Although English is used in many countries when it comes to measuring, there is often a feeling that between the Americans and the rest of the world there is a barrier. You might think that this is an exaggeration — there must be other countries that do not use the metric system, right? However, in reality, only three countries in the world don’t use it, and the USA are one of them. This writes the Reader’s Digest.
Considering how often the United States cooperate with other countries, it may seem strange that they did not take the ubiquitous measurement system in the world. So why in USA not use the metric system?
What is the metric system?
Before to understand, why is the US not using the metric system, it is important to understand what it is and how it differs from conventional units in the United States. The metric system, also known as the international system of units (SI), is a system of measurement that is built on three basic units: meters, liters and grams.
Because the metric system is a base 10 system of measurement, each subsequent unit of length, weight or volume is 10 times more than the previous one. The names of these units is a combination of a prefix that specifies the size of the unit, and the base which indicates this unit measures length, weight or volume.
In the metric system meters are the basic unit for measuring length. This means that every prior or future unit will contain the base word “meter” with a prefix that tells its size. A meter is equivalent to three feet and three inches.
So, a decimeter is 10 times smaller than a meter, a centimeter is 100 times smaller than a meter and a millimeter is 1000 times less than a meter. Conversely, the decameter is 10 times more meters, a hectometer is 100 times more than a meter and a kilometer is 1000 times more than a meter.
Although it is easy to measure the length of a football field in meters, it would be pointless to use this unit of measure to determine the length of the computer . Since the length of the machine is less than one meter, it is necessary to use a smaller metric unit, e.g., centimeters or millimeters. The same rules apply when measuring the mass and volume of a substance, respectively using grams or liters.
What are the common unit of measurement in the United States?
Although the system is generally accepted in the United States ,also measures the length, mass and volume, it uses a completely different set of units. In addition, unlike the metric system, customary units of measurement in the United States do not follow the “basic” system of measurement.
Instead, when measuring liquid volume, using common units of measurement in the United States uses ounces, cups, pints, quarts and gallons, and ounces are the smallest unit of volume, and gallons — the largest unit of volume, respectively. One gallon equals four quarts, which is equal to 8 pints which is 16 cups, which equals 128 ounces of liquid.
Since there is no “basic” rules for conventional units in the US, volume, mass and distance in this system are measured in different ways. The usual units of mass in the United States are ounces, pounds and tons. In this category measure the smallest unit of mass — ounce, following the smallest unit is the pound, and the largest unit of weight is the ton. In particular, one pound equals 16 ounces, one ton equals 2000 pounds, and one ton is also equal to 32,000 ounces.
The last type of measurement in standard units US is the length, measured in inches, feet, yards and miles. In this system, the smallest unit of length is inches, and the largest unit of length — the mile. Since this is perhaps the most commonly used measurement in everyday life, most people in the US know that one foot is 12 inches, one yard is three feet, and one mile is 1760 yards.
Despite the fact that both measurement systems have the same purpose, customary units of measurement in the United States are completely different from the metric system.
Why does the US not use the metric system?
Today the whole world has adopted the metric system except USA, Myanmar and Liberia. Given the fact that the translation between conventional US and metric units system is time consuming and tedious, the presence of two competing systems, it does not contribute to global communication and cooperation. So why in USA not use the metric system? Surprisingly, the answer actually dates back to 1700.
In 1790 France conceived the metric system as a means of streamlining trade, reducing fraud and eliminating common confusion which pervaded the country due to the lack of a standard measurement system.
The first step in creating this system was to install a universal manual on the measurement. Because the French scientists wanted to be as accurate as possible and to allow others to emulate their process, they decided to take measurement of the circumference of the Earth — well known at the time of measurement.
To do this, scientists selected longitudinal segment of Land, which passed between the Northern and southern parts of France, and carefully divided it to create the meter. The resulting measurement system, currently known as the metric system was extremely innovative and appealing to the international community.
However, since the metric system was based on French land, the United States decided not to adopt that system.
In the NINETEENTH century, when the rest of the world began to adopt the metric system, the U.S. Congress proposed that the country move to this international system. However, at that time, American Industrialists have already supplied their plants with equipment based on the traditional U.S. units.
To prevent an expensive overhaul of your equipment, these Industrialists used their influence to prevent the Congress to adopt the metric system during the XIX-XX centuries. Today in US schools still studying customary units , although many scientists and organizations tend to think that the use of the international metric system is more convenient.