By David Pearl
We celebrate American independence every Fourth of July to commemorate our freedom from the oppressive British monarchy. Yet Americans still proudly use the inches, pounds and gallons that our oppressors graciously bestowed upon us; a Salem man whose mission is to bring our nation into the Modern Era finds this puzzling. Americans should be leading the way to measurement harmony in our increasingly globalized economy, but instead, Americans tend to forget the involvement of Benjamin Franklin working alongside Antoine Lavoisier during the French Revolution and that the Metric System was made legal in the USA in 1866, and that the inch-pound non-system has never been legalized here. David Pearl created Metric Pioneer with the hope that Americans would take advantage of the resources available to those who wish to self-metricate. Yes, we have been on training wheels for nearly a century and a half! Did you know that our Statue of Liberty occupies one hectare of land?
Do you remember that conversation between Vincent and Jules in the movie Pulp Fiction about what they call a Quarter Pounder with cheese in France? David Pearl and his wife visited a Subway sandwich restaurant during a visit abroad last summer. The sandwich makers would have been clueless had they received an order for the Foot-long sandwich. You have probably guessed by now that both scenarios involve the Metric System. Subway restaurants all over the planet (except here of course) call it a 30 cm and you could probably guess what they call a half sandwich; yes, 15 cm.
Do you ever notice when you read a newspaper that measurements are sometimes given twice? American editors often parenthetically mention SI equivalents in order to maintain the appearance that America will some day adopt the Metric System. By the way, what Americans call the Metric System is now known as SI which is an abbreviation for Système International d’unités (International System of Units). Here is one example from an article about sulfide forming at Earth surface, sinking deep into Earth mantle, likely all the way to the core-mantle boundary, 1,865 miles (3,000 kilometers) below the surface. The snippet clearly reveals that the original writer estimated the distance at approximately 3,000 kilometers. It is a rounded guess. Nobody would estimate 1,865 miles! Some editor decided that Americans were too dumb to know what a kilometer is, so he got out a calculator and made believe that the random figure in miles would clarify matters. Dual measurement is a hallmark of American journalism. Students in United States public education do not learn to think and calculate exclusively in SI. Their minds are handicapped by early submersion in units of measurement outside the SI, and late, first exposure (if at all), to metric units of measurement.
Dual measuring is a false crutch that does not help people learn SI but just allows them to ignore it. Our Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA) mandates that products sold in the United States must list SI alongside units that Americans have been using. The FPLA (as presently written) is a false crutch that has not done much for metric education in the 19 years it has been a requirement. Most Americans are still not ready for metric-only measurements. The Australians completed metrication in less time than it took us to waffle around with dual labeling.
America is actually part way metric already. For example, American scientists already use SI; NASA uses SI; our United States Dollar is already decimalized; American Nutrition Facts labels are already in grams (What else could we use? Nothing!); for decades, our Wine & Distilled Spirits have already been exclusively measured in metric units (750 mL is the most common size); our prescriptions are already measured in metric units (mg, mL et cetera) because no other measure is workable at that level; The United States military uses metric measurements extensively to ensure interoperability with allied forces, particularly NATO Standardization Agreements; ground forces measure distances in klicks, slang for kilometers; most military firearms are measured in metric units, beginning with the M-14 which was introduced in 1957; heavy weapon caliber is measured in millimeters; military vehicles are generally built to metric standards; the Navy and Air Force continue to measure distance in nautical miles and speed in knots because these units are now accepted for use with SI by the BIPM, so adopting SI would not be as painful as one might expect. We have been using metric tools for many years. You probably have metric tools in your garage right now!
Celsius is actually very easy! First put Fahrenheit out of mind for now (Pearl no longer uses the F word). Just remember this little weather rhyme: 30 is warm, 20 is nice, 10 is cold and 0 is ice. Yes, water freezes at zero and boils at one hundred! What could be easier? Normal human body temperature is 37.
Metric Pioneer David Pearl hopes that one day his driver license will list his height at 181 cm and his weight at 88 kg. As mentioned in the first paragraph, a Progress CheckList is available for a free download. You can also find (in the Metrication Earth tab) great graphics showing the flag of every nation on Earth, a rendering of the name of the nation in the actual local language and script (Chinese, Hebrew, Sanskrit, Swahili, Thai, and nearly every other language) along with the year each nation underwent metrication and the year each nation joined the United Nations organization. And for a load of fun, you can see a video clip of Riker telling his Star Trek crew that the Borg have captured Captain Jean-Luc Picard and are headed for the Terran System. Then finally you can take the online Terran System Exam. Here is the first question: 1. How would a police officer react to you driving 40 km/h (kilometers per hour) on a residential street? A. He would continue eating his donuts. B. He would issue you a citation for going way too slowly. C. He would think the high-speed chase is like a COPS episode. D. He would think your car is a disguised Alien Visitation Craft. You may take the exam over and over until you get 100%, which will qualify you to receive a free International System Ruler (one per household). Those interested may also register (for online social media) and sign the online Metrication Pledge to participate in the advancement of measurement harmony on planet Earth.