Metric vs. Standard System
Date: 08/19/2001 at 21:41:27 From: Brenn Collins Subject: Weights and measures Compare and contrast the advantages and disadvantages of the metric system and the standard system using weights and measures. I have used the Internet and encyclopedias, but so far nothing has addressed the specific topic. Your help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.
Date: 08/20/2001 at 12:13:26 From: Doctor Peterson Subject: Re: Weights and measures Hi, Brenn. There are many sites advocating metrication on the Web, and others arguing against it. Here is an answer I gave that touches on some of this, including some sites to start you off: Metric and Standard Rulers http://mathforum.org/dr.math/problems/janae.04.20.01.html Look especially at the last link, for some interesting ideas against metric. I'll just give a brief summary of some of the issues, and you can fill in the details with your own research. In favor of the metric system: It's truly standard, around the world, unlike what you called the "standard system," which is better called the "American customary system." It has a simple set of names; within each category, there is a single unit to which the same set of prefixes is applied. That gives you fewer units to memorize, not to mention their conversion factors. It has a simple set of conversion factors that are consistent across all categories; you don't have to go by 2's for volume (2 cups in a pint), by 3's and 12's for length (12 inches in a foot), and remember other weird numbers like 5280. Everything is tens. The use of tens fits with our decimal number system; multiplying and dividing requires merely moving the decimal point. Against the metric system: Initially, it costs money, time, and effort to make the change. (But this problem disappears once the changeover is complete.) The metric system, being decimal, is not well-suited to working with fractions. Officially, you aren't even supposed to say "1/3 meter," but rather "333 milliliters." For everyday uses, such as cooking, it is much more natural to use fractions. Metric units are not always appropriate amounts for convenient use. The 2-liter bottle seems to have become "natural," but if you want to buy a single drink, it's easier to say "a pint" or even "a 12-ounce cup" rather than "400 milliliters." The metric system's rigidity prevents designing units for convenience. These practical issues lead to the use of "folk units" alongside the official metric units, which can lead to conflict when laws are too rigid. I myself think the best system would be that of the Babylonians, who based everything on 60, which works well with fractions. The only trouble is, you'd have to change not only your units but your number system to make it work right; we'd have to use base 60 numbers, as they did, to make base 60 units easy to work with. Given that we use decimal, a decimal unit system, perhaps with allowances for the use of fractions, seems best. Here are a few more starting points for your research: METRICATION: Just say, NO! - Thought You Should Know (TYSK) http://www.tysknews.com/Depts/Metrication/metrication.htm Metric System: a WebQuest for 7-10 grade Science - Deborah L. Folis http://www.scs.k12.tn.us/STT99_WQ/STT99/Germantown_HS/folisd/metrichome.htm The United States and the Metric System - Toward a Metric America, NIST http://www.pueblo.gsa.gov/cic_text/misc/usmetric/metric.htm Don't let the political and emotional issues that are often raised distract you from the main issue: what are the real advantages of each system? - Doctor Peterson, The Math Forum http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
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