to ramrod “convert over to imperial” down your throats. If it was a matter that people were dying because they used imperial, you might have a case, but instead all it comes across as is petulant oppression of one methodology.”

      Actually, that is exactly what happens. Why should I have to first convert a measurement unit for a large array of items, services and goods from a outdated, illogical system to a simpler system, simply due to one nation’s incapability to use a more sensible system? The imperial system IS forced down everyone else’s throat, every single day. This is the core part of the argument you not only avoided, but completely failed to repudiate.

      “(Part of this comment is intended only for hilarity, with an underlying seriousness, while I tried to keep the snarkiness down to a minimum.)”

      I shall attempt to keep my answer in the same vein.

      “If it’s any consolation, most mechanical items are made outside the US nowadays anyway. They close down more material and production plants each year. Eventually, we will make nothing here and you metric folks will have the upper hand. On that day; rue. Because there is nothing worse than a bunch of pissed off, unemployed Americans who have “the metric world” to blame.”

      Well, that is not entirely true. There is something far worse. A bunch of loud, mostly badly educated oafs who run around everywhere else shouting at the top of their voices that the system in the rest of the world makes no sense, without being able to identify the majority of other countries on a map. In other words, just about every American tourist anywhere, ever. Also, good luck doing anything about it. Your scientific establishment had to switch to SI after that disastrous Apollo mission, entirely caused by the imperial system and it’s massive issues with converting forces. Your military uses metric, because good luck getting computerised weapons systems to use imperial.

      #stoptheidioticimperialism

  9. Aviation guy here. If you want to drastically change the whole industry to metric, it will cost lives. We have literally millions of pilots with atleast flying lessons to ATP licence. During teaching, they only teach you in feet and knots (and if ATPL) mach. Look at the Glimi Glider incident. Many planes will run out of fuel, fly a slower speed (which causes the plane to stall) or to fly too low and do a controlled flight into terrain. By the total number of pilots which will be quickly trained from imperial to metric, flights will be canceled, causing global economic sh*tfest, and lives will be surely lost.

    • Alessandro Rossini

      1 June 2016 at 11:01

      The aviation industry already mixes up units of measurement (see http://aerosavvy.com/metric-imperial/). China, North Korea, and Russia use meters for altitude measurement, without this leading to the doomsday you describe. Besides, I am afraid you are unnecessarily pessimistic. Australia and South Africa managed to successfully metricate entire countries, again without this leading to the doomsday you describe. Hence, although it would not be easy nor cheap, it should definitely be feasible to metricate the entire aviation industry over a transition period without adverse consequences.

    • Ragnhild "Goldilocks"

      11 March 2017 at 11:12

      The easiest way to avoid lots of traffic accident when switching the speed limits to km/h is to do what Australia did, and switch from rectangular signs to circular signs with red border.

  10. 37.7C aprox. is actually about the temperature of the human body, so umm, yeah maybe not “where nothing happens”

    • Alessandro Rossini

      14 January 2016 at 14:33

      Nice try, but no. Fahrenheit’s best estimate of the average human body temperature was 35.6 °C (i.e., 96 °F, see https://www.britannica.com/science/Fahrenheit-temperature-scale ). This is at least 1 °C less than modern measurements of the average human body temperature, which is between 36.5 °C (i.e., 97.7 °F) and 37.2 °C (i.e., 98.9 °F) for a healthy adult human. Therefore, at best one could write that 37.7 °C is the “temperature at which an adult human has fever” 🙂 Cheers!

  11. “The USA is the only industrialised country in the world that uses the system of imperial units as its official system of measurement, …”
    The USA does not have an official system of measurement.

  12. David Arneson

    6 June 2015 at 20:27

    What’s so scientific about negative temperatures? The metric system is a joke and Lincoln Chaffè is a cheese eating surrender monkey!

  13. I completely agree with you, of course, except for one thing: The usage of knots (and nautical miles) is completely logical. One nautical mile is exactly one minute along a meridian. That is, if you go one minute north or south, you’ve travelled exactly 1 nautical mile, and if you go one degree north or south, you’ve travelled exactly 60 nautical miles.

  14. Here is a good resource for all you would be Don Quixote’s: http://www.amazon.com/Whatever-Happened-Metric-System-America/dp/1608194752

  15. i hear you.
    about aeronautics though, use of feet instead of meters (which are, actually, used in all russians environment…) is somehow useful ’cause they’re three times smaller and this permits a more precise indication…
    it may not seem the case, but there are situations where dividing 3 meters in 10 parts it’s soothing…

  16. David Arneson

    16 January 2015 at 18:06

    If you’re using Christian units in Norway and you don’t like it that’s your problem. We like our miles, inches, f’s & pints just fine here in America and we aren’t about to change over because some breakaway province of Sweden finds it confusing. But here’s a hint: Google will do the conversions for you with a couple clicks. And when are you going to quit eating whale meat, do you realize that it’s only you and Japan that still kills whales for food?

  17. David Arneson

    6 January 2015 at 23:23

    Is Centigrade really SI? What about Kelvins? They are the same size, but have a totally different starting point, very UN-SI!
    What is scientific about 0 being the freezing point of water? At what atmospheric presure?

    • Alessandro Rossini

      16 January 2015 at 15:59

      In its current form, Celsius is a unit of measurement derived from Kelvin, whereby 0 °C is defined as 273.15 K (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SI_derived_unit ). In its original form, 0 °C was defined as the freezing point of water and 100 °C was defined as the boiling point of water, both at a pressure of one standard atmosphere (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celsius ). Therefore, I am not sure I understand the tone of your comment. What is the point you are trying to make?

      • David Arneson

        16 January 2015 at 16:25

        And 0 degrees F is 255.37K.

        I’m not advocating for getting rid of any units of measurements, you are.

        But if we really want to rid the world of pointless languages, (and a system of measurement is really just another language), I’d nominate Norweigen as being the most useless and most confusing of all. But having said that, I’m perfectly comfortable being bilingual in measuring, and think it’s quaint that Norweigens stick to their silly language, especially since they all know English anyway.

        • Alessandro Rossini

          16 January 2015 at 17:53

          Norway has the right to stick to a natural language that is insignificant on a global scale, as much as the USA has the right to stick to a system of units that is indisputably inferior. However, the Norwegian language is not sneaked into countries that have nothing to do with Norway, while the imperial units are sneaked into countries that have nothing to do with the British Empire. For the Norwegian language to be like the imperial units, you would have to hear or read Norwegian randomly on a daily basis anywhere in the world. This is a fundamental difference that makes your argument flown. The point I am trying to make is that the International System of Units is indisputably superior to the system of imperial units, and that the countries adopting the International System of Units should ban the usage of imperial units.

          • Deuce Sevenoff

            29 November 2016 at 17:49

            You know, now that I think about it, you’re really on to something here. This analogy about Norwegian is a good one. I intend to start a social media campaign to get our politicians to force Ikea to not “sneak” Swedish into other countries with their weird furniture names.

    • 0 Celcius is the freezing point of water at exactly 1 atmosphere, which is the average atmospheric presure at sea level at latitude 45N.

  18. Dear Alessandro, I fully support you on this crusade, as in many others! Best regards, Pierre

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