Friday, November 02, 2012



Just finished “World in the Balance” by Robert Crease, as I have been so frustrated that we in the U.S. Can't use the metric system & wanted to really get down and find out why.

It seems such a system is nothing new as it was considered in 1791. The French were the instigators of such a system. Even then, they determined there were three ways to set a measurement;

1 The length of a one second pendulum

2 ¼ of the earth's equator.

3 A portion of the meridian running thru Paris. e.i., the basic unit length would be based on a ten millionth part of the meridian.

Meter is from the Greek “metron” or measure.

One universal and unchanging standard would be the meter (or tenths of) to be cubed in order to hold water (distilled at the temperature of melting ice.) (Perrier?). But it had to be a measure found in nature, so when a standard was lost of damaged they could be replaced.

Of course, the French went overboard at first - made clock time decimated in 10 hour days, 100 minute hours, 100 second minutes, which actually worked for ten years. They also got off to a clean start with the year 1793 replaced with the year one. Just like the Mohammedans.

Copies of a meter were placed all over Paris and two are left. I'll find the one on Place Vendome and report back to you in the spring.

In 1999 the 327 million Mars Orbiter disintregrated as it approached Mars because its engineers mixed up meters and feet!

In 1790, a Mr. Dombry was sent to America with a meter and a cube (a litre?). Just as he neared Philadelphia, a storm sent his ship to the Antilles, a French colony. He was arrested and imprisoned. During a riot he was pushed off a rampart into the water, resulting in a bad fever. However, the govenor finally recognized him, put him on another ship to America. But a British privateer took him hostage and imprisoned him in the British colony of Montserat, where he died. But the cargo was auctioned and someone sent the meter and kilogram to the U.S., but never sent it to the U.S. Congress.

As each colony determined it's own weights and measures, the Articles of confederation (1777) gave congress the right of “fixing standards of weights and measures”. Since no action was taken on this, we just borrowed the British standards. Madison at least got the coinage system into a decimal system by 1786, too bad he thought we needed pennies, or maybe you could buy something for a penny in those days.

Strangely after all this thinking and agonizing, the metric system is very similar to the units of measure used in Mesopotamia about five thousand years ago. (That would be Iraq). Where 1 meter = 1 Mesopatanian step, 1 litre=1 Meso. Bowl, etc. By 1880 half the world's population used the new system. But not us! An early attempt in US was in the 1920's by a group of pesky women, The General Federation of Women's Clubs. It failed, unfortunately.

Part of our reluctance to change (other than our arrogance and smugness) was the cost of changing all our steel, lumber, screws, etc. was just too much for some. Another roadblock was put up by some religionists who had a very strong lobby. “We have to defend our Native Anglo-Saxon metrology which derives from the God-designed metrology of Isreal and found in the great pyramid of Giza”

Meanwhile, the IS (System Internationale) is still refining the definition of a meter. In addition to the speed of light, we could use Plank's Constant, An elementary charge, Boltzmann's Constant or Avagdro's Number. Take your pick.

Mean meanwhile, we remain the only industrialized nation without the Metric system, along with Liberia and Burma.