Metric Mystery

Corie Lies, Staff Writer

The imperial system of measurements has had its grasp on America for hundreds of years, and it is time for a change. The imperial system is a system of measurements developed and used by the British when they came to America. The metric system was developed by the French and it is based on multiples of ten, otherwise known as a base ten system.

The metric system is a system of measurements originating from a base ten system; take the meter as an example. The meter is defined as 0.0000001 of the distance from the equator to the north pole through a meridian in Paris, a millimeter is a thousandth of that distance, and a kilometer is a thousand meters. Generally simple to understand right? Opposed to the imperial system, an inch is the distance between the middle knuckles of the index finger, a foot is supposedly the length of a foot (being 12 inches), a yard is three feet, and a mile is 1,760 yards.

The problem with the imperial system is that the conversions of measurements, especially distance, are challenging to see as a pattern of base twelve measures. Admittedly dividing the imperial system into smaller intervals is easier than dividing in the metric system due to the number of multiples that twelve has as opposed to ten.

The caveat to the base twelve systems is knowing the multiples of twelve through the multiples of thousands, while the base ten systems only need the zero moved to the left or right to make conversions. American industry has already caught onto this by displaying milliliters and liters of soft drinks, grams of nutrients on nutrition labels, our money being a base ten system, engines in cubic liters and medicine in cc (cubic centimeters). Most photography formats are in centimeters apart from larger formats that aren’t as commonly used. The biggest places where Americans still don’t use the metric system are distance, temperature, and cooking.

With temperatures, Fahrenheit seems to be preferred due to its larger range of temperatures but that arguably makes each degree much less significant. With Fahrenheit, if the temperature fluctuates a couple of degrees you can hardly notice a thing. Meanwhile with Celcius, if the temperature shifts just three degrees, you will feel the change, not to mention that zero degrees is the freezing point for water as opposed to 32 degrees.

With the cooking aspect of the metric system, the measurements are far more accurate compared to the cups and teaspoons that Americans use. Americans have to use an entire set of different-sized spoons that you have to buy, while countries such as Germany, Italy or France with grams and milliliters just have to use a scale and a cup with a marking for milliliters on it.

Ela Bailey ’23, in regards to the use of Celsius in other countries believes that “From a scientific perspective I think using celsius makes a lot of sense but as someone who has grown up in the US, I’m so accustomed to using Fahrenheit that it feels almost weird to say temperatures in Celsius even though there isn’t really much of a difference you just have to change your perspective a little” Bailey said. She believes that Celsius makes more sense to use but Fahrenheit is so much more familiar that it feels weird for American born people to use celsius.

Although Americans are used to using the imperial system, it’s time to change to the more reliable and simple system of metric.