Happy Metric Day.
I found myself recently in Canada with about 24 hours of discretionary time. Given such an abbreviated visit, I did my best to take in the metric-ness of Victoria BC. The first encounter with metric occurred when I purchased a can of Coke from a vending machine. The dispensing buttons all displayed the quantity as 355 mL—-period. I’ve always been surprised why the US soft drink industry does not round-down to 350 mL and decrease the amount aluminum per can required further. This has been their quest over the decades.
The interesting difference is that in Canada, they require dual language labeling, English and French. Unlike the US where we have dual-unit labeling. You can see in the above photo of a can from the US, and one from Canada, that Canada is less metric than Australia. They use Calories, like the US, rather than Kilojoules like Australia. Although I’m assured by US legislation, and all the credibility the Congress has, that the metric system is the “preferred” measurement system in the US, the US can has the metric volume underneath the Ye Olde English value, and safely tucked away in parenthesis. Canada? Just 355 mL.
When I drove my car from the ferry into Victoria, suddenly my metric speed and speed limit on my Garmin GPS matched the road signs. I immediately noticed the speed limit sign was government regulation. It had a lower case k for km/h. It was early morning and we decided to go to the Fisgard Lighthouse for a visit. It was a very nice morning and the walk was pleasant with an offshore breeze. When I pulled into the parking lot, I was warned with a sign, that I needed to maintain a speed below a maximum of 10 Km/h, and watch for pedestrians. Yes, the provincial scofflaws used a capital K on their sign! Just wait until the BIPM finds out about this Canadian resistance to lower case magnifying prefixes!
After we saw a number of other local sites, and were warned to stay back a number of meters from doorways, if we were smoking, it was time to search for a local eatery for lunch. We found a burger joint that looked great, in a small art district not far from downtown. What I found was a business model unlike any in the US. I could keep the planet habitable for humans by eating bacon cheese burgers and poutine! In the spirit of environmentalism, I ate there again just before leaving the next day.
Above is a photo of their menu above the counter. The upper right hand corner has a constantly ticking value of the amount of carbon offset they have implemented by serving me a burger—in Kg. Yes, this place is not only saving the planet, they are BIPM outlaws! They use a capital K on the number of Kilograms of carbon they are saving. Watta country!–as Yakov Smirnoff might say.
In the morning, we did have time to take-in more Canadian cuisine at a Tim Horton’s. Mmmm, Canadian maple donuts and coffee.
By then, my Canadian adventure had ended. After a ferry ride on The Blackball Line (you can’t make this stuff up), I entered Washington state. Suddenly, I was back in the
US metric desert, pining for the metric transgressions I had seen in Canada, or any real metric only values for that matter.
If you liked this essay and wish to support the work of The Metric Maven, please visit his Patreon Page and contribute. Also purchase his books about the metric system:
The first book is titled: Our Crumbling Invisible Infrastructure. It is a succinct set of essays that explain why the absence of the metric system in the US is detrimental to our personal heath and our economy. These essays are separately available for free on my website, but the book has them all in one place in print. The book may be purchased from Amazon here.
The second book is titled The Dimensions of the Cosmos. It takes the metric prefixes from yotta to Yocto and uses each metric prefix to describe a metric world. The book has a considerable number of color images to compliment the prose. It has been receiving good reviews. I think would be a great reference for US science teachers. It has a considerable number of scientific factoids and anecdotes that I believe would be of considerable educational use. It is available from Amazon here.
The third book is called Death By A Thousand Cuts, A Secret History of the Metric System in The United States. This monograph explains how we have been unable to legally deal with weights and measures in the United States from George Washington, to our current day. This book is also available on Amazon here.