Go Metric This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


   Bet you thought the UnitedStates was one of the few nations in the world that has not officially adoptedthe metric system. Would you be surprised to find that the U.S. has actually beenmetric since 1866, when Congress legalized use of the system? In 1893 Congressmade the metric system the standard for all measurement in the country, butdespite campaigns to convince the American public to leave behind the Englishsystem, Americans seem to prefer doing mental math with strange units ofmeasurement (How many feet are in a mile?).

Most people would admit tonot really liking duodecimal math (based on the number 12), but Americans justsnort and insist that their way is better. This phenomenon has causeddestruction, derangement and utter bafflement. There is only one antidote - theUnited States should fully convert to the metric system they adopted more than acentury ago.

Wouldn't it be great if water actually froze at 0 degrees andboiled at 100 degrees? The metric system is much easier to work with. There aresimple decimal conversions and only four units: meters, liters, grams andCelsius. The units increase or decrease by 10 and are recognized by theirprefixes. The metric system has a more scientific meaning, whereas the Englishsystem was based on how long the king's foot was.

Originally intended tobe one ten-millionth part of the quadrant of the earth, the so-called Meter ofthe Archives was based on a measurement of a meridian between Dunkirk andBarcelona.

Now, the more accurate meter is the length of the pathtraveled by light in a vacuum during a time interval of 1/299,792,458 of asecond. Another winning aspect of the metric system is that different unitscorrelate to each other perfectly. One liter holds 1,000 cubic centimeters. Tryto find a relationship like that between quarts and inches!

The UnitedStates is being left behind. The measuring system most commonly used in thecountry is incompatible with other countries, and the resulting confusion canhave drastic consequences. For example: In 1999, NASA's Mars Climate Orbiter waslost, a massive failure that cost millions. Why? One team used English units(inches, feet and pounds) while the other used metric units for a keyoperation.

Some Americans believe that changing their method of measuringwould destroy their way of life. Our system has deep roots back to ancient Rome.The older a system, the better, right? Some Americans think they are beingpatriotic by stubbornly sticking to tradition, but they need to recognize thatone of America's best ideals is the desire for reform. Sure, it's been around forhundreds of years. But let's remember that hundreds of years ago people alsodidn't bathe frequently and thought bear baiting was entertainment.

Whyare Americans, always brave and free, so afraid of plunging into using the metricsystem? It is easy, efficient and ubiquitous. Yes, it will cost lots of money tochange all the road signs from miles to kilometers, but in the long run, theconversion would actually save money. Generations to come would be measuring by agood, solid and scientific system. What is more valuable than education? Therewould be better trade with other countries and more global harmonization. After2009, the European Union won't even accept American imports not measured inmetric units. By using that which Congress adopted so long ago as our officialsystem, albeit not exclusive, Americans would be able to avoid costly mistakeslike the Mars orbiter. So, in short, don't be an inchworm - be a liter bug.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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