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# Metric System Research Paper

95 percent of the world uses the metric system! Does the United States use the metric system? Nope! America is that stubborn 5 percent that refuses to conform, allowing needless mistakes to happen. The metric system was carefully fashioned with a logical, systematic pattern; whereas, the United States customary system is a hodge-podge system of measurement based off of the old English system. England gave up their antiquated system, which was developed without purpose over the coarse of 200 years, to conform to the metric system; however, the United States holds fast to their nonsensical system of measurement.

The United States should adopt the metric system because, the metric system is wonderfully simple, the United States customary system is extremely confusing, and if they adopt it there will be world consistency. Wonderfully Simple The metric system is simple, easy, and enjoyable to use. It did not just happen to work out that way, it was specifically designed. In the 1600s and 1700s, many people recognized that our world needed “a measurement system that would be widely agreed upon and easy to use. ” (Barrow pg. 41)

Consequently, in 1770, the French Academy of Science put their heads together and came up with a system based solely on one unit of measurement: the meter. As Bruce B. Barrow wrote, “This unit would be based in nature. It would be one ten-millionth of the distance from the North Pole to the equator. ” (pg. 441) Many people spent many hours pouring much thought into this project. They knew that in order for it to be widely accepted, it must be extremely easy to use and understand. The French Academy of Sciences certainly did a spectacular job. Soon after, other nations began adopting this new system.

Eventually, all the nations were using the metric system, including the United States. All was well and great, until the United States decided to revert back to their old system, one much more complicated and confusing. Because the metric system was intentionally designed, it is full of patterns. Knowing and understanding these patterns has lead many to love and appreciate this super simple system. One of the metric system’s unique properties is that it has “family units. ” The unit for mass is the gram. The unit for distance is the meter. And the unit for volume is the liter.

Depending on what is being measured (mass, distance, or volume) the designated unit can be used. Then, if it is very large or very small, a multiple or submultiple may be added. A “family” of units is a metric unit (gram, meter, or liter) plus its multiples (deca, hecto, kilo, etc. ) and its submultiples (deci, centi, milli, etc. ). So the meter, the decameter, and the millimeter are part of the “meter family. ” The liter, the hectoliter, and the centiliter are members of the “liter family. ” And the gram, the kilogram, and the decigram are all related of the “gram family. These “family units” are wonderful because all that is needed to measure anything is the gram, the meter, or the liter and possibly some multiples or submultiples.

And there is no need to remember a whole bunch of crazy, random, unnecessary measurements. However the “family units” would be useless if it were not for the decimal system. Multiples and submultiples are what make up the decimal system. A metric “unit is related to its multiples and submultiples by factors of 10. ” (Bruce pg. 437) A multiple is an amount that is greater than its “family unit” by one or more factors of 10. Greater than the gram, the meter, or the liter. ) And a submultiple is an amount that is less than its “family unit” by one or more factors of 10. Some multiples of metric units along with their numerical meanings are as follows:

Prefix Multiplication Factor
deca 0.1
hecto 0.01
kilo 0.001
mega 0.0000001
giga 0.0000000001
tera 0.0000000000001
peta 0.0000000000000001
exa 0.0000000000000000001
Some submultiples of metric units along with their numerical meanings are as follows:
Prefix Multiplication Factor
deci 10
centi 100
milli 1,000
micro 1,000,000
nano 1,000,000,000
pico 1,000,000,000,000
femto 1,000,000,000,000,000
atto 1,000,000,000,000,000,000

With so many multiples and submultiples, it makes it easy to measure just about anything no matter what the length! If someone needed to express the length of a short item, such as a pencil, they do not have to use the meter. They can multiply by the multiplication factor and use a more convenient measurement, such as the centimeter. Likewise, if someone needed to express a long distance, they do not have to use the meter, but can multiply by the multiplication factor, and use the kilometer, which is more convenient.

The same thing applies for expressing the volume of something large versus the volume of something small, or the weight of something heavy versus the weight of something light. The metric system offers many alternative measurements for many varying sizes. Without the decimal system, however, many options are not always a good thing. (Take, for instance, the options within the United States customary system, which lead to considerable confusion. ) Without standard prefixes, though, the decimal system would be useless.

Dr. Jay L. Wile once wrote, “Now, the beauty of the metric system is that these prefixes mean the same thing regardless of the physical quantity you want to measure! ” (pg. 10) It does not matter if the quantity is length, volume, or weight. The prefix units mean the same thing, regardless. What is particularly unique, though, is that this is a universal measuring system. Every unit in the metric system has a symbol, but these symbols are no ordinary abbreviations. Unlike the US customary system, the metric units are the same in all languages!

They mean the same thing, and they are spelled the identically. But that is not the only convenient part concerning prefix units! All prefix units are spelled the same in the singular form as in the plural form. Not only that, but they are not written with a period at the end of a sentence. Below are listed the symbols for the prefix units: Prefix Symbol Prefix Symbol deca da deci d hecto h centi c kilo k milli m mega M micro ? giga G nano n tera T pico p peta P femto f exa E atto a These are just a few of the many advantages and luxuries that the metric system provides.

Extremely Confusing The U. S. customary system, which the United States currently uses, is extremely confusing and exceptionally complicated. It does not follow any type of pattern. The main reason this system is so difficult is because it has no related multiples and submultiples. Dr. Jay L. Wile wrote, “In the English System, every alternative unit has a different relationship to the base unit, and you must remember all those crazy numbers. ” (pg. 10) For example, when measuring distance, there are 12 inches in a foot, 3 feet in a yard, and 1,760 yards in a mile.

When measuring weight, there are 16 ounces in a pound and 2,000 pounds in a ton. And, when measuring volume, there are 8 ounces in a cup, 2 cups in a pint, 2 pints in a quart, and 4 quarts in a gallon. For temperature the U. S. customary system uses Fahrenheit, which says that water boils at 212o and freezes at 32o. The metric system, on the other hand, uses Celsius, which says that water boils at 100o and freezes at 0o. Which system makes more sense? Without a doubt, the metric system does. “The factors relating these units to one another are difficult to use in making conversions.

Furthermore, the names of these units provide no clue to their numerical relationships,” wrote Bruce B. Barrow (pg. 437). Clearly, the hectic U. S. customary system was not created around any one logical thought. Not only does this system not follow any real pattern, but it also very limited. Unlike the metric system, the U. S. customary system does not use prefix units. So if someone needed to express a very short distance, they would need to use the inches in fraction or decimal form. And if one wished to express a very far distance, they would have no choice but to share that distance in miles.

The metric system has many, many more alternative units than the United States customary system. Dr. Jay L. Wile wrote, “Compare this incredibly logical system of units to the chaotic English system. ” (pg. 10) Part of what makes measurement in the Untied States so confusing is that Americans are not using just one system. They are using a combination of systems. For instance, a football field is measured in yards, whereas a foot race is measured in meters. Automobile engines are measured in horsepower (foot-pounds per second), whereas the engine’s displacement is measured in liters. (William pg. )

There are many more such examples, for the United States has adopted the melting-pot-approach not only to its language but also to its measuring system. “The metric system is more logical and versatile than the English system,” wrote Dr. Jay L. Wile (pg. 11). If the United States already uses the metric system in many instances, would it not make sense to just adopt it completely and make things simple again? World Consistency By adopting the metric system, there will be world consistency.

By doing so, the United States could prevent many tragedies. Lorelle Young, president of the U. S. Metric Association, said, “Only the metric system should be used because that is the system that science uses . . . In this day and age when the metric system is the measurement language of all sophisticated science, two measurement systems should not be used. ” (Robin pg. 3) NASA has used the metric system for many years, and switching over to the U. S. customary system has resulted in many casualties and significant money losses. (Lloyd pg. 3) As a result of conversion errors, Disneyland’s Space Mountain roller coaster was derailed because of an incorrectly sized axel that eventually broke under stress.

Another time, at an altitude of 41,000 feet, an airplane diminished its fuel supply a mere hour into its flight. This too, was a result of conversion error. One of the biggest reasons why the United States has been slow to adopt the metric system is the excuse that it will be costly. But in the long run it will save money. Again, due to metric/customary conversion errors, the Mars Climate Orbiter entered orbit at 57 kilometers above Mars instead of 150 kilometers.

This small conversion error cost \$327. 6 million. That certainly did not save money. Chemwiki pgs. 1-2) Tom Gavin, an administrator for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, said, “This is an end-to-end problem. A single error like this should not have caused the loss of Climate Orbiter. ” (Chemwiki pg. 1) NASA is currently working on a manned Constellation project intending to land on the moon. But they must always risk the error of conversion, casualties, and approximately \$370 million.

But if the US adopted the metric system, there would only be one system, which means that there could be no conversion errors. The longer we wait, the more losses we’ll have. Stop acting and wait! ” (Lloyd pg. 4) Adopting the metric system will make it dramatically easier to cooperate. As stated previously, the metric system was made easy for the very purpose of being adopted by the entire world. The reason it was made was that there were too many different measuring systems, which made it difficult to trade easily. With multiple different measuring systems, there is always the risk of measuring with different units. This makes things unnecessarily complicated and confusing.

Sometimes units are unintentionally left out, leaving one person thinking in one measurement and the other person in another. This would be less of a problem with one less system of measurement. Despite the fact that the metric system is a universal acceptance, Americans still use customary measurements. However, in order to easily exchange information throughout the world, American scientists use the metric system. (Sullivan pg. 8) This is necessary, in order to easily communicate. When Americans would go over to Europe or Asia to build new factories, they ran into many problems due to differing units of measurement.

As globalization increased, American companies found themselves competing against international interests. Increasingly, Americans were being required to produce, label, and deliver products in metric units for their foreign customers. America can be stubborn and it does like to be different, but sometimes it is better to change and conform. (William pg. 2) It is clear to see that the more measuring systems there are in use, the harder it becomes to cooperate and work with other countries. There are only two measuring systems left, the metric system and the U. S. ustomary system.

Why not get rid of unnecessary confusion and adopt the metric system? As one can see, the metric system is wonderfully simple, because it was very specifically designed, it has a whole family of units, it uses the decimal system, and it uses standard prefixes. Unlike the metric system, the United States customary system is extremely confusing because, it follows no pattern, and it is excessive. Most Importantly, if the United States adopts the metric system, there will be world consistency, and it will prevent tragedies, casualties, and confusion.

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