Ok, ok – I know this is a hot button issue with many of us independent-minded Americans. “Why should we switch, just because 99% of the rest of the world has figured out that the metric system is far superior to the old English system that we now use?” (the British ditched the English system in the early 1960’s – “BTU’s” or “British Thermal Units” is no longer used by the Brits, replaced by the “Joule”).

I was in Canada in the 70’s while their conversions were taking place: weather was given in both metric and English and road signs were replaced with Metric as they were needed; cooking utensils had both units listed – if you check your measuring cups now, I suspect most of them have both – so there – you won’t even have to buy new measruing cups! Most of you new cars now require metric socket sets, right? Why fight it? Metric is far better anyway!

And here’s a nice fact:

According to the US Metric Association, ‘The only other countries that have not officially adopted the metric system are Liberia (in western Africa) and Burma (also known as Myanmar, in Southeast Asia).’
According to a web page found here.

Do we really want to share this distinction with Liberia and Burma only?

The Metric system was developed in France during the Napoleonic reign of France in the 1790’s. The metric system has several advantages over the English system which is still in place in the U.S. However the scientific community has adopted the metric system almost from its inception. In fact, the metric system missed being nationalized in this country by one vote in the Continental Congress in the late 1700’s or early 1800’s. The advantages of the Metric system are:

It was based on a decimal system (ie:powers of ten). Therefore, it simplifies calculations by using a set of prefixes which we will discuss in a few minutes.

It is used by most other nations of the world, and therefore, it has commercial and trade advantage. If an American manufacturer that has domestic and international customers is to compete, they have to absorb the added cost of dealing with two systems of measurement.

Ok – here’s the lesson:

Milli – 1/1000th,
Centi – 1/100th
Deci – 1/10th
Kilo – 1000X

Now you have learned Metric! Isn’t that easy! 100 centimeter are in a meter (approximately a yard, for those of you (McCain) who like to stick to the old ways!), 1000 meters are in a kilkometer (km).

No more 3 tsp to a tbsp, which has no relation to 4 quarts in a gallon, or 16 oz. in a pint or is it a quart?, or 8 oz. in a cup? – does anybody have ANY idea what the heck a peck is and how it relates to a bushel? How many square feet in an acre? Argghh!

I am fairly math-challenged so I knew that God had a sense of humor when I had to learn the math and the metric system (I took Biology so I wouldn’t have to learn math – yeah right).

I can remember the date – September 2 or 3rd in 1975, for oh, say just about 1/2 hour – that it took me to learn the metric system in high school chemistry. I have been a convert ever since.

Yes – I use it extensively as a scientist (there is a cool conversion that helps a lot: one cubic centimeter of water (1 cc) is equal in weight to 1 gram (1 g). SOoooo.. when you are measuring small amounts of a liquid, you don’t have to use tiny little measuring cups, you can just weigh it on your nifty lab scale!

For reference, 1 liter is a little more than 1 quart. One teaspoon equals about 5 milliliters.

Prefix Multiply by
milli- 0.001
centi- 0.01
deci- 0.1
deka- 10
hecto- 100
kilo- 1000

So for example:
1 hectometer = 100 meters
1 centigram = 0.01 gram
3 milliliters = 3 X (0.001 liters) = 0.003 liters
0.9 kilometers = 0.9 X (1000 meters) = 900 meters

*** see the pattern here? Milli, centi, kilo – all the same prefixes, no matter what the unit of measurement is! For length, weight, volume, heat, electricity, etc…***

1 millimeter = 0.001 meter
1 centimeter = 0.01 meter
1 decimeter = 0.1 meter
1 kilometer = 1000 meters

The abbreviations are:

1 millimeter = 1 mm
1 centimeter = 1 cm
1 meter = 1 m
1 decimeter = 1 dm
1 kilometer = 1 km

1 milliliter = 0.001 liter
1 centiliter = 0.01 liter
1 deciliter = 0.1 liter
1 kiloliter = 1000 liters

From these units, we see that 1000 milliliters equal 1 liter; so 1 milliliter equals 1 cubic centimeter in volume (remember my chemistry measurements that don’t require the tiny measuring cups above?). We abbreviate these volumes as follows:

1 milliliter = 1 ml
1 centiliter = 1 cl
1 deciliter = 1 dl
1 liter = 1 l
1 kiloliter = 1 kl

For reference, 1 liter is a little more than 1 quart. One teaspoon equals about 5 milliliters.

Oh yes – here’s a good one for you weight-conscious folks out there: a kilogram (kg) is larger than a pound, so a 150 lb. man would weigh only 70 kg! So… it sounds like you weigh less – metric is good for your mental health! :)

We are all used to 2 liter and 1 liter bottles, so how easy would it be to figure out liters of gasoline and milliliters for cooking? How many recipes would be saved by not using the wrong amount? (“you mean there are 3 tsp in a tablespoon? I thought there were 4!”)

Also, We are already metric on many of our units:

Amps, Watts, Volts and Hertz are Metric.

More on the metric system:


A comprehensive list of metric units:
http://www.mathleague.com/help/metric/metric.htm and


This consitutes an educational public service posting by RightPunidts – we are here for you!