In March of last year, trying to come up with new and interesting science/math related Twitter polls to feature on WREG Daybreak weekend news, I decided to poll people to see if they would be interested in one – just one and only one – forecast to be done in metric temperature measurements rather than the usual English units. The response was about as expected.

What follows was a typical response… (all spelling & syntax sic)

Dear Austen,

I am amazed at the response you received regarding “metric” weather forcasting.  Perhaps there are a lot more out here like me who did not even know until today that there was a poll on the subject.  I would absolutely vote NO.  If you want to use metrics in your forecast, even once a day, you should show the NORMAL forcast numbers at the same time.  I feel the same way about “metrics” as I do our English language.  If someone moves to this country, they should learn to speak, read and write English as well as learn our mathematical system.  We should not have to conform to THEIR language or metrics.  If we go their countries, we have to learn their language, and they must do the same or stay home!!!

I know these comments will not do any good, but please note there are a lot of us who feel the same way.

Thank you,
[Name Withheld]

For those still asking: yes, I did one – just one and only one – forecast in metrics as the poll numbers ran slightly ahead on the “Yes, do the forecast in metrics” selection over the other two choices of “No, don’t do the forecast in metrics” and the ever-popular “Don’t care either way”. As promised, I did one seven day extended forecast in metrics. Many responses of “It’s just not American” were met with “Why is that?” from me. A small percentage chose to respond to my Why? with a repeat of their Not-American choice.

None of them were able (to my satisfaction) explain why they thought that way. It just wasn’t done, and to even suggest using metrics for anything was to invite scorn, contempt, ridicule and cries of “Traitor!” or “Communist!” to the comment section. The cries of foul play from some viewers were devilish in their nature, suggesting my eternal soul was at stake for doing such a thing. There were, by contrast, some supporting statements, but none as dedicatedly staunch as those who compared using metric measurements to an erasure of culture or a government takeover by some shadowy cabal overseas.

The only thing – seriously – that I was trying to accomplish was a gauging of the attitudes of Mid-Southerners (or whomever wanted to participate) of what they felt regarding the metric system, but also to apply the idea of “Why”.

Well, admittedly… it was not entirely the only reason. The “why” of it bothers me. Fear of an imminent hostile nation’s attack, I can understand. Fear of a numbers system <as> an attack? At what point do people fear numbers so much that they have to alter reality to comfort their ideas?

Oh yeah… right….


To this day, I cannot understand the fear generated when the idea of using kilometers instead of miles is brought up, grams vs. ounces, millimeters versus 1/32 of an inch, nor can I understand the double-standards applied when you have two liter bottles of soda readily available at the grocery store, yet not a soul (to my knowledge) lifts a finger to complain via phone or e-mail to the store management that <gasp!> metrics have found their way into a true blue American grocery store!

<<<Five Massive Screw-ups That Wouldn’t Have Happened If We All Just Used the Metric System (Gizmodo)>>>

I am seriously considering another metrics episode in the near future, after another poll to engage the public on their views. Doubtful that anything has changed within the last year to swing the needle towards a positive view of metrics, I would like to be able to bring the idea of metrics to the public attention, mostly for my own selfish benefit: please – beyond the idea that metrics means a foreign takeover of the United States – help me to see where the fear is coming from.

I do not get it in the slightest. I don’t think I am being thick or misunderstanding it. I think that the attitude is ingrained in the national infrastructure of thought, passed down from generation to generation, in that These Here United States are not supposed to work with the rest of the world but set the standard for everyone else.

Conversely, if nearly every other country on the planet uses this cursed system of math, it doesn’t mean that we have to do it because we are the United States. This circular, vicious-circle logic gives me a headache, and makes me want to fight harder to get people, especially students, to understand that they are just numbers and nothing to be afraid of. The two-liter bottle of root beer is 0.528344 in gallons. Doesn’t two liters (easily divided into milliliters) make more sense mathematically speaking? Why do we not have 0.528344 gallon bottles instead, if metrics is such an existential threat to our country’s livelihood and future?


Stay tuned for the potential of another metric forecast in the Mid-South future. Poll to be (possibly) posted on Twitter.


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