Metric VS English engineering system of measurement

  • Thread starter eryanmn
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Which System is better

  • Metric System (kg, m, L)

    Votes: 20 100.0%
  • English Engineering System (lb, ft, gal)

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    20
  • #1
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Main Question or Discussion Point

Hey guys,

I know you all wish you never had to do all the weird conversions required for our current system of measurement. I know I'd rather convert 17km to m than 17mi to feet or ever inches. I thought that since I know so many people who would rather just do the easy metric conversions I'd start a petition over at petitions.whitehouse.gov

If you agree with me sign the petition and share the link to the petition as it won't go public until it gets at least 150 signatures. Otherwise reply with which system you think is the best.

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/change-official-system
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
phinds
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This has been tried before in America. It doesn't work. It lasted about 5 minutes and then the signs were taken down. We LIKE our feet and inches ! It's "American exceptionalism" at work. We are exceptionally obstinate and proud of it.
 
  • #3
SteamKing
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You can save your time.

Automobiles, booze, and drugs (legal and illegal) have been manufactured or sold using metric measurements since at least the 1970s.

Most consumer goods like foods and whatnot have dual weights printed on the package, just like everything seems to be labeled in both Spanish and English.
 
  • #4
UltrafastPED
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Metric has been legal in the US since 1866. What more could you want?
 
Last edited:
  • #5
AlephZero
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Some industries have invented their own hybrid systems. For example Boeing designs its aircraft fuselages in sections 2540 mm (or 8 feet 4 inches) long.
 
  • #7
SteamKing
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The aircraft industry for years used the inch as the standard measurement for length, but I think like AlephZero stated, they have adopted metric measurements now with certain accommodations to the past.

The ISO coding standard for auto tire sizes actually contains the rim diameter in inches within the code format, but the standard cheats by calling the diameter number a 'code' rather than the measurement that it actually is.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tire_code

e.g., in a tire code such as 'P215/65R15'; the last two digits (15) are the rim size code.
 
  • #8
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  • #9
SteamKing
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Should always have a gas gauge to check. Multiple errors by different parties in flying this jet.
 
  • #10
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The metric system is nice, and I wish that there would be an effort to permanently move over to it. American Engineering units are cumbersome in my opinion. However, being brought up in this system has had permanent effects on me. If you tell me something is 150 km away, or that you are driving 80 km/hr, I don't have a good sense for how fast you are actually driving or how far away it is. If you say it in miles or mi/hr, then I have a much better idea of those things.

We got ourselves into sort of a situation that would be very difficult to get out of. It would be painful at first, but eventually it would work, it would take a generation or two to get used to it and actually process information in kilograms and kilometers instead of thinking in terms of pounds or miles.
 
  • #11
AlephZero
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Should always have a gas gauge to check
Correction: should always have a working gas gauge to check :smile:

Actually even that's not enough. I can remember a similar incident, where the aircraft had an overhaul which included a modification to the fuel system. This involved swapping two separate parts. To make sure that both parts were changed at the same time, the fuel pipe connecting them was also redesigned to be a different length and shape, even though that had no significance for the functioning of the system.

So, some 300-pound gorilla at the overhaul base changed just one of the parts and refitted the old pipe, after putting it over his knee to bend it a bit. He even filled in a complaint sheet that the pipe didn't fit properly!

Nobody got round to reading the paperwork until after the aircraft had done a successful check flight and gone back into service. The bent pipe survived the check flight, but it didn't survive the first in-service transatlantic flight. It cracked and started dumping fuel overboard.

The flight crew noticed the fuel gauges were heading towards empty faster than they should have been, but since everything else seemed to be OK they decided that somebody had recalibrated them wrongly during the overhaul.

They found out the gauges were reading correctly half way across the Atlantic, when all the engines ran out of fuel.

Nobody died, because they did a successful engine-out approach from 35,000 feet into the military airbase on the Azores - though having made a rather heavy landing which burst most of the tires and bent the undercarriage, the plane was blocking the main runway for a few days, till they could bring some heavy lifting gear in by sea to move it!

But back on topic: the thread title is wrong, since the English no longer use these stupid units. You won't find anything measured in pounds of feet on sale in the UK (not even with "dual units" on the packaging). The only remaining legal uses in the UK are selling beer in pints, and road signs and speed limits using miles (but short distances, heights of low bridges, etc, are in meters not yards feet and inches).
 
  • #12
AlephZero
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.... it would take a generation or two to get used to it...
Nope. When the UK changed over, it only took a year or two, not a generation or two.

And we also changed the currency from 20 shillings and 240 pence in the pound to a decimal-based system, without any street rioting.
 
  • #13
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Yes, but you still haven't fully converted yet. Apparently the roads are still done in mi/hr etc. I had wondered what the smaller units of the pound (money) were, a shilling and a pence..interesting.

Maybe not in your case, but I would think a lot of your countrymen might not be accustomed to driving in km/hr or at least have a sense of how fast that is without having to convert it to mi/hr. Maybe I'm wrong though, at least in my case I can't think in kilometers yet. I just got back from Europe so my sense has improved, but it still isn't that good.
 
  • #14
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Metric has been legal in the US since 1866. What more could you want?
On the other hand, since the English system was always in use, there was never any reason to officially recognize it. There is no act authorizing the use of the English system.
 
  • #15
SteamKing
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You know, if you are traveling 150 km and driving at 80 km/hr, plan on it taking about 2 hours. Just like if you need to go 4 light years at 0.5 c, it's going to take about 8 years outside time. d = r*t
 
  • #16
Baluncore
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I see no problem with the US archaic system from here in Australia. We just watch the USA confusing themselves. So long as scientists use the SI system and the rest of the USA measures things in thousands of pounds, or in gallons(US), there will be wasteful employment in the USA.

Standardisation and the ISO has cost many unnecessary jobs worldwide, but not in the USA. We can compete easily with the USA because of their archaic system of units. It is definitely to our advantage, please don't change it.
 
  • #17
SteamKing
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I'm not confused by USCS or SI (whichever flavor of the month it might be). I also am not aware of any so called 'wasteful employment' in the US as a result of using the USCS system. As mentioned in earlier posts, large segments of goods produced in the US are manufactured using the metric system. A lot of countries compete with the US not because of the metric system but because of the low wages paid to the factory workers. Japanese, Korean, and European car makers have built plants in the US, and some of their output is exported back to the home market. If people want a product, they could care less if it was made using inch units or metric, as long as they get value for money.
 
  • #18
D H
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Switching from customary units to metric would be very nice. However, nothing is as easy as it seems. Switching traffic signs? That's the easy part of going metric, at least from a technical perspective.

Canned goods? That's a bit more difficult. "Going metric" means a lot more than switching labels from "Net wt: 1 lb (453 g)" to "Net wt: 453 g (1 lb)". That's not going metric. That metric-sized can should contain some nice, round number of grams, and making that switch is not easy. It means retooling equipment, changing can sizes, retooling the equipment that makes those cans.

The non-consumer end will be even tougher. Some of the US's manufacturing equipment dates back to World War II. That old machinery is not going to be replaced with metric-sized equivalents just because of some government dicta. That would be ridiculously expensive and wasteful. That old machinery will be replaced eventually, but for economic reasons: Too expensive to operate, too expensive to maintain.

World War II is one of the reasons Britain had a relatively easy going in switching to metric. The US got busy and built a huge manufacturing capability during WWII, and that manufacturing capability was based on good old customary units. Europe on the other hand got busy and blew itself to bits. Europe's manufacturing capability had to be rebuilt from the ground up when sanity returned. British industry took the opportunity to switch to metric during the massive reconstruction that followed WWII. It made sense economically. They had to rebuild anyhow, and this switch made it much easier to sell goods to mainland Europe. Except for the superficial consumer end of things, Britain had already pretty much switched to metric by the time it made that switch official.

That switch is going to be much tougher for the US. We have this huge manufacturing capability that is based largely on parts machined in customary units. Even if we do switch, we'll need things such as half inch bolts for a long, long time. Underneath the hood (or bonnet), I'm sure there's still quite a bit of British machinery that needs half inch bolts, too. They have a ready supplier, the US.

The switch to metric will be tough precisely because we are the last holdout. Add in the facts that we are a bit isolated by two huge oceans, and that we are a large, monolithic market, and it's not going to happen soon. It is happening, slowly. Try buying a new car nowadays that uses half inch bolts. The automotive industry has gone metric, and that will eventually drag other industries along.
 
  • #19
SteamKing
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"Canned goods? That's a bit more difficult. "Going metric" means a lot more than switching labels from "Net wt: 1 lb (453 g)" to "Net wt: 453 g (1 lb)". That's not going metric. That metric-sized can should contain some nice, round number of grams, and making that switch is not easy. It means retooling equipment, changing can sizes, retooling the equipment that makes those cans."

Why should we change sizes from 453g to 500g? If the consumer is satisfied, why go to the expense of such a retooling just to satisfy some OC desire? Should a dozen eggs now be sold in a carton containing only 10 eggs?

For example, the metric system used to use a perfectly serviceable unit called the Angstrom to measure the wavelength of electromagnetic radiation. Everybody was happy with it, but its flaw was 1 A = 10^-8 m. With SI, the Angstrom was out the door and everyone had to switch to nanometers. I'm sure the textbook printers didn't mind because they got to sell new and improved books with nanometers instead of Angstroms.

I think metrication in the UK was driven more by the desire to join the Common Market than the need to reconstruct industry after the war. After all, British industry had been damaged by the war, but not destroyed to the extent as it was on the Continent. There used to be plenty of post-war UK products manufactured to Imperial units until 1973 or thereabouts. The biggest accommodation which UK industry had to make during the war years was adapting to US fastener standards in place of the old Whitworth standard which was common at the time.

I have found the one thing which bugs people more than anything is to find someone who lives differently from you and is perfectly content to do so. It is the contentment which is more disturbing than the difference in lifestyle.

One of the things I find disturbing about the UK's conversion to metric was that it criminalized commercial transactions between consenting adults.

See: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1074249/Metric-martyr-trader-gets-criminal-record-selling-fruit-veg-pound-stall-set-mother-Blitz.html

What was supposed to be a 'voluntary' conversion instantly became compulsory with criminal penalties for failure to comply. That the Crown Prosecution Service had nothing better to do is, in itself, a scandalous waste of resources.
 
  • #20
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I always used to wonder why the Imperial System is always included in AutoCAD and was surprised to learn that Metric System is not used in the US.

This must be inconvenient IMO, especially in science and engineering. Personally, I think Metric System is more convenient for science and engineering educations. One reason I found in some websites why Metric System is not adopted in the US is that it entails huge financial burdens for changing road signs etc.
 
  • #21
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Switching to metric in America is like bad weather: everyone says something but no one does anything about it.

I'm curious to see how long it would take before America's benefit of using the metric system would outweigh the cost of switching to the metric system, in terms of actual dollars and cents.
 
  • #22
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I always used to wonder why the Imperial System is always included in AutoCAD and was surprised to learn that Metric System is not used in the US.
As was already mentioned in the thread, the metric system is used in the US. So is the old imperial system. You are free to use whatever you like in the US, thats what freedom is all about. ;) Freedom necessarily includes the freedom to make bad decisions, like imperial units. I dont use them though. I use the metric system personally and have yet to have storm troopers knocking at my door.
 
  • #23
analogdesign
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I see no problem with the US archaic system from here in Australia. We just watch the USA confusing themselves. So long as scientists use the SI system and the rest of the USA measures things in thousands of pounds, or in gallons(US), there will be wasteful employment in the USA.

Standardisation and the ISO has cost many unnecessary jobs worldwide, but not in the USA. We can compete easily with the USA because of their archaic system of units. It is definitely to our advantage, please don't change it.
Happy to hear we're doing our part to keep you Aussies employed!

In my business (semiconductors) almost everything is metric, but once you get to board design and connectors, it's a mess of partially metric/partially english measurements.

Years ago I memorized that there are 25.4um in a mil. (or 25.4mm in an inch). Now I'm golden.

I also ride bicycles and a rite of passage in bike riding here is doing a Century (100 miles). We take advantage of the metric system to also do "Metrics" which are 100 km rides. That way people can say they did a Century without the pain and suffering that 100 miles brings. You should still do at least one 100 mile ride for your self respect, though.
 
  • #24
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As was already mentioned in the thread, the metric system is used in the US. So is the old imperial system. You are free to use whatever you like in the US, thats what freedom is all about. ;) Freedom necessarily includes the freedom to make bad decisions, like imperial units. I dont use them though. I use the metric system personally and have yet to have storm troopers knocking at my door.
What about in the schools and colleges? Which system is used for teaching?

On a side note, even though we use the Metric System, we use feet-inches for measuring the height of a person. Curiously, in the US where the Imperial System is used, cm seems to be a popular unit for measuring/indicating a person's height :smile:
 
  • #25
analogdesign
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What about in the schools and colleges? Which system is used for teaching?

On a side note, even though we use the Metric System, we use feet-inches for measuring the height of a person. Curiously, in the US where the Imperial System is used, cm seems to be a popular unit for measuring/indicating a person's height :smile:
When I was an EE undergraduate in a US University we almost entirely used the metric system. I understand imperial units are more common in Civil and Mechanical engineering.

And I've never, ever heard of someone in the US using cm as a unit for height. I've only ever heard feet/inches.
 

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