How To Annihilate Yanks In Imperial Vs. Metric Debates [Video]

Imperial units are confusing, needlessly complex and absurdly difficult to work with. And yet, the world's biggest superpower continues to embrace this archaic system of measurement (re-dubbed "United States customary units".) They can even be quite touchy about it, as Head Squeeze host Matt Parker learned during a post about the A4 paper scale. Undeterred, Parker hit back at his detractors with a hilariously straight-faced "defense" of the system. Unleash the barleycorns of war...

With the sole exception of a human-height and shark-length barometer, imperial measurements serve no purpose in the modern world. The metric system is so much simpler and more logical that its continued existence beggars belief. This apparent nostalgic loyalty to the system even caused NASA to lose the $125-million Mars Climate Orbiter; but the country still shies away from metric units.

If you want to wind up your US chums, simply direct them to the above video. Nothing more needs to be said.


    Pretty sure the main reason why they won't convert is because of the cost to do so.

      +1 to this. While its based on some pretty strange stuff.. It's fairly functional and has gotten them this far.. Australia had a similar choice a few years ago to ditch our relationship with the Queen but it would require us to reprint all our money.. The cost simply wasn't worth it. And that's just to print some slips of paper!

        A few points:
        -A better comparison would be australia's conversion to metric. it was a long process, but a fairly smooth one. The general rule is it takes about a generation to change over properly, since everybody is best at thinking in 'what they grew up with'.

        -We did not stick with the queen because of the cost of changing our money, we stuck with her because the majority of australians voted to do so.

        -If we ditch the queen we don't have to reprint all our money, merely print modified designs and wait for the old stuff to go out of circulation - it'd still be legal tender. Most coin and note machines work from the size and weight of the money rather than specific patterns, so we'd only be paying for the designers and retooling the presses.

          1. I did say *similar* heh, in that the US is much more mature than AU even now, the cost is exponentially increased.. If you have only a handful of people, it's pretty easy to switch within a generation heh.

          2. They voted to do so surely because of the cost.. Not out of some allegiance to the queen heh.. If it serves no realistic purpose to do something that will cost a lot of money.. One would HOPE this would be the outcome until such a time as it was no longer true for whatever reason.

          3. Yeah I guess you're right! The US has much the same thing with confederate currency which is still legal tender - but there would still most likely be an active buyback etc etc.. The act of changing a nations currency is hardly free after all - even when we do so now some of the figures quoted for a simple design change are incredibly expensive when it makes no real difference to force such a change.

            They voted to keep the queen because the model presented for head of state was flawed cost would not have been so much of adv issue for average Joe.

              You are correct. Don't know where this guy is getting his 'facts' from.
              Also, apparently people live longer if they are in a bigger group?

                Not sure it's a "fact" when you say "surely", and agree with you, and say its SIMILAR.

                I'm not even sure that people really vote according to "facts" regarding costs, and realistic benefit and detriment assessments.. It's a matter of opinion for most voters.. For me these were my opinions and I have ceded that you are probably correct on more than one.. Not sure what exactly you want.

                But that's fine. Be pretentious dickbag. What would the internet be without a good bit of that!

                Last edited 28/11/13 10:10 am

                  I concede to the points you made (except the last paragraph, but thanks), you get out of it with the 'surely'.

                  Still not sure where the cost of money came from. They bring our random coins all the time to commemorate this or that and new notes come in from time to time. Things would just phase out.

              Which is why that referendum should have had two questions.

              1. Should Australia become a republic? If yes, answer question 2.

              2. Which of the following changes should be made to the constitution? (Each possible change would represent a different model).

              What was the flaw anyway? I saw no problem with it.

                The flaw was in the proposed model which was chosen precisely because it divided republic supporters. Remember who ran the entire process.

                  Exactly, the choices were either k stick with the monarchy or go to a republic model where the leader of the governing party is head of state (same as prime minister role now). A lot of people were all for a republic but preferred a system where head of state and head of government are two independent roles.

    Most food in the US is labelled in SI units by law. Having different sized paper on the other hand results in no end of printer errors.

    sole exception of a human-height and shark-length

    Babies - measured in pounds and ounces (extremely common in Australia, though hospitals use metric internally)
    Beer - this gets weird in Australia, is it pints? A middy? A schooner? I've never heard it asked for in litres/millilitres.
    Other objects that average 6". ;-)

      Those are all glass sizes for the beer - so kinda irrelevant. You can make a glass any volume you want and give it any name you want.

      Mine personally is a particularly large coffee mug I call Susan. :3

      Beer glass sizes were originally defined in imperial fluid ounces (a pot was 10 fl oz, a schooner 15, a pint 20) but they've since been rounded to nearby metric values (eg. 20 fl oz is about 568.25 ml but a standard pint glass is now 570 ml).

        I never understood what a fluid ounce was. I mean, I get that it's a volumetric measurement, but how does it relate to a mass ounce?

      The truly weird one I discovered is that in Adelaide, if you ask for a schooner, you get a midi, and if you ask for a pint, you get a schooner (which is just daft, as a pint is actually a unit of measurement, and a schooner glass does not carry a pint of fluid).

      The only people I know who measure babies in pounds or ounces are grandmothers. Fair point on wang measurements though - I find "30 centimetres" doesn't have quite the same ring to it as "12 inches".

        Ouch! You clearly lost a bit in the conversion process. And at that size, having a ring on it is just showing off.

        A colleague at work recently had a baby (well, his wife did).
        The betting on weight and gender was in pounds/ounces. No grandmothers present.

      As people mentioned those names are of the glasses, in Australian bars even a "pint" glass is measured in milliliters.

      What glasses are used vary from state to state generally, and show there's a cultural difference.

      The most common ones in my experience are: Pints (568ml), Schooner (425ml), Middy (285ml) and I was going to add Pot, since I'd always been taught they were something Queenslanders drank that was slightly larger than a pot. My quick research to double check my maths revealed not only many more variations, but revealed Pot's to have the same volume as Middies.

      Check it out:

    Computer, tablet and smart phone screens are still listed in inches.

    The 10 Year US Treasury Notes are still quoted in 1/32nd which is super stupid.

      Yep I was about to mention the computer/TV screens. They are still primarily measured in inches.

    Even though I'm generation Y, I still use feet and inches for informal measurements.

    An "inch" is roughly the distance between my index finger and thumb.
    A "foot" is the distance between my hands when held a certain way.

    I would say "You need to move that thing another inch to the left."
    To me using imperial implies that the length I am saying was measured very roughly and should not be interpreted literally.

    I also have a smaller unit called a "smidge." Which is some fraction of an inch.
    I don't get weird looks by people for using an archaic measurement system, so I guess some other people do it too.

      Not to mention we say things like "thats miles away" because it sounds so much better than "thats kilometers away"

      I agree with that when we use imperial measurements, its rough and should not be taken exactly and well imperial are rough measurements anyway.

      If/When barley corns size changes say due to GMO or evolution (because frankly i think evolution will effect the barley corn before the metric catches on in the general population in america), their entire measurement system technically goes out the window.

    What royally annoys me is the usage of calories as a measurement of energy in nearly all health/diet related advertisements... When all of our bloody food is correctly measured in kilojoules. It just creates so much more confusion for people and without a doubt leads to many people actually just guessing how many calories is in something, rather than doing the conversion, because who actually even roughly knows what that rate is.

      Not only that, but what they refer to in the diet industry as a calorie, is actually a kilocalorie. Sometimes. Other times it really is a calorie.

    And what's with the month day year thing? Only four countries actively use middle-endian dates, Belize (pop. 1/3 mil), Palau (0.02 mil), Micronesia (0.1 mil), and USA (300 mil). It's time the world moved to big-endian dates, Japanese dates, ISO date, you know - the sensible unambiguous one! :-)

    Metric all the way. Except for screen sizes, and that's just because they're still advertised that way. Just got used to that one.

    Lucky you if you're carrying .6 metre around in your trousers! 30cm (12 inches) would be more than enough!

    To be fair, I am seeing metric measurements pop up more often in American pop culture these days, such as TV shows (especially in science shows and documentaries) and movies. I think the deprecation of the imperial system will eventually happen, but it's going to take a long time.

      May I ask, which science shows? It really annoys me that Mythbusters still use imperial. Especially when it's produced in Australia!

        Mythbusters is one show that does use metric. Not all of the time, but they often switch between metric and imperial measurements. They'll often use metric when dealing with weight (especially when dealing with small amounts), although still use imperial when dealing with length.

    One Yank here at work stated to me "If the good Lord wanted us to use metric he would have given us 10 apostles instead of 12". To which I inquired "If that is the case, did it hurt cutting of the 6th finger on each of your hands, and has this hindered your counting ability?"

      This is another thing I have thought about recently.
      The base 10 number system we use is arbitrarily based on how many fingers we have, rather than objective utility.

      A base 12 system is ideal, because it can be 12 can be divided into whole numbers by 2, 3, 4 and 6. As opposed to 10 being only divisible into whole numbers by 5 and 2.

      The number system would be 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, x, y, 10
      x and y would be new symbols. New system numbers are bold.

      10 multiplied by any other number will still only require adding a 0 on the end.
      For example, 10 x 9 = 90 (old number system equivalent is 108).
      7 x 6 = 36 (old system equivalent is 42).

      Each of these is divisible more ways than base 10
      Decimals would be easy. Half of 1 would be 0.6 (0.5), half of that is 0.3(0.25), half of that would be 0.16(0.125), and half of that would be 0.09 (0.0625).
      Fractions in thirds are easier.
      Because of this, percentages are also easier. One third of something is 40% (33.333% recurring)

      Of course, it will never catch on, because base 10 is ubiquitous, and a change would be immensely difficult.
      There's also base 8, which would simply remove the numbers 8 and 9 (0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,10).
      If you're concerned about being using their hands as a counting aid for children learning the number system, base twelve would simply include the hand in the counting. Base 8 would remove the thumb.

      Just a thought.

        Here's the wiki on the idea

        They do a better job at explaining it.

    At least their military have taken to using metric. If only for not causing confusion while on operations with other forces.

    Last edited 29/11/13 1:33 am

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