Monday, 25 August 2014

Metric vs. Imperial Measurements                             

Of 195 recognized nations around the world, only three of them use the Imperial system of measurements. They are the United States, Liberia and Myanmar who are all sad-sack losers when it comes to changing over to the metric system of measurements.  All the other nations use the metric system. The have accepted this form of measurement for a very good reason. It is so simple to use because the metric system divides all measurements into tenths.

For example, a thousand meters (a meter is 39.3701 inches) is a kilometer. (a kilometer is 0.62137 of a mile) But you don’t have to figure out the distance when your country uses the Metric system. For example, all cars in Canada nowadays have speedometers that show both the Metric and Imperial numbers. Ten millimeters is one centimeter. Ten centimeters is 3.9701 inches. Ten meters is 1,000 centimeters.

Ten kilograms is 20.0436 pounds. One metric ton is 2,204.6 pounds.  A thousand kilograms is 1.1023 tons. One hundred grams is 3.52743 ounces. One ounce is 28.350 grams.

A three-liter package of milk is 6,3401 pints or 3.1701 quarts of milk. One gallon of gasoline is 3.7854 liters. Fifty liters of gas is 13.209 gallons. 
Fifty degrees Fahrenheit is 10 degrees Celsius. So if it is 90 degrees Fahrenheit outside, it is 32.222 degrees Celsius outside. Freezing begins at 32 Fahrenheit which is zero Celsius.

Admittedly, it is a drag covering these measurements but if you live in Canada where the Metric system is used, you don’t have to convert the measurements from one system to another since everything is measured in Metrics.

Where the conversion has to be made is when Canadian scientists and engineers are dealing with machines and gages that have been manufactured in the United States which uses the Imperial system when building their machines and instruments. However, that isn’t a problem for Canadian scientists and engineers because they use calculators that make the changes easier for them.

The Liberal federal government of Pierre Trudeau first began implementing metrication in Canada in 1970 with a government agency dedicated to implementing the project, the Metric Commission, being established in 1971.

By the mid-1970s, metric product labelling was introduced. In 1972, the provinces agreed to make all road signs metric by 1977. There was some resistance to metrication, especially as the sectors of the economy where the federal Weights and Measures Act required metric to be used grew in number. The metrication of gasoline and diesel fuel sales in 1981 prompted 37 Progressive Conservative Members of Parliament to open a "freedom to measure" gas station in Carleton Place, Ontario, selling gas in both imperial gallons and litres. (Canadian spelling) The small city of Peterborough, Ontario, was a noted hotbed of opposition to metrication, having been one of the government's three test centres for the metrication process. Bill Domm, who as a Member of Parliament representing the riding of Peterborough, was one of the country's most outspoken opponents of metrication. He also lobbied for the return of the death penalty but that proposal got short thrift by his fellow parliamentarians. During this period, a few government employees lost their jobs for their opposition to metrication. One official with Revenue Canada who publicly opposed mandatory metric conversion was dismissed for “conduct unacceptable for a public servant.” He should have kept his mouth shut.

However, eventually everyone more or less accepted the change as we all recognized how simple it was with respect to measurements. It didn’t take us long to feel at ease with the measurements of the metric system.
Most Americans think that its involvement with metric measurement is relatively new but that isn’t so. In the early 1800's, the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey (the government’s surveying and map-making agency) used meter and kilogram standards brought over from France. Incidentally, it was Napoleon who brought the metric system to France. From there it spread. In 1866, Congress authorized the use of the metric system in the United States and supplied each state with a set of standard metric weights and measures. The United States has been increasing its use of metric units for many years, and the pace has accelerated in the past three decades.

In 1968, Congress authorized a three-year study of systems of measurement in the U.S., with particular emphasis on the feasibility of adopting metric system.

The detailed U.S. Metric Study was conducted by the Department of Commerce. A 45-member advisory panel consulted with and took testimony from hundreds of consumers, business organizations, labor groups, manufacturers, and state and local officials.

The final report of the study, A Metric America: A Decision Whose Time Has Come, concluded that the U.S. would eventually join the rest of the world in the use of the metric system of measurement. The study found that measurement in the United States was already based on metric units in many areas and that it was becoming more so every day. The majority of study participants believed that conversion to the metric system was in the best interests of the Nation, particularly in view of the importance of foreign trade and the increasing influence of technology in American life.

The proposal toward national metrication is based on the conclusion that industrial and commercial productivity, mathematics and science education, and the competitiveness of American products and services in world markets, will be enhanced by completing the change to the metric system of units. Failure to complete the change will obviously increasingly handicap the Nation’s industry and economy.

The US Congress, recognizing the necessity of the United States’ conformance with international standards for trade, included new encouragement for U.S. industrial metrication in the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988. This legislation amended the Metric Conversion Act of 1975 and designated the metric system as the preferred system of weights and measures for United States’ trade and commerce.

The legislation stated that the Federal Government has a responsibility to assist industry, especially small business, as it voluntarily converts to the metric system of measurement.

Federal agencies were required by this legislation, with certain exceptions, to use the metric system in their procurement, grants and other business-related activities by the end of 1992. While not mandating metric use in the private sector, the Federal Government has sought to serve as a catalyst in the metric conversion.

I don’t know how long it will be before all of the United States and its territories convert to the metric system but sooner than later would be a big advantage to Americans. It won’t be long after the conversion that the adults who grew up in the Imperial system will be acclimatized to the change and feel at ease with the metric system.

I appreciate the difficulty that the US will have making the change but let’s face it, to keep using the Imperial system is foolish and serves no useful purpose. As the years pass by, the Imperial system will be merely a historical note in history. The Americans can be slowly weaned from the Imperial measurement systems like the Canadians were by starting the conversion with changing miles to kilometers. Then temperatures can follow.  Eventually, the Americans will be members of the metric world which will be to their benefits. 

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