The Metric System In the US

June 10, 2011, by A. U. Crawford

Today there are only three countries left in the world that don’t use the Metric System as standard. Liberia, Myanmar/Burma and the US. Though England, Officially switched to the Metric system with the rest of the world, the general population still use the Imperial system for things such as speed and weights.

Non Metric Countries

Map Via: ZMIE Science

In 1988 the US passed the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act. This basically said that the federal government has a responsibility to aid industry, especially small business, to voluntarily convert to the metric system. Today a lot of businesses do create parts and products in both Metric and Imperial due to international trade.  The military uses the metric system as well as the Science and Medical industries because mathematically it’s just easier to work with.

Despite this most things in the US are still measured in Imperial standard instead of the Metric System. The only thing holding us back is the fact that converting would mean a complete overhaul of all construction, safety, and manufacturing. Not a fun or easy task.

For instance I just bought a great sixties home. My cabinets have beautiful hardware but there is one handle missing. They don’t make this handle size anymore. They make the style but not the size. Everything made today has a new standard, so I have to go to reclaimed hardware stores to find something that fits, or get new cabinet doors.

Standard sheet stock, plywood, and drywall is available as:
Imperial: 4′ x 8′
Metric System Conversion: 121.92 cm x 243.84 cm
Metric System Version: 120 cm x 240 cm

Standard stud spacing in a building is:
Imperial: 16″ on-center
Metric System Conversion: 40.64 cm
Metric System Version: 40 cm

Just imagine what converting everything would do. None the less, It is my opinion that we need to join the rest of the world at some time. Metric is easy to learn and mathematically sensible. Change is scary, and never easy, but you got to do what you got to do?

I think we as a nation should set a date, at which time the US standard will be Metric. Like five years in the future or something. That way industry has time to gradually adjust. We do that for car emissions, mileage and energy because no one will move unless you give them a goal.

If you’re interested, here is a very interesting(long) article about the Imperial and USA Measurement Systems & History.

Map Via: ZMIE Science

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