Re: Metric Time (was Re: Why not 13 months? (Was La Systeme Metrique))

9 Oct 1995 02:37:48 GMT

In <>
(Doug Weller) writes:
>Er, its used universally in science and engineering, and there are
>*very* few countries that don't use it for most else.
>Nothing to do with intellectuals, just catching up with the rest
>of the world!
Yes, my characterization of '"intellectual" morons' was rash (I was
rushed at the time) and I appologize to "intellectuals" everywhere -
but - catching up with the rest of the world?

Scientific pursuits, where metric is essential, have been all metric
for a long time, but the "most else" is problematic. I left college a
metric believer. I tried to convert everything to metric, and to
convice others; even painted over my speedometer with km/hr numbers.
Over time, the outside world exposed the error of my ways.

Reasons why U.S. standard measures won't be going away soon: (1) It
would take a major display of political will, unlikely in our form of
government. (2) The cost would be several times the annual Gross
Domestic Product. (3) The "network effect" would make it extremely
difficult, backward compatibility would be a real pain. (4) A
conqueror who forces a metric conversion is unlikely (except in
specific product lines). (5) Our market is so huge, both economically
and geographicly, and so uniform, there is no urgent need. We don't
have a different pint every 12 miles - its the same pint for thousands
of miles.

When your grandchildren build their house, it will likely be built of
2x4 lumber 8 feet long (a 2x4 was 2" x 4" as rough cut, before
surfacing - for convenience of the milling industry). Nearly all
building materials used in the U.S. originate in the U.S. so there is
little need for compatibility with the rest of the world. Actually we
did convert here, from 2x3 rough cut to 2x4 finished lumber. My house
contains some of the old rough cut from one of its previous
incarnations. The awkwardness of the conversion is obvious, we don't
want to go through that again.

Plumbing is the same, and electrical. Why would the builder's
warehouses want to double their number of SKUs to support metric
conversion? Profit margins are thin now without grossly complexicating
the inventory. Railroads, electrical distribution, paper sizes and
other infrastructure networks involve similar barriers.

Now in some areas, where products change rapidly, tooling is short
lived, and parts are brought in from all over the world, metric
conversion makes sense. The auto industry is a case in point. In
other areas, metric measures are used as a convenience - witness the
two liter soda bottle. That doesn't mean other soda sizes aren't fine
in ounces, quarts or gallons.

So, whatever your enthusiasm, the U.S. will be on a mixed measurement
system for a very long time, and there's nothing wrong with that. We
will use what is convenient where it is convenient.

Andrew Grygus - California Republic
Support diversity! "Efficiency" is no fun anyway.