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I'd love to see the Metric System written up on Cool Tools. No other tool/system comes close to its ubiquitous usefulness, dead easy common sense and universal consistency. But I lack the professorial credentials to do the topic justice.

The more Feynman-esque, I think, the better. Please rise to this challenge, someone wonderful!

asked Apr 09 at 09:38

Wayne%20Ruffner's gravatar image

Wayne Ruffner

It does make sense, hence not anywhere to be found in the USA! How you guys became a super power is beyond me.


answered Apr 28 at 00:35

togglers's gravatar image


I spent my first 30 years in the US, but have now lived almost as long in a metric country. Metric is useful and easy. Perhaps it might be better a group effort, with different authors writing about how they use metric for different applications.

For example, I do a lot of my own home repair and the usual DIY stuff, and now do all of my measuring in metric, even to the point of converting English measurements into metric when measuring wood, installations, and similar. I think it would be good if the authors could tell how they deal or dealt with two systems, transitions, and how the change was worth it.


answered Apr 29 at 07:59

tdivcr's gravatar image


Sorry, I disagree. The metric system doesn't work properly on a human scale.

I'm not going to try to dissuade you from employing it for science or engineering, in those spheres its consistency, universality and (relative) ease of calculation are strong advantages but for everyday use by people doing things that most people do it is unwieldy and contrived.

In the US you mostly use cup measurements for cooking. Simple and quick halving and doubling starting from amounts that produce the right quantity for a family of four. Try that with with metric- 37.5g of butter anyone? How long is that pencil 7' (7 x the width of my thumb knuckle) or 18cm? A foot, most of us have a way of measuring that and a yard too. Buying timber? a 6ft piece of 2 x 1 or two is just what I need for this project. How many 1.8m lengths of 5 x 2.5 I'd need is harder to visualise and worse, harder to split into usable fractions/pieces.

Here in the UK we've been using both for decades but ask any child how tall they are and they'll tell you in feet and inches. Mothers know that their baby weighed just a little less than 8lbs at birth. Human scale things are easiest measured with human scale things, like the size of parts of our bodies because we have them with us all the time.

When my daughter was 9 she knew that inches were smaller than feet, that feet were smaller than yards and that yards were smaller than miles. She'd been taught the metric system since starting school but was as likely to label a aeroplane wing in kilometres or millimetres as metres or centimetres.

The metric system makes a fetish of the decimal point and don't get me started on the European standard that removes commas for separating 1000s.

Metric isn't awful, it's useful and indispensable in technical areas but it plain sucks for everyday, informal use. In fact it sucks as much as Fahrenheit does for everyday use.


answered May 12 at 06:46

stewartv's gravatar image


Maybe you have a head for fractions. For me, the last thing I want to do is some mental math when measuring for a project. It's like an all day third grade math lesson in fractions.

It's funny, I always assumed that the comfort that we feel with our particular measurement system is due to being raised with that system. In the 70's in the US, there was a big push towards the Metric system in schools, and consequently every kid I knew picked it up almost instantaneously. Unfortunately, I believe it was the jingoistic 1980's that squashed that movement, along with almost anything that smacked of foreignness, or worst of all, french-ness.

As for the UK, I've never seen such a hodgepodge of measurement systems: roads are marked in MPH, weights can be pounds, kilos, or stone, bolts can be imperial, metric, or Whitworth. Whitworth?!? Don't even get me started on Imperial gallons vs US gallons. Where did the word "gallon" come from anyway?

The problem with using metric for cooking mostly stems from using mass (metric) vs, volume (cups, tsp, tbsp, etc) not necessarily the system of measurement. Although I don't think measuring flour in centiliters would be much better.


answered Jun 18 at 05:59

Rusty_Spokes's gravatar image


BTW, mass can be either pounds or grams and volume can be either cups or liters. But the larger point is that people's poor grasp of fundamental science won't let them discern the diff between mass & volume. They don't know that they don't know, etc.

1 month, 1 week ago
Wayne%20Ruffner's gravatar image Wayne Ruffner
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Asked: Apr 09 at 09:38

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Last updated: Aug 08 at 07:51

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