Metric football

metric_football.jpgAt one time, the United States was heading toward the metric system. A few mileage markers were changed. Somewhere in Massachusetts, there’s still a sign to tell drivers that Portsmouth, New Hampshire is 35 km away. And decades later, most New Englanders still don’t know how far away Portsmouth really.

Not long after Coke introduced the 2-liter bottle, cooler heads prevailed and eighths, sixteenths, miles, and gallons were saved from extinction.

This trip down memory lane is brought to you by northfield.org, which has a short piece today on the “metric football game” between Carleton and St. Olaf in 1977.

Posting here will be intermittent this week. I’m filling in for Jon Gordon on American Public Media’s Future Tense this week, which requires me to think deep technical thoughts.

  • I think the lack of the metric system in the US hurts our science education. Severely.

    Serious science students in high school (and college) have to deal with a measurement system with which they are only at best vaguely familiar. Worse, except in a few cases, the students aren’t previously immersed in it, and so trying to use it is like reading and using a foreign language.

    It would be massively expensive to convert everything, there would be massive howls, but in the long term, adopting the metric system would make the US much more competitive.

  • brian

    I heartily agree. It would be a royal pain for all of us that grew up with the English system, but it would be great for our children. The metric system is so much simpler.

  • JohnnyZoom

    I agree in principle with the above posters, although perhaps not as strongly as they might. My own experience tempers my conviction here.

    When I got my technical education (Bachelor’s degree and up), I was immersed in the metric system which, at the time, while I “knew” that 100 cm were in a meter, I had very little idea of what either were in their own right. Yet during the educational process I picked up a lot of that, to the point where I can think in either system quite competently.

    I don’t know if my experience would be typical or not. The one drawback is that before college, I really couldn’t think in metric. But on the other hand, I never really had to.