USMA — 100 Years Part III

USMA-2002Those Who Don’t Learn From History….

By The Metric Maven

The 21st century arrived on January 1st 2001, and after this temporal milestone passed, NASA looked into their lack of metric practice. The May-June issue of Metric Today quotes an Inspector General report: “NASA’s use of the metric system varies from program to program and from Center to Center.” The article noted that “NASA does not give program/project managers very much guidance for using the metric system.” If there was ever a more perfect example of the importance and need for a measurements coordinator position, with actual authority, I cannot think of one. Pat Naughtin emphasized the need for measurements coordinators, and I’ve written about my own experience with uncoordinated practice in industry.

The eight recommendations from the Inspector General to NASA are just more pablum which will change nothing. Number 6 begins: “NASA should show caution in granting SI waivers to entire programs. Use of SI within a `waivered` project project should be permitted, when appropriate.” SI should be “permitted”? Here is what should have been recommended: 1. NASA must have a mandatory transition to metric-only in two years from this date or face steep penalties. 2. All measurements for all projects must be approved by an office of measurement coordination and must be exclusively in metric, no exceptions, no waivers, no excuses.

Aerospace Week & Space Technology indicated that a law passed to reduce paperwork eliminated the requirement for all agencies to report metric progress. Waivers were no longer required. The magazines suggestion?—“…immediate restoration of the waiver process.” (MT May-June 2001)

The new millennium would not begin favorably for U.S. Metrication. Washington had become even more unresponsive when it concerned metric, which hardly seemed possible.

Metric and inch-pound mistakes continued to produce tragedy and loss. The July-August issue of Metric Today (MT) reported that the crash of Korean Air Cargo Flight 6316 occurred because of a metric-medieval unit confusion. The flight was to travel from Shanghai to Seoul.  The South Korea Ministry of Construction and Transportation determined that the crash was “due to a mix-up in the cockpit on whether the altitude should be measured in meters or feet. According to MT:

The accident took place soon after takeoff in Shanghai and killed 3 crew members, 5 people on the ground, and injured 40 construction personnel when it fell onto a construction site near the airport.

The summary of the report on the incident stated that a Chinese air controller directed the pilots to 1500 [assuming the pilots would know it meant 1500 meters], However, because the international aviation industry commonly measures altitude in feet, it is assumed the pilot concluded the McDonnell Douglas MD-11 was almost 1000 meters too high, so quickly moved to lower the plane. When he realized his error, it was not possible to correct the error in time, and the plane crashed.

Another metric setback occurred when Professional Engineer Thomas R. Warne, P.E. resigned his Utah DOT position, but not before announcing that Utah would revert to inch-pound medieval units for road construction in 12 months. From that point on all work will be done in Ye Olde English units. This reversal appears to have occurred throughout the nation.

The Metric Today issue of May-June 2002 had a face-lift by a graphic artist, courtesy of QSI corporation.

The subject of allowing metric-only packaging in the US continues to be discussed in Metric Today  to this day. No current pro-metric legislation is discussed, as there does not appear to be any. NIST continues to employ a metric coordinator, but their influence appears to be more ceremonial at this point than actual. A focus on metric education is a constant drum beat in Metric Today even as there is no perceptual change to metric in the US making it a virtual experience. All the measures of everyday life are given in Medieval Olde English Units. When metric dimensions do appear in MT, the centimeter pseudo-inch is utilized constantly. The world record eyebrow hair is touted as 9 centimeters (90 millimeters for those with a refined measurement sense) and belongs to Sardar Singh of Amritsar, India. If Metric Today itself has a policy concerning metric usage, the centimeter is still a sacred cow.

In the same issue (MT Sep-Oct-2003) it was noted that Pat Naughtin launched his email newsletter, Metrication Matters, on Jun 9th. Naughtin strongly argued for using millimeters as the common small metric unit. The Nov-Dec Metric Today contains a table with the prefix cluster around unity, and the same number of Medieval Olde English Units for comparison. Which only reinforces a perceived equality between the system and non-system which does not exist.

The issue of implementing a law that allows metric only labeling for goods across the country is a continuing topic. Metric changes in other countries are highlighted. In August of 2004 the California Department of Transportation (CALTRANS) decided to revert back to US units over a two year period.

Professional Engineer Robert Bullard P.E. attempted to begin metric construction in Florida. The local government officials refused to go along with metric drawings. I’ve written about his problems here, and in the end, he’s been compelled by “market forces” to go back to inch-pound designs.

The US hard metric conversion of masonry was overturned (MT Jan-Feb 2005):

The National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA) announced in a 19 November 2004 press release that Congress has passed the Department of Energy High-End Computing Revitalization Act of 2004, which eliminates the requirement for hard metric concrete units in federal construction plans. The bill, expected to be signed into law by President [George W.] Bush, nixes the mandate for the use of round metric 200 x 200 x 400 mm concrete units, instead of soft-converted 203 x 203 x 406 mm units, in U.S. government construction.

The motivation for this rejection is enigmatic. The manufacturers would be putting less material into each brick, and probably charging the same amount of money.

USMA-Logo-2007A nostalgia for the 1970s metrication period begins to seep into the pages of Metric Today. The only new recurring metric issue is the need for a new definition of the Kilogram. The biggest news is not metric legislation from within the U.S. but pressure from Japan in 2006. Japan insisted that the U.S. Government “…ensure thorough adoption of the metric system in public and private sectors of the United States.” (MT May-Jun 2006). The European Union also began to insist on the U.S. providing metric only trade goods, but nothing would come from it. Metric meetings which had been so prevalent only a couple of decades before, were extinct.

From the time she became USMA president, Lorelle Young tirelessly traveled to Washington to lobby for metrication, and is prominent in Metric Today for constantly promoting metric. Unfortunately it is a never ending task in the U.S., which has reaped only irrational political push-back. One must admire her tenacity and drive in the face of overwhelming reactionary political opposition.

The current era appears, in my view, to be a retreat to the past. In the United States, only minute islands of metric exist within a sea of ancient US measures. New York state had converted to metric for road construction, then announced it would un-convert from metric in late 2006. Metric Today has a considerable number of column-millimeters which feature metric nostalgia, but no federal bills, pro or anti-metric, grace her pages. Why? Because they don’t exist. You will have a better chance of spotting Bigfoot on the House or Senate floor than pro-metric legislation.

NASA announced that its Constellation program was to be metric, and then later retracted that assertion.

Senator Clayborn Pell would die in 2009.

In 2009, metric signs along I-19 in Arizona began to feel the pressure from anti-metric forces. The signs had been placed there in 1979 while the US Metric Board existed. The I-19 Controversy continues and does not appear resolved.

The US Senate confirmed Dr. Patrick Gallagher as Director of NIST in 2009. As longtime readers know, he was the feckless Director who, in 2013, rebuffed the We The People Petition which requested that Congress make metric the exclusive measurement system of the US.

By 2010 The Federal Highway Administration issued a new manual of standards. The 2003 edition had dual-units; the 2009 has only inch-pound.

In 2013 an isolated metric legislative apparition appeared. MT reported:

On 17 January 2013 in the state of Hawaii, Representative Karl Rhoads, who represents Hawaii’s 28th House District, introduced a bill in the state legislature that would make the metric system the official system of measurement in Hawaii by the year 2018.

Why this legislation was introduced is a mystery. It was never passed.

In 2015 Lorelle Young stepped down as President of the USMA. There were immediate changes in Metric Today. The September-October issue contains a new tagline: Advocating the completion of U.S. conversion to the metric system. Had the old tagline remained, it would have informed the reader that 2016 was the USMA’s 100th year. It is hard to see the new tagline as anything other than a denial of the obvious: essentially there has been no beginning of a metric conversion in the United States. Advocating a completion of something which has not begun seems much like advocating that Liberia complete their quest to win the Super Bowl. I’m sure there must be a football team somewhere in Liberia, which means they have begun the process.

The writing found in the November-December Metric Today belies their tagline. USMA VP Paul Trusten has this to say (pp 3-4):

Even now, I feel almost as if I am acting in secret. What began as simple public ignorance has festered into a public prejudice similar to racial prejudice. …

So, with regard to completing US metrication, we have to take what may amount to a historically unique stance as both leaders and protesters. We are NOT underdogs. We are very much a part of the “Establishment,” the people who wield technology on a daily basis.

Martin Morrison, wrote a Metric Training and Education column that month which states:

There is an advantage in having US industry and media take the lead in metric conversion. When the government does things, all the naysayers rev up their anti-metric propaganda, much of which is factually false. When industry and media use metric by their own volition, there is essentially no resistance. Americans just accept it, or don’t even notice it. It just happens. In this context, I am very happy to see the US Metric Association’s new motto: “Advocating the Completion of US Conversion to the Metric System.” That nails it!

No Metric Philosopher has ever said it better. Despite the fact that we’ve had a voluntary metrication program “in place” since at least 1866, and re-emphasized in 1921, industry and the media continue to remain hostile to metric; I don’t see letting them “take the lead” as a viable or even rational position.

A country where the new USMA motto might make sense would be the UK. England is clearly very, very much metric, and should complete their conversion as they are well on their way. In the US, the metric system is but an abstraction that is only discussed when marginal candidates for President of the US mention it as a throw-away line, well into their speech. This metric statement is then used as a quick fear-fix for our media echo-chamber and the outrage junkies that jones for it. There is no metric conversion occurring in the US and (spoiler alert) there is no Santa Claus.

There are however several policies which have been embraced by the USMA which in my opinion do not help metric promotion. They are: 1. Referring to the inch-pound system. What we have in the US is in no way a system and in no way should this mess be equated with SI. Only the metric system is an integrated measurement system. US measures are literally medieval units  2. The encouragement of centimeters 3. The promotion of the prefix cluster around unity (hecto, deci, centi, deca). The absence of an open USMA policy advocating that any new metric legislation must be mandatory and not voluntary. 4. The promotion of metric to medieval conversions as a viable path to metric in the US. 5. The implied assertion that dual-unit dimensioning or packaging is progress toward metrication.

The USMA is celebrating its 100th year of metric promotion. Its centennial. Fredrick Halsey called the original organizers in the early twentieth century and said that he and other anti-metric people in the US had killed the metric system in 1905, and would kill it again in 1921. They were successful. Halsey’s successors have continued to make certain that no metric laws of any type are passed, let alone mandatory metric laws. I wish I could celebrate the fact that the US is so metric in 2016, that the need for the USMA had long passed, and there is no need for it to continue. Congratulations are in order for the USMA’s tenacity in the most hostile anti-metric Frozen Republic on the planet Earth.

USMA — 100 Years Part II

The Ineffectual Apotheosis of Voluntary

By The Metric Maven

The long flat-line of metric discussion in the U.S. began in the 1980s and vanished into a ghost of a whisper. In September of 1982 the US Metric Board was phased out. The U.S. Department of Commerce took over the “Office of Voluntary Metric Conversion” and changed the name to the Office of Metric Programs. The Department of Education’s metric education program was eliminated. Republican Congressman Eldon Rudd (1920-2002) of Arizona introduced “a bill to repeal the Metric Conversion Act of 1975.” Legislation that even suggested the metric system be used in the U.S. was anathema to him.

The USMA editorial comment in the January-February issue of the USMA Newsletter leaves the impression that Louis Sokol (and probably much of the USMA staff) had no idea what to do in response to the marginalization of metric in such a short period of time. Failure earns ridicule in the U.S. and in November of 1981, popular comedian Erma Bombek (1927-1996), who was syndicated in over 900 newspapers, ridiculed the metric system. This situation had to be demoralizing. In March 1983 Louis Sokol lobbied for the allowance of metric only packaging in the US. He was rebuffed, and metric only packaging remains illegal to this day in the US.

By the end of 1984 Sokol noted: “Metric meetings are now far less frequent than they were during the golden years of the seventies; so when one takes place it is newsworthy to persons interested in the metric changeover.”

The USMA co-sponsored a conference with NASA in October of 1985 to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Metric Act of 1975. It is difficult to understand why their would be a celebration. Louis Sokol in the September-October USMA Newsletter states:

“Ten years have elapsed since “voluntary” metrication was legislated, and it is quite obvious that this method is not succeeding. No one wants to lead under a voluntary plan,…”

It is often the case that nature presents the test first and then the lesson. I see it as tragic that Sokol, and others at the USMA, were so caught up in the heady metric rhetoric found in the 1970s media, that it never occurred to them to carefully read the history of past U.S. metrication failures. It had not been ten years since the adoption of the first voluntary metrication plan, it had been more like 100 years.

In 1866 John Kasson was certain that the American public was so quick of mind and innovative, that they would adopt the metric system on their own in the very near future without a government mandate. John Shafroth realized that voluntary metrication had accomplished nothing in the 19th century. At the dawn of the twentieth century, he introduced mandatory metric legislation over and over.  Congress made certain that year after year his mandatory metric legislation would never see the light of day. Shafroth finally resigned when he realized his committee had been stacked with anti-metric members. Charles McNary listened to some of the most thoughtful and well reasoned Congressional testimony about metric conversion in 1921 and then rejected it all claiming that if metric was useful, it would occur spontaneously. He suggested a “voluntary” plan.

Had Sokol and others looked at the legislative history, they might not have been so quick to sign on to a 1970s situation which was essentially identical with the two earlier failures. Sokol now understood this mistake, but the moment had been lost—perhaps forever. It is doubtful the USMA could have turned the tide of the anti-metric Congressional testimony, (they didn’t have a single member on the Metric Board, and could not get phone calls returned) but they could have been on the record as supporting a mandatory metric switch-over, and attacked the very notion of voluntary metrication as nothing but repeating the same failed policies of the last 100 years. Sokol must have had some familiarity with the metric hearings of 1905 and also 1921 as he knew who Fredrick Halsey was.

By this time Sokol had completely realized the folly of voluntary metrication. At the beginning of 1986 he penned an editorial entitled Voluntary Metrication Will Not Succeed. Here is some of what he had to say:

With each passing day it becomes more apparent that “voluntary metrication” will not succeed. This comes as no surprise, because no major public undertaking ever gets accomplished in a voluntary manner. Most taxes would not be collected, and highway speed limits would not be adhered to if they were voluntary. It is obvious that the Congress failed to recognize the unworkability of volunteerism when they passed the Metric Conversion Act ten years ago, or they deliberately intended that metrication should not be accomplished. I believe it was more the latter….

Sokol claimed that formerly enthusiastic USMA members had lost interest in the issue of a metric changeover. And:

Recently I asked why the Office of Metric Programs does not take a more forceful stand for metrication, and their response was that they were specifically told by the Department of Commerce that they should not promote metrics in any way. Commerce is under the executive branch of government, so this means that the [Reagan] White House in effect has minimal interest in metrication and certainly is doing little to further it.

While Sokol claimed that organized labor was the force which stopped metric from happening, a reading of the 1975 metric hearings shows they were but one of a pantheon of anti-metric organizations. The anti-metric GAO report is asserted to have been generated at their request in a May-June 1986 editorial.

Correspondence with the U.S. Post Office was filled with historical irony. Postmaster General, Preston R. Tisch, when Louis Sokol suggested they use the gram and centimeters, (yet again with the cm—millimeters please!) it was pointed out that the U.S. Post Office could not be a metric island in the U.S. and they would change when everyone else did. Ironically, it was the international agreement to use the gram which caused John Kasson to introduce his legislation in the mid-19th century so that the U.S. Post Office could continue to operate internationally. Still, the U.S. Post Office would not use grams after over 100 years of its unanimous international acceptance. The failure of “voluntary metric” was becoming more and more painfully obvious.

Lorelle Young became USMA President in 1986.

In 1987 new metric legislation was introduced into congress. It would make the metric system the “preferred” system of measurement in the U.S.. The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) opposed the bill which would require the metric system for all federal government programs by 1992. They claimed this “would be an unrealistic and harsh burden on small business currently doing business with the government…..” So much for the idea that business and the market respond to the customer.

The USMA Newsletters began to decrease legislative discussion, and increased their discussion of metric use. The fact that metric only packaging was still not allowed in the U.S. continued to be a subject of interest, and the pronunciation of Kilometer was also of concern. The Omnibus Trade bill was passed, but was only one more piece of impotent and lifeless legislation. It emphasized voluntary metrication yet again. It also required each federal agency to be more or less metric by the end of 1992—unless it’s too “impractical” or “is likely to cause inefficiencies or loss of markets to United States firms…”

Dept-of-Commerce-1989-LogoIn 1989 The Department of Commerce released its new logo for the Office of Metric Programs, and the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) was renamed the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in August of the previous year. The March-April 1990 issue of the USMA newsletter is renamed Metric Today. It was reported by the GAO that only 3 of 37 government agencies had “advanced very far in metric conversion planning.” NASA eschewed metric at that time and decided to design the space station with U.S. units, then claimed against all evidence that “overall” it will go metric. Other than Ye Olde English, they clearly use a lot of Friedman Units at NASA in place of metric ones.

In July of 1991, President George H.W. Bush signed Executive Order (EO) 12770, which told government agencies that they must have metric conversion plans completed and approved by November 30, 1991. The July-August 1991 issue of Metric Today quotes Department of Commerce Undersecretary for Technology Robert M. White:

The Executive Order demonstrates a solid commitment from President Bush for the Federal government to lead the way in metric usage, and to assist American industry as it voluntarily converts to the metric system.

In August of 1991 The University of Colorado honored Louis Sokol with a Distinguished Service Award for his past and ongoing efforts to bring the metric system to the U.S. Then the Government Service Administration (GSA) decided to implement four metric construction pilot projects. The group felt that a “practical approach” would be to use “soft metric.” Soft metric is just using metric equivalent dimensions to designate current material dimensions. This does not actually produce any change that demonstrates the usefulness of metric construction. It’s really just Ye Olde English/metric dual-dimensioning without one of the dimensions included. The GSA would then work on “hard metric” standards. The construction locations would be Washington DC, Kansas City, a warehouse in Lakewood Colorado, and a border station in Sasabe AZ.

One could see pro-metric people thinking that perhaps, just perhaps, change of some manner might occur. A nebulous September 30, 1992 “deadline” had been established, an executive order put in place, and some “metric” construction of government buildings was planned. The January-February issue of Metric Today reported:

The 5-year plan of the federal Construction subcommittee recommends each federal agency select three metric pilot construction projects per year, beginning with 1992,…

Metric Guide for Federal Construction was produced, and by 1994 federal agencies were to use metric for all new facilities. This push was spearheaded by Professional Engineer Thomas R. Rutherford P.E..

The Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA) was to be amended so that metric values would be the primary ones. The food industry lobby objected to the word primary. In the end Medieval Units and SI would be required on packaging, but not on foods packaged at the retail level (by stores). This attenuated version was passed and signed by President George H.W. Bush on August 3rd of 1992.

NASA-Metric-Awarness-1993Louis Sokol stepped down as the editor of Metric Today in October of 1992. He had been editor for over 26 years and originated the periodical. Valerie Antoine became the new editor. In 1993 there was a lot of talk about programs that promote “metric awareness.” NASA had a metric awareness program as did the Veterans Administration. National Geographic magazine had been toying with metric units since 1985, but by 1993 it was all back to medieval inch-pound usage.

There is also the ubiquitous notion of “greater metric usage” but never a metric cold turkey switch-over. Secretary of Transportation Federico Pena stated it thus in 1994: “….it is clear that our country will benefit by a greater use of metric in our daily activities.”

There were statements that after September 30, 1996 waivers for non-metric construction would not be “readily issued.” Once again it looked like there might be some hope for optimism. Did they really mean it this time?

Metrication-1992In the March-April issue of Metric Today Louis Sokol’s guest commentary pointed out that in October of 1992, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) “decided in the interest of safety, the foot should be the only unit used worldwide for the measurement of altitude, elevation and height…until such times as it is possible to change to the exclusive use of the metre.” This was clearly a reactionary imposition of medieval measures on a metric world at the behest of the U.S. FAA. This imposition of a U.S. only unit continues to this day. One finds excuse after excuse offered for the lack of U.S. metrication. We don’t have the authority. It will cost too much. Any ad hoc excuse is immediately offered, and only punctuates the need for a national mandatory metric law with a plan.

Senator Clayborn Pell continued to offer legislation, and promote metric, but never does he use the word, mandatory. There seems to have never been a change in Pell’s view that voluntary metric would work, as he contended in the 1975 Metric Hearings. A constant drum-beat for more “metric education” is offered to prepare students for the world of the United States of Non-Metrica.

In 1994, the construction of a warehouse using metric units was completed at Denver’s Federal Center. It was noted that “…some of the subcontractors converted drawing dimensions to inch-pound units before using them.” (September-October 1994 Metric Today). Without a metric-only mandate, the few singular exceptions of metric construction will be “worked around” using current Ye Olde English units and metrication will not occur. There were contractors in Australia who tried to constantly convert their drawings back from metric, but when the entire ecosystem of measurement which surrounded them had been converted to metric, they evolved or became extinct.

Go-Metric-1992When reading through these old issues of the USMA’s Metric Today, it seems like a bit of a selection bias may have been occurring. In the world of Metric Today, it appears that the country is changing rapidly.  When looking at an actual machine tool catalog, a hardware store, grocery store or elsewhere in the actual world, this is clearly a non-metric country which is arrested in time. Teachers are encouraged to teach metric, but they and their students are discussing an abstract far away exotic land of metric. The proposal to teach metric in the U.S. seems as absurd as teaching Australian students imperial, and then expecting them to see any reason for doing so, when nothing but metric exists in their classroom and in the outside world. They cannot relate the lessons to anything tangible.

Metric advocate Senator Clayborn Pell (D-RI) announced he would not run for reelection again. Anti-metric Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) who spearheaded the take-down of metric implementation in the U.S. remains in the U.S. Senate to this day.

In 1995 the nationwide 55 mile per hour speed limit was repealed. There was no discussion of the cost associated with changing roadway signs with medieval units when the 55 MPH speed limit was imposed, or when it was repealed, but there is always a cost objection when metric signs are proposed. The DOT indicated that metric road signs would be installed in the US by 1996.

In 1996, Metric hearings were held which proposed that the Metric Conversion Act be amended to allow inch-pound products when fulfilling metric construction contracts. The 100 millimeter module size would be ignored and current medieval sized products would simply be described in metric. This legislation is often known as the infamous Cox Bill. USMA President Lorelle Young was there to testify against the measure. The Orwellian name of the legislation, HR2779 The Savings in Construction Act of 1995, was clearly chosen to suggest that metric construction is more expensive than the current practice. Concrete block and lighting fixture companies wanted an exemption, but Cox was pushing for all industries to be exempt from a metric requirement. It was simply a reactionary anti-metric bill which was written for business interests in response to non-existent problems. After all metric in the U.S. is voluntary, voluntary, voluntary! The legislation was passed on July 23 1996. The bill allowed for “soft metric” construction, which is essentially no metric construction whatsoever. The old materials do not fit into 100 mm modules (600 mm center to center) and so there would be no metric construction required.

The history of attempts to implement metric road signs on U.S. highways is often met with anti-metric people taking the total number of signs in a state, multiplying by $100 or some figure near that and arriving at an astonishingly large figure like 500 million dollars per state. The September-October Metric Today contains an article written by Byron Nupp of the U.S. Department of Transportation, which rightly points out that at most only about 25% of U.S. road signs are measurement sensitive.

Metric conversion was attacked as an unfunded mandate under the Unfunded Mandate Reform Act of 1995. It was recommended that the metric mandate be repealed. The metric mandate already contained enough loopholes and provisions for waivers as to be meaningless, but it was still in the cross-hairs of The Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (ACIR). Thankfully the ACIR report was not adopted.

On October 11, 1996 Louis Sokol, USMA President Emeritus died. He began the USMA Newsletter and witnessed the unjustified heady optimism of the 1970s, as well as the evanescent rebirth of metric in the 1990s. His editorials had begun to fade away before his passing, and now they ceased completely. He belonged to the USMA from 1947 until his passing in 1996, almost 50 years.

In 1997, legislation was introduced into Congress, which forbids the Secretary of Transportation from requiring the states to use the metric system for federal highway projects, and canceled the DOT (Department of Transportation) deadline of September 30, 2000 to comply with the metric requirement. The legislation, HR 813 (S 532) was not enacted.

In the Spring of 1998, Congress canceled the year 2000 deadline for metric highway construction. The July-August Metric Today reported that the new legislation:

…cancels the Department of Transportation (DOT) year-2000 deadline for all states to use metric in transportation areas such as federal road and bridge construction, maintenance and repair.

With the passage of this anti-metric legislation, a number of states began to move back to medieval units. The September-October Metric Today reported the chortling of Tennessee’s Representative Jimmy Duncan (R-TN): “There was never a good reason to go to the metric system in this country.” The one constant in the U.S. is the scientific ignorance of its political representatives.

On September 3rd 1999 the Mars Climate Orbiter was lost. This was because the ground based computer navigation programs output non-metric quantities, instead of providing metric quantities, as was specified in the contract agreement between NASA and Lockheed. The loss cost a minimum of $125 million dollars.

The European Union passed an amendment which moved their mandate for metric-only labeling on imported products from December of 1999 to December of 2009.

In Part III we examine the the 21st century.