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Monday, August 12, 2013

HEY AMERICANS. DO WE MEASURE UP?

When I was a tyke, when Americans still had a fingertip grip on politicians, Americans flirted with converting our measuring system to the metric system. The 2-liter bottle of soda is the only thing that stuck around from that failed effort.

The effort failed in the same way that most attempts at foreign language acquisition fails. Those behind the effort tried to teach everyone to convert, that is translate in their heads, measurement. Translating rather than immersion is why learning foreign languages is hard and why most efforts fail.

The U.S. economy has languished for five years now. In short, Americans are living through an economic depression much like the Great Depression, even if a slew of egghead Ph.D.s of economics and a cackle of politicians want to deny and say otherwise.



One way to help the economy get rolling again would be for Americans to harmonize our measurement system with the rest of the world. In short, that means Americans ought to adopt the metric system.

Since our words for measurements are mere labels, the trick to going metric successfully this time would be to define these same words anew. Currently, an inch is the word that labels the equivalent measurement of 2.54 centimeters. As well, 2.2 pounds labels the equivalent measurement of one kilogram. 

Having to deal with such odd rational numbers is too hard for most. It creates cognitive overload.

As well, the metric system suffers from horrible names for measures. There are too many prefixes to keep track of in the mind. Thus, its hard for Americans grasp rule-of-thumb thoughts about measures the way the language of the American standard system facilitates. 

So, the way to rid ourselves of these problems of conversion and language is to define anew our words for measures.

That is why I propose this:

Linear

inch = 3 cm
foot = 30 cm
yard = 90 cm
mile = 2 km
½ mile = 1 km
½ mile² = 1 km² = 100 hectare
1 mile² = 2 km² = 200 hectare
2.5 acres = 1 hectare

Dry

2 lbs = 1 kg
1 lb = ½ kg = 500 g
1 oz = 25g 
20 oz = 500 g = ½ kg = 1 lb

short ton = 900 kg  = 1800 lbs
1 metric ton = 1000 kg = 2000 lbs
long ton = 1100 kg = 2200 lbs

Wet

1 gal = 4 liters = 4000 ml = 8 pints
1 quart = 1 liter = 1000 ml = 2 pints
1 pint = 0.5 gal = 500 ml
1 cup = 0.25 liters = ¼ liter = 250 ml = ½ pint = 10 oz
1 tbsp = 12.5 ml = 2 tsp
20 tbsp = 1 cup = 250 ml
1 oz = 25 ml = 4 tsp
1 tsp = 6.25 ml 

As it is, Americans accept always when sellers of products re-size packaging. What once was a 24-ounce box of Cheerios now is an 18-ounce box. Americans see the box, not the ounces. For them, the current 18-ounce box is "a box of Cheerios".

My method to get Americans on the metric system works the same way. Let's keep our measurement words, our boxes of Cheerios while at the same time, embracing a much easier standard to calculate and package goods, the metric system.