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The Metric System
(and related international standards)

Jamaica metrication logoIt's ridiculous and embarrassing that the the U.S. has not converted to the metric system.  The Metric System, also know as Le Système International d'Unités or the International System of Units (SI), is used by virtually every country in the world except the United States.  We continue to cling to an outdated, illogical and confusing system based on the old British measurements (which even the British have since abandoned in favor of the metric system).

It seems to me that our failure to use what is unquestionably a superior system of measurement is one example of a uniquely American arrogance and stubborn conservatism.  This unfortunate trait manifests itself in an almost complete inability to acknowledge the possibility that other countries might actually do some things better than us and that we can learn from the successes of others.  But we live in an interconnected world, and it just doesn't make sense for the U.S. to do things one way while the rest of the world does things a different (and far better) way. 

 


TABLES OF METRIC UNITS OF MEASUREMENT
(adapted from: http://ts.nist.gov/ts/htdocs/230/235/appxc/appxc.htm)

In the metric system of measurement, designations of multiples and sub-divisions of any unit may be arrived at by combining with the name of the unit the prefixes deka, hecto, and kilo meaning, respectively, 10, 100, and 1000, and deci, centi, and milli, meaning, respectively, one-tenth, one-hundredth, and one-thousandth.

In some of the following metric tables, some such multiples and sub-divisions have not been included for the reason that these have little, if any currency in actual usage. In certain cases, particularly in scientific usage, it becomes convenient to provide for multiples larger than 1 000 and for subdivisions smaller than one-thousandth. Accordingly, the following prefixes have been introduced and these are now generally recognized:

yotta (Y)    meaning 1024   deci (d)    meaning 10-1
zetta (Z)    meaning 1021 centi (c)    meaning 10-2
exa (E)    meaning 1018 milli (m)    meaning 10-3
peta (P)    meaning 1015 micro (u)    meaning 10-6
tera (T)    meaning 1012 nano (n)    meaning 10-9
giga (G)    meaning 109 pico (p)    meaning 10-12
mega (M)    meaning 106 femto (f)    meaning 10-15
kilo (k)    meaning 103 atto (a)    meaning 10-18
hecto (h)    meaning 102 zepto (z)    meaning 10-21
deka (da)    meaning 101 yocto (y)    meaning 10-24

Units of Length

10 millimeters (mm) = 1 centimeter (cm)
10 centimeters = 1 decimeter (dm) = 100 millimeters
10 decimeters = 1 meter (m) = 1000 millimeters
10 meters = 1 dekameter (dam)
10 dekameters = 1 hectometer (hm) = 100 meters
10 hectometers = 1 kilometer (km) = 1000 meters

Units of Liquid Volume

1 liter = 1 cubic decimeter
10 milliliters (mL) = 1 centiliter (cL)
10 centiliters = 1 deciliter (dL) = 100 milliliters
10 deciliters = 1 liter = 1000 milliliters
10 liters = 1 dekaliter (daL)
10 dekaliters = 1 hectoliter (hL) = 100 liters
10 hectoliters = 1 kiloliter (kL) = 1000 liters


Units of Area

100 square millimeters (mm2) = 1 square centimeter (cm2)
100 square centimeters = 1 square decimeter (dm2)
100 square decimeters = 1 square meter (m2)
100 square meters = 1 square dekameter (dam2) = 1 are
100 square dekameters = 1 square hectometer (hm2) = 1 hectare (ha)
100 square hectometers = 1 square kilometer (km2)

Units of Mass

10 milligrams (mg) = 1 centigram (cg)
10 centigrams = 1 decigram (dg) = 100 milligrams
10 decigrams = 1 gram (g) = 1000 milligrams
10 grams = 1 dekagram (dag)
10 dekagrams = 1 hectogram (hg) = 100 grams
10 hectograms = 1 kilogram (kg) = 1000 grams
1000 kilograms = 1 megagram (Mg) or 1 metric ton(t)


Units of Volume

1000 cubic millimeters (mm3) = 1 cubic centimeter (cm3)
1000 cubic centimeters = 1 cubic decimeter (dm3) = 1 000 000 cubic millimeters
1000 cubic decimeters = 1 cubic meter (m3) = 1 000 000 cubic centimeters = 1 000 000 000 cubic millimeters
 


GREENWICH MEAN TIME

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Please note that the views expressed in these pages are mine, and mine alone.  They do not necessarily reflect the views other members of my family, past or present employers, or any other person or group with which I have been affiliated.

LINKS

The U.S. Metric Association
The Metric Program of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
International Standard for paper sizes based on ISO 216 Standard


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Last Updated 22 July 2005
Copyright 2001