If you’ve ever had to look up “how many ounces in a pound,” or “how many inches is 5.5 feet,” you’re not alone—well, at least in the United States. The US is one of the only countries that uses the annoyingly complicated measurement system known as the imperial system. Most other countries don’t know the struggles of trying to convert measurements without a calculator, as most regions use the metric system. This chart posted on Reddit perfectly encapsulates why the metric system is so much better. But first, let’s take a look at the basics of the metric and imperial systems and how they differ.
The metric system, also known as the Système International (SI) and the International System of Units, is the most common measurement system worldwide. It’s a base-ten system that uses the meter as a unit of length, the kilogram as a unit of mass, and the second as a unit of time. The meter was created using the Earth’s circumference. Almost every country in the world uses the metric system for measurement.
The imperial system, also known as the customary system of measurement, was originally used in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries. The units of measurement include the inch and mile for length and the pound for weight. The United States Customary System (USCS) was based on the British Imperial System, which was created to unite the country and remained in use until 1965. Many use the term imperial system (IS) to describe the US and British systems. Today, only three countries still use the imperial system: Liberia, Myanmar, and the United States of America.
This chart shared on the r/selfreliance by Redditor LIS1050010 perfectly shows the differences between the two systems. With just a glance, it’s clear how simple the metric system is—and how needlessly complicated the imperial system is. The primary difference between the two is the type of units used and how those units are converted. With the metric system, it’s quick and easy to convert one unit to another by multiplying or dividing by powers of ten. Ten millimeters is one centimeter, and 10 centimeters equals one decimeter. In contrast, there isn’t a straightforward to convert imperial units. Twelve inches equals one foot, and three feet equal one yard. You must either memorize the conversion rates or use an online conversation calculator to quickly convert imperial units.
Just looking at the facts, it’s easy to argue that the metric system is vastly superior. Nearly every country uses it. This almost universal standard allows you to understand measurements—and be understood—no matter where you are. The metric system is also easier to use because of the logical way the measurement units relate to one another. But despite its obvious advantages, it’s unlikely that Americans will make the switch anytime soon.
Way back when the US Customary System was created, the metric system wasn’t as prevalent as it is now. Every industry and government agency in the country was set up around this measurement system. Switching measurement systems now would be a time-consuming and costly process for businesses and the country’s infrastructure. In fact, switching the whole country to the metric system could take decades. That said, the metric system is widely taught in US schools along with the imperial system. Many measurement tools also include both types of units, and packaging for commercial products is required to show net quantities in both measurements.
In looking at this simple conversion chart, it’s easy to see how much better the metric system is. Converting units is simple and the widespread system makes it simple to understand measurements everywhere. But even though it’s the superior system, it’s unlikely the US will ever adopt it due to the cost and time required to convert. It looks like we Americans are stuck with our calculators and Google searches for the time being.
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