Why the Metric System Sucks

I don’t know why, but lately I’ve been trolling youtube and videos on my the US is so backwards for not fully converting to SI have been popping up in my suggested viewing homepage.  I’ve watched a few and they are basically a bash the US in the video and in the comments.  Many bring up obscure and obsolete measures of unit as “proof” and they often point to how the Metric system is based in science.

So doing a little digging, because I love my inches, feet, yards, miles and Fahrenheit (as well as oz, gallons, cup and spoons) – not to mention telling time in years, months 24 hour days, minutes and seconds – I found that the vaulted meter is just as arbitrary as the yard.  You see back in 1799, when the French people got angry at the aristocracy for stealing land by buying on the short mile and selling via at the long mile, they invented the Metric system, via dividing the distance from the north pole to the equator by 10000. Too bad for them that they miscalculated and the meter short by 2%!  It took until 1983 for the Standards bodies to redefine a meter as the distance a light particle from a particular laser in a laboratory vacuum travels in 1/299,792,458 of a second – how’s that for simple and no room for error.  Better yet, what happens when you are in space or colonizing a new world – what affect will a different G or temperature or can you reproduce the correct laser with what you find on said new world.

Well shit, just take a measuring bar that is 36″ long with you, like British explorers did all over the globe and you can find feet, inches and any fraction there of quite easily.  Once the meter fall apart the rest of the system does too.  Proponents point to how easy it is the convert between very large and very small units.  But really, how many times, outside of your high school physics class did you really need to know that there are 5280 inches in a mile?

Speaking of measuring, look at the ruler above.  What’s easier to interpret, 1/2 inch or 1.2 or is that 1.3, no maybe it’s 1.4 mm, oh wait, are the big numbers mm or cm?  so fucking confusing, I’ll stick with breaking stuff in half – 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16 …

Then there is the argument that Lockheed Martin screwed a Mars probe when they used imperial units instead of SI.  I hear this all the time, users of SI referring to mm as mils.  To bad they are too stupid to realize millwrights have been using mils (1/1000 of and inch) for centuries.  And yes your vocabulary matters!

Now let’s talk about my field, textiles.  Every industry that uses textiles has a different unit for basis weight.  Most in the US use oz/sqyd, or oz/sqft.  Euros like their gsm.  Their are easy convention factors between each and honestly I have no feel for 1200-gsm other than a quick conversation tells me is approximately 35-opsy.  Since most folks can tell you what 5 or 6-opsy denim jeans feel like, I would says the imperial units win out for be most relatable to people.  And let’s not start on Tex vs denier.  The vast majority of textile folks use denier, to even make Tex useful you have to multiply it by 10 and report deciTex.

Okay, so to get off my rant box, let me conclude with the though that imperial units are far superior to SI for one of the best reasons.  They are relatable to the human body.  Every adult has a basic idea of how long a foot is, as we have feet, inches, pretty darn close to a thumb.  As for temperature, again Fahrenheit is more relatable to the human condition (and celsius is just as arbitrary, as you really need Kelvin and Planks if you’re going to talk a true scientific scale).

So enjoy your 10 hour days everyone on the Metric System, because I love work 8 normal hours and having 12 more to enjoy.


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