General Question

RayaHope's avatar

Should the USA convert to the Metric system completely?

Asked by RayaHope (5118points) 1 month ago
61 responses
“Great Question” (7points)

With our Imperial system, which the “imperials” don’t even use, combined with the metric system it gets confusing. The metric system is so much easier to understand without the conversion stuff all the time. Why do we still have the old antiquated Imperial system?

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Blackwater_Park's avatar


We still have it because of legacy issues and also, our education system sucks.

elbanditoroso's avatar

No. We had our chance, 35 years ago, and we blew it.

Whether it makes sense to change or not, from a technical point of view, can be argued.

But politically – it will never happen. Too much of the “we don’t want to use the same system as the Chinese and the Russians” types of scare tactics.

This is another case of – even if the decision was made tomorrow to change – it will take 50 years to edicate generations of US residents to think in centimeters and meters – and at least that long for everything sold in Imperial to be converted to metric.

LadyMarissa's avatar

They’ve been working on changing it for over 70 years & still NOTHING has happened. I can ONLY assume that it would cost the corporations a fortune to make the switch…hence, it will NEVER happen!!! ALL I ask is that since putting it off for this long that they WAIT until I’m dead & gone to finally do it. I’m too old to relearn that shit!!!

jca2's avatar

I spent so much time in 2nd grade, trying to learn the conversions. There was a big push during that time to make the switch. This was the early 1970’s. Calculating inches to cm, etc. tests on the subject, so much effort and then nothing happened. I am guessing it’s never going to happen.

HP's avatar

We should have done so back when I was a kid. We pay a price for being outliers. And we are already being forced in that inevitable direction as our dominance in the world evaporates before our eyes. Too bad.

Jaxk's avatar

Judging by how long it took to replace the Whitworth System, I’d say we need a few hundred years.

Forever_Free's avatar

It won’t happen. It was attempted in the 1970’s
There has been zero push to attempt again.

JLeslie's avatar

We should have. When I was in jr. high in the very late ‘70’s early ‘80’s supposedly America was going to make the change.

People complained it was hard to convert and that we would have to change so many things, equipment, tools, etc. You don’t need to convert when you just live in that measuring system. I use centimeter and inch and I don’t convert them.

It’s so much easier to use a base ten system for most things. We use 12, 8, 16, numbers that are very hard to multiply and divide by. It’s crazy.

Probably at this point America will never change. Our scientists use metric, including medical science.

How is it taught in school now?

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RocketGuy's avatar

If it’s people-related, people don’t like change. Americans have been living with imperial units for years.

If it is manufacturing-related, almost all machining equipment in the US is in imperial units and machinists can actually feel differences in 0.001” increments. Converting to mm will take a lot of $, training, and time. Also, the selection of screws, nuts, and raw materials in the US is way better in imperial units.

That said, a lot of car parts and aerospace parts are migrating towards metric – car and aircraft parts due to offshore sources, space parts due to NASA influence. Same for electronic stuff.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

There is always the French Metric system that Peugeot used, 7.5 mm threads on 13 MM nuts on their bicycles 6o years ago. I don’t know if they still do that.

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gorillapaws's avatar

Yes. Maybe when all of the boomers die off and we can stop having to hear them tell us about why we shouldn’t bother trying to make things better…

ragingloli's avatar

I want to keep making fun of the colonies.

LadyMarissa's avatar

@gorillapaws Don’t worry…we are trying to make you happy!!! What you don’t understand is that the younger generation will be requesting that you die for much the same reasons & your time is NOT that far off!!!

hat's avatar

@LadyMarissa: “What you don’t understand is that the younger generation will be requesting that you die for much the same reasons”

As they should.

RayaHope's avatar

@WhyNow @Blackwater_Park My gramps always said that term and for the longest time I never really know what he meant. When I was older I found out I was embarrassed and angry that they would use such a derogatory and nasty word around a little girl.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Absolutely! There are only 3 countries left still using the English System: The US, Liberia, and Myanmar. ~Powerhouses of industry! (Sometimes the UK is added to the list)
When we want to export parts to other countries, to be competitive we need to make them in metric. Stubbornly sticking to the English system puts us at a disadvantage.
Change already! It’s not that hard.

RayaHope's avatar

^agreed! :)

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

Didn’t some space launch or Mars rover malfunction because the measurements for a small part was not transferred from Imperial to metric correctly years ago?

I thought It was the Galileo Mars probe?

RayaHope's avatar

^ Yes i saw a video on this but I can’t find it just now.

RayaHope's avatar

@RocketGuy Thank you. So much time and money wasted for a simple mistake :(

RocketGuy's avatar

That’s why NASA is now insisting on using metric as much as possible.

gorillapaws's avatar

@LadyMarissa ”...the younger generation will be requesting that you die for much the same reasons…”

I’m not requesting the death of anyone. I’m just saying this kind of thing isn’t going to change with the boomers hanging around, controlling all branches of government and shutting down any attempts at progress.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

It’s also a waste I need the equivalent of two tool chests just because of the # of wrenches and whatnot you need in the states. If there is a capitalist conspiracy behind this it’s the admixture of tools they can sell here.

SnipSnip's avatar


JLeslie's avatar

Did anyone mention above that we don’t necessarily have to change over COMPLETELY. The UK still has road signs in MPH and uses stones to describe their body weight.

Unless, maybe it has changed in recent years.

Plus, don’t forget a pint of beer, although that’s a different amount of liquid than a US pint.

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zenvelo's avatar


Non metric systems work well because they are analogs of how life works. The best example is Fahrenheit versus Celsius. Celsius is useless except for boiling water. But people don’t use 100 C for anything in real life; it is too hot to touch but way too low for cooking.

And one can leave the house without a jacket in 0 C, but not at 0 Fahrenheit. Fahrenheit is very useful in judging the weather, 1 degree Celsius is too big a difference to be useful.

Same goes for other measures. A pound of food is about right for four servings (a typical family); a kilo of food is way too much to buy and keep the extras in a fridge. Buying gas by the liter is silly when gallons are useful. But a liter of milk is too little, a gallon is handy.

A mile is a good measurement to communicate distances, kilometers are too short. driving 100 kmh does not tell you how far you will go in 25minutes, but going 60 mph tells you the distance easily.

I posit that those who say the metric system is “easier” are out of touch with the physical world and weren’t very good at converting fractions in elementary school.

JLeslie's avatar

@zenvelo I’d argue metric is much better and much easier for measuring spaces, like residential or office space, and anything having to do with decor.

Halving recipes can be easier in metric too.

I don’t see a big problem with using liters for beverages. We already do it with plenty of drinks in the US. Most sodas are sold in two liter bottles. I’m guessing milk maybe lists the ounces and liters both? I really don’t know off the top of my head.

Temperature it’s just a matter of getting used to it, even though I agree a degree in Celsius is a bigger jump in temperature feel.

For miles per hour I’m just fine with leaving our roads in mph.if you want to keep the gas pumps in gallons, that’s fine.

Medicine already uses metric. You’ve probably already medicine given in cc’s. Cubic centimeter.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Medicine uses metrics when it wants to. It still measure my weight in pounds and my height in feet and inches.

RayaHope's avatar

@elbanditoroso…and that is why having dual units of measurement can be so confusing. The flip-flopping of units is crazy.

WhyNow's avatar

I am sure we should use metric! Easier to use. Hell… even the cartels use kilos to
measure their product.

zenvelo's avatar

@WhyNow Pot was a lot cheaper when it was sold in ounces rather than grams.

RocketGuy's avatar

@zenvelo – but 1 oz = 28.3 g, so you get more stuff if you buy it by the ounce.

RayaHope's avatar

@zenvelo “A mile is a good measurement to communicate distances, kilometers are too short.” A kilometer is a distance too. A kilometer is too short because you are thinking in miles. Your statements make no sense.

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RocketGuy's avatar

25g = nice round number and below felony level. Hooray for metric!

RayaHope's avatar

^ Metric rules!

Blackwater_Park's avatar

I had a marketing plan in my mind years ago to get teenagers working with metric. I was going to make a game that required using reworded metric to solve real world but fun puzzles
Pant load = some base funny unit
butt load = 10 pant loads
S**t load = 10 butt loads
I need to get back on that

JLeslie's avatar

@elbanditoroso They use pounds for your weight and the chart, and liquid ounces or teaspoonful for liquid meds that you take at home, but I think if you need an injection or IV they translate your weight to kilos. Maybe it depends on the med. We need our resident jelly doctor or one of our other medical jellies.

kritiper's avatar

No. Japanese cars take even numbered metric wrenches, while European cars take odd number metric wrenches. And we’re caught in the middle with some vehicles still requiring incremental inch wrenches. What madness!

gorillapaws's avatar

And then there’s lumber dimensions with the nominal dimensions being different than the actual dimensions sold.

RayaHope's avatar

Americans are so darn hardheaded! :(

kritiper's avatar

Compared to metrics, I prefer a car’s speedometer to read in MPH instead of KPH. If the speed limit is 60 MPH and there are 60 minutes in an hour, you know right off how long it’s going to take to get where you’re going. (American road signs read distances in miles, not kilometers.)

RayaHope's avatar

@kritiper What if you are driving 45 mph, do the minutes in an hour change? If you were driving at 60kph you would still know how far you traveled in an hour. (hint 60)

kritiper's avatar

@RayaHope More easily computed by thought as compared to kilometers. (To answer your math question, an extra 20 minutes.)

LadyMarissa's avatar

@RayaHope I am NOT hardheaded!!! LoL

RayaHope's avatar

@ladymarissa, lol I am so sorry for such a broad statement, I forgot to say “some” Americans. lol, my bad :) You are a darling and I would NEVER say that about you! Heck, I’m an American too.

LadyMarissa's avatar

^^ And you’re soo freakin hardheaded that you REFUSE to admit that you’re hardheaded!!! LoL

RayaHope's avatar

^^ I’m sorry I’ll change my ways, but would softheaded be better? ;)

LadyMarissa's avatar

^^ Naw…NOBODY wants you to have a mushy brain!!! Being hardheaded can PROTECT you in many situations; so, you do you NO matter what anybody says…including me!!! ;}

RayaHope's avatar

@LadyMarissa Why am I getting emotional when I read your posts? I almost want to say I love you and I know that is crazy but I can’t help it. dammit, you are an awesome person!

Entropy's avatar

We should start the conversion up again, yes. The Imperial system is objectively inferior and creates inefficiencies in science and trade. Converting will take time and cost money in the short run, but pay off in the long run.

RayaHope's avatar

@Entropy I agree 100%. This back-and-forth “double” system we have is complicated and unnecessary. The whole world uses the metric system why not us?!

zenvelo's avatar

@RayaHope Why not get every one to use an analog system that is relatable to real life?

I was in the UK last week, really enjoyed seeing how they use both metric and imperial. But metric is so awkward, everything in the store is either 250 grams or 1 kilo. 250 grams a butter or jam is too small, a kilo is too damn big.

RayaHope's avatar

@zenvelo You’re just not used to it. That is why it seems so hard to you and many others. Americans have things far too big IMHO. Supersize stuff is making the people supersized also.

JLeslie's avatar

@zenvelo The US could still order at the deli with pounds if people were resistant. As far as butter, beverages, flour, we already list both measures on most packaged items, and most people buy by the size of the packaging not the exact amount of net weight or liquid measure.

Metric is easier because you just move a decimal. I don’t know about you but I can’t multiple or divide by 16 or 12 well.

Metric is difficult if you need to convert into our system, but if you just live in it then you don’t have to convert it. Science already uses it, and the world gets only more scientific. It would be a favor to the younger generation to use more metric in the US.

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