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Connecticut Educator Hooked on Metrics
AP - Science ^ | May 13, 11:45 PM ET | SHELLEY K. WONG

Posted on 05/15/2006 10:41:02 AM PDT by Junior

NORWICH, Conn. - Brent Maynard says he weighs 74 kilograms and is 169 centimeters tall. And if you ask him for directions, he'll give them in kilometers.

Maynard, a chemistry professor at Three Rivers Community College, is a champion for the metric system, a man who helped erect distance and speed signs in kilometers and whose goal in life is to see America ditch the standard system.

But in a country that's hooked on pounds, gallons and miles, it is a lonely cause. Last October during National Metric Week he sat alone in front of Norwich City Hall wearing a pro-metric placard and asking for signatures on a petition to get the U.S. Postal Service to weigh and measure packages in metric. Six people signed it.

Maynard, 52, a metrics fanatic since the age of 14, is used to the tepid response. He founded two metric associations in 1993 in Plainfield and in York, Maine. Each has about six members.

"They're not as passionate about it as I am," he said. "They kind of just go along with it."

Like most American youth, Maynard learned metrics in high school but unlike others, he has embraced it. He's even special ordered his truck with an odometer that reads distance in kilometers and writes congratulatory letters to companies that convert to dual labeling on products.

Maynard argues metrics is simpler because it's based on powers of 10 and more effective because the rest of the world uses it in business and in the military.

But despite several laws recognizing metric as the preferred system of measurement in the U.S., it's been slow to gain footing. The U.S. remains the only industrialized nation in the world to predominantly use the standard system, also known as the English system.

That doesn't mean metric measurements haven't crept into daily life in America. Soda comes in liters, film is in millimeters and electricity power is based on watts. Most food products use grams on their labels.

The hodgepodge of units has led to problems. In 1999, the Mars Climate Orbiter burned up in the Martian atmosphere because NASA navigators mistakenly thought a contractor used metric measurements when standard units were actually used.

"It's confusing to use two systems — even for rocket scientists," said Lorelle Young, president of the U.S. Metric Association.

In Plainfield, where Maynard's association put up distance signs in kilometers, residents aren't even aware of the signs, even when they're right down the street.

Marlene Chenail, 70, lives up the street from one of Maynard's signs. She says she doesn't know the meaning behind "RI state border 8 km."

"We've never really looked at it but we know that it's there," Chenail said.

Maynard attributes the unfamiliarity to America's resistance to change and the perception that it's a foreign system.

"We seem, in our culture, awfully afraid to challenge people to think," he said.

While Maynard is one of the few adamantly promoting the system, there are others who speak out against metrication.

Seaver Leslie, president of Americans for Customary Weight and Measure in Wiscasset, Maine, said Americans shouldn't be forced to use either and argues that standard units are superior because the units are human-based and has history. The furlong — an eighth of a mile — is the distance a farmer could plow in a field and still be in earshot of his house if there was danger, Leslie said. Etymologists believe the word represents the distance a team of oxen could plow without needing a rest.

"They're very practical and very poetic," Leslie said. "They have worked for the farmer in the field, the carpenter in the shop and large contractors in industry and for our aerospace industry."


TOPICS: Culture/Society; US: Connecticut
KEYWORDS: metrics
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I've always liked the metric system; a lot of my interests are international in scope and nearly all researchers publish their findings using the metric system.
1 posted on 05/15/2006 10:41:03 AM PDT by Junior
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To: Junior

I remember our teachers telling us in the 60s that the US was going to begin using nothing but the metric system very soon so we had better learn it. With the exception of two or three liter soda bottles, I've done fine without it.


2 posted on 05/15/2006 10:43:07 AM PDT by mlc9852
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To: Junior

see America ditch the standard system.


Sorry, ditches are a mile apart


3 posted on 05/15/2006 10:44:42 AM PDT by PeterPrinciple (Seeking the truth here folks.)
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To: Junior
...president of Americans for Customary Weight and Measure in Wiscasset, Maine...

I guess by biggest reaction to this is relief that we are prosperous and contented enough to have people organizing groups like this.

Having said that, it's probably true that everyone who needs to be fluent in the metric system (scientists, as you say, and also people trading internationally) is. And thus despite our having inherited them from the Brits, I think our measures make for a charming piece of American exceptionalism.

4 posted on 05/15/2006 10:44:44 AM PDT by untenured
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To: Junior
In 1999, the Mars Climate Orbiter burned up in the Martian atmosphere because NASA navigators mistakenly thought a contractor used metric measurements when standard units were actually used.

There's no excuse for this. In science the international system should be used for all measurements.

5 posted on 05/15/2006 10:45:05 AM PDT by ahayes (Yes, I have a devious plot. No, you may not know what it is.)
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To: Junior

i've known Brent for a lot of years. he's a real hoot. a bit of a gadfly and folks just look upon him as a bit of an eccentric. he often wears a kilt.

he also has a heart of gold and will go the extra mile to help a friend and do the right thing.

can be annoying as hell tho, but what a guy!


6 posted on 05/15/2006 10:46:50 AM PDT by camle (Keep your mind open and somebody will fill if full of something for you.)
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To: mlc9852
Many people can get by without it. My wife is into making jewelry and aromatherapy scents; she has to buy a lot of her supplies from overseas and is always asking me to make conversions from metric to standard for her. As the world becomes more integrated more and more people will start having to use the metric system on a regular basis.

As I pointed out above, I started using it regularly because of one of my hobbies -- I'm an amateur paleozoologist, and nearly all publications dealing in the subject use the International system for measurements.

7 posted on 05/15/2006 10:47:05 AM PDT by Junior (Identical fecal matter, alternate diurnal period)
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To: Junior

The metric system would be better. The trick is to get people to have the same intuitive feel for metric measurements that they now have for the standard system. We're getting there, but it will take another generation or two.


8 posted on 05/15/2006 10:47:09 AM PDT by beckett (Amor Fati)
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To: Junior

Seems to me we used inches, feet, gallons, miles, etc to get to the moon in 1969.


9 posted on 05/15/2006 10:48:24 AM PDT by Vaquero ("An armed society is a polite society" Robert A. Heinlein)
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To: Junior

I was trained as an engineer in the SI/Metric system. Newton Meters. Kilowatts. kcmils. I started to work as an engineer. I get foot-pounds, kips, horsepower, and AWG tables. Thanks a lot.


10 posted on 05/15/2006 10:48:35 AM PDT by domenad (In all things, in all ways, at all times, let honor guide me.)
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To: camle
will go the extra mile

Ahem. The extra 1.6 km, you mean. ;-)

11 posted on 05/15/2006 10:48:54 AM PDT by ahayes (Yes, I have a devious plot. No, you may not know what it is.)
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To: ahayes

that's exactly what he would say - with that maniacal grin of his.

he used to run the annual christmas bonfire. he had a wonderful time running around getting things ready, etc. took him all year to amass enough wood to suit him. big pile. safety issues preculdes him from continuation, something we're all sorry for.

he never got anything extra for it, but he did so love making things work.

he tried an alcoholfree oktoberfest once. goe me hooked on bratwurst, but there were only a few people who attended.


12 posted on 05/15/2006 10:52:26 AM PDT by camle (Keep your mind open and somebody will fill if full of something for you.)
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To: Junior

I wouldn't mind IF we use the best most appropriate units for whatever it is you're measuring.

I'm sorry, but "cm" for people height just doesn't cut it. I don't want to say "one-hundred seventy-nine centimeters" when it could simply be "seventeen point nine decimeters".


And another thing - PLEASE let us never spell the English way - "Rs" switched with "Es". To wit, "centimetre" - BLAH!


13 posted on 05/15/2006 10:53:17 AM PDT by the OlLine Rebel (Common sense is an uncommon virtue.)
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To: Junior

I wonder what metric system he is going to use. His choice of centimeters doesn't seem to be in line with current usage. On the other hand he can go off any way he wants and it probably won't be noticed by most.


14 posted on 05/15/2006 10:53:26 AM PDT by FreePaul
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To: Junior

Well, my teachers were saying the same thing you are and I'm still waiting. Actually I am quite surprised the US hasn't converted to metric yet but I guess we are a stubborn lot.


15 posted on 05/15/2006 10:54:05 AM PDT by mlc9852
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Meters for Yards, Kilometers for Miles, Kilograms for Pounds.......next thing you know, it will be Esperanto for English.

This has to stop.


16 posted on 05/15/2006 10:54:23 AM PDT by Range Rover (Who says new laws will work when you can't enforce the ones you have already?)
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To: Junior
He founded two metric associations in 1993 in Plainfield and in York, Maine. Each has about six members.

That's 0.6 decamembers.

17 posted on 05/15/2006 10:55:02 AM PDT by Heyworth
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To: ahayes

I recall we were pretty much set to change in 76' or so and at the last minute couldn't pull the trigger. Canada I heard was a little miffed we balked as they had put everything in place and made the conversion. Since probably 90 or maybe even 95% of Americans can't tell you how long a mile is or how many square feet in an acre I'd say our system is just too difficult to remember to be worth the trouble. Doubt me? How many TBLS in a cup?gallon? About the only thing I have been sure of for a long time is the ton. 2000lbs and that is only because it is an easy number. Not like 128oz in a gal.


18 posted on 05/15/2006 10:57:02 AM PDT by Edison
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To: ahayes

Yeah, that "metric" system is real standard:

but do you mean ISO metric, DIN metric, or JIS metric?
Where we've adopted the metric system in this country, it's been the ISO system, in which the fasteners, for example are generally incompatible with DIN (German) and JIS (Japanese) metric fasteners.

As an engineer and a scientist, I use the Imperial system exclusively, and whenever I need to convert, why, there's always a calculator handy.


19 posted on 05/15/2006 10:58:31 AM PDT by Redbob
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To: domenad
I own tool and die company and we work in ten thousandths of an inch exclusively. All we need to know is multiply millimeters by .03937 and presto! instant inch figure.

Having to remember all the 64'ths is a bigger problem than metric conversion ever will be. If we went to decimal for everything instead of fractions we could convert a lot easier.

20 posted on 05/15/2006 10:59:10 AM PDT by Abathar (Helen Thomas's first job was the practice dummy at the ugly-stick apprenticeship school.)
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To: mlc9852
Actually I am quite surprised the US hasn't converted to metric yet but I guess we are a stubborn lot.

Drug dealers work with metric units from what I have heard. The 9mm handgun is supposed to be popular with them also. :)
21 posted on 05/15/2006 10:59:22 AM PDT by P-40
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To: camle
he also has a heart of gold and will go the extra mile to help a friend and do the right thing.

I think you mean "the extra 1.6 kilometers..."

22 posted on 05/15/2006 11:00:38 AM PDT by Junior (Identical fecal matter, alternate diurnal period)
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Comment #23 Removed by Moderator

To: FreePaul
His choice of centimeters doesn't seem to be in line with current usage.

???

24 posted on 05/15/2006 11:02:56 AM PDT by Junior (Identical fecal matter, alternate diurnal period)
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To: Junior

Man, you give this guy an inch and he makes 2.54 centimeters out of it.


25 posted on 05/15/2006 11:03:22 AM PDT by SuperSonic (Bush "Lied", People Dyed.....their fingers Purple.)
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To: Edison
About the only thing I have been sure of for a long time is the ton. 2000lbs

yah,unless yer dealin in long tons....;-)

26 posted on 05/15/2006 11:04:57 AM PDT by Minnesoootan
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To: Heyworth

Funniest post this week.


27 posted on 05/15/2006 11:04:58 AM PDT by wideawake
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To: untenured
And thus despite our having inherited them from the Brits, I think our measures make for a charming piece of American exceptionalism.

Me too. My preference for the standard system is purely emotional. I enjoy knowing that 3 tsp = 1 TBSP, and that 4 TBSP = 1/4 cup. And what about imprecise measurements like a pinch, a dollop, and (my mother's best friend's favorite) a glug?

I'm sure the metric system is useful for some things, but it's just too dry and sterile for me.

28 posted on 05/15/2006 11:05:29 AM PDT by American Quilter
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To: Junior
We're strictly metric here at work in the biotech field.

Have to say, though, I have a real attachment to the messy standard measures of pounds, miles, gallons and such.
29 posted on 05/15/2006 11:06:07 AM PDT by mysterio
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To: Junior

If they only taught metric in school and changed everything else immediately, we would all be comfortable with it inside a year.

If we only taught and spoke English we'd all be comfortable with in inside a year.

It really is unproductive to teach two types of measurements, two languages, etc.


30 posted on 05/15/2006 11:06:09 AM PDT by 1Old Pro
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To: Redbob

Some years ago I had a lot of fun with a group of Europeans who were giving me a bad time about when we would convert. I told them that we were waiting on them to decide which metric system to use. They got into a big argument among themselves with the Dutch and Germans re-fighting WWII and the others taking sides. I didn't have to defend our system any more that night.


31 posted on 05/15/2006 11:08:17 AM PDT by FreePaul
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To: Heyworth
That's 0.6 decamembers.

LOL!

32 posted on 05/15/2006 11:08:33 AM PDT by American Quilter
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To: P-40
Another reason to not like the 9mm!

In all seriousness, in engineering school we all had to use the metric system, and then convert back to English units.

In my various jobs, I have had to use them interchangeably.
33 posted on 05/15/2006 11:08:42 AM PDT by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: Redbob
International System is my choice.
34 posted on 05/15/2006 11:09:02 AM PDT by ahayes (Yes, I have a devious plot. No, you may not know what it is.)
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To: camle

say it is a system of 10's is deceptive. The gravitational constant is 9.8m/sec2. you will still have numbers like 35.4 X 729. The Europeans use a 32mm cabinet system? The list goes on. Beside it was created by the french


35 posted on 05/15/2006 11:09:10 AM PDT by jjjf
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To: 1Old Pro
It really is unproductive to teach two types of measurements, two languages, etc.

I'll have to disagree with you there. The standard system is basically a hodge-podge of different systems. It has its charms, but it can be rather confusing.

36 posted on 05/15/2006 11:09:47 AM PDT by Junior (Identical fecal matter, alternate diurnal period)
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To: TonyRo76

AMEN to that! I know I am HOT when its 95 degrees out, 22C means nothing to my body!


37 posted on 05/15/2006 11:10:17 AM PDT by JimFreedom (My patience is growing thin)
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To: Edison

Nautical Miles are much better for navigation than meters. Base 10 is good, but no one is suggesting base 10 time units. (100 seconds to minute, 100 minutes to hour, 10 hours to day).

Because the earth is round 360 turns out to be a magic number


38 posted on 05/15/2006 11:10:33 AM PDT by Jack Black
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To: TonyRo76

As an old friend loves to say.

"Remember, the Communists used metric!"


39 posted on 05/15/2006 11:10:33 AM PDT by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: Junior

I believe that the MKS system is more commonly used than the CGS system now.


40 posted on 05/15/2006 11:11:23 AM PDT by FreePaul
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To: American Quilter
I have a degree in Chemistry and Biology and the metric system is the only way to easily make the necessary calculations in either specialty. The US is lagging far behind the rest of the world in math, partially due to our antiquated system. Many professions in the US depend on metrics daily. Check your medicine bottle for dosage. In milligrams.
41 posted on 05/15/2006 11:12:11 AM PDT by phil1750 (Love like you've never been hurt;Dance like nobody's watching;PRAY like it's your last prayer)
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To: FreePaul
They got into a big argument among themselves with the Dutch and Germans re-fighting WWII and the others taking sides. I didn't have to defend our system any more that night.

Funny!

42 posted on 05/15/2006 11:13:21 AM PDT by American Quilter
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To: redgolum
"Remember, the Communists used metric!"

The communist ate food and breathed air, too...

43 posted on 05/15/2006 11:15:09 AM PDT by Junior (Identical fecal matter, alternate diurnal period)
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To: phil1750
I have a degree in Chemistry and Biology and the metric system is the only way to easily make the necessary calculations in either specialty.

I believe you. I just don't like it!

'Scuse me while I put a pinch of salt in my casserole.

44 posted on 05/15/2006 11:16:18 AM PDT by American Quilter
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To: Junior

Give 'em 2.54 centimeters and they'll take 1.61 kilometers.


45 posted on 05/15/2006 11:16:28 AM PDT by VRWCmember
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To: Junior
Since I went to Community College I feel I can quote Chris Rock safely.
It's like a Disco with Books...

I like the metric system for tools, what comes after 7/16"? OK, that's easy, what comes after 1/4"?
46 posted on 05/15/2006 11:17:05 AM PDT by Lx (Do you like it, do you like it. Scott? I call it Mr. and Mrs. Tennerman chili.)
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To: American Quilter
Let me know when McDonald's starts selling a "113.4 Grammer"

SD

47 posted on 05/15/2006 11:17:33 AM PDT by SoothingDave
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To: Junior
We have metric in Canada -- because we thought that the U.S. was going to switch. I'm sorry we didn't wait.

The (only) big advantage of metric is the "base 10" thing. I grew up with the "Imperial" system & there is a lot of memory work involved, and a lot of conversions because of the multitude of bases (2, 3, 12, 16, 40, 5,218, etc.) To say nothing of the problem of converting from Imperial to American fluid measures (bigger ounces in the U.S., bigger quarts and gallons in Imperial). However, the Imperial (or "Traditional") measurement system is more intuitive because it is based on human dimensions and applications.

So far as I know there has never been a metric baby in Canada -- everyone reports the birth weight (most common question after the sex) in pounds and ounces -- even today's parents who were taught nothing but the metric system in school. It's a tradition that I hope stays a long time.
48 posted on 05/15/2006 11:17:40 AM PDT by USFRIENDINVICTORIA
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To: redgolum
As an old friend loves to say. "Remember, the Communists used metric!"

As does our military. It takes some getting used to, and you can't do it with half-way measures like 2 liter bottles and the smaller kilometer per hour ring on speedometers.

49 posted on 05/15/2006 11:18:10 AM PDT by pawdoggie
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To: TonyRo76
I hate the metric system, and always have!

Do you advocate a change from our decimal currency?

50 posted on 05/15/2006 11:19:48 AM PDT by Peelod (Decentia est fragilis. Curatoribus validis indiget.)
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