In a vault post, i alluded to some of the disadvantages of the metric system, and I think it’s something worth broadening on in its own post. The metric device is an extremely useful and also has the advantages, which I have included in this post. However, ns don’t get in much information with the pros right here as there are other sites that have done that and I don’t think enough attention has actually been drawn to that cons!



Metric base units

Allmetric systems are conveniently converted in between each various other by simply moving the decimal places. Because that example, convert from metre to millimetre is as straightforward as relocating the decimal three areas to the right.

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Prefixed naming convention

All metric systems are plainly related come each other using prefixes. For example if a unit starts with kilo we immediately know the it’s in multiples of 1000 the the base unit (1km = 1000m etc).

Precise whole units

Metricunits have the right to be as an accurate as you need them to be by just moving under to the next prefixed unit. For example, if 1 gram is not an exact enough you can use milligrams.


In the SI metric system, us are urged to use as few units as possible to enable for greater simplicity and also ease that understanding. For example, the litre, tonne and hectare are not part of the device of worldwide Units (SI) as they are not necessary, which in turn reduces the chances of confusion by having too countless units. By the way, the litre, tonne and hectare (along with various other units) are legacy units that are permitted to be used alongside the SI metric system.


One dimension doesn’t to the right all

On the confront of it, the metric mechanism looks prefer a logical, simple, basic to know system of measure up things. And also it is, in a many areas like science, maths and engineering. The concern is once you try to apply it to daily uses, favor weighing out carrots for revenue in a supermarket, or measure the quantity of buttermilk you need in her brown bread recipe. By the way, if you’re trying to find a good brown bread recipe, this one ~ above the odlums site is quite good. Anyway, back to the amazing topic the the metric system. The trouble is the metric units can quite regularly be either too large or too small for daily use.

The metric mechanism is design to it is in as simple and to have as few units together is possible. Because that example, in weight (or mass) thereare two possible units you have the right to use; the gram or the kilogram. A gram is a tiny weight and also a kilogram is quite big. To placed it into perspective, a gram is abouta ¼ teaspoon of sugar, and also a kilogram is two bags the sugar. Quite a huge jump. The same for volume, we’ve acquired a millilitre the size of ⅕ of a teaspoon of water and a litre the dimension of two consistent sized bottles of water. For this reason what happens as soon as you use these for our bag the carrots or the buttermilk in ours recipe? The gram is so small that you finish up with big numbers favor 750g because that a continuous sized bag the carrots, 400g for tins of stuff choose tomatoes and also 500g for bags of sugar. Samewith themillilitre, 250ml of this, 500ml that that, and so on.

While this works fine, it does do for unnecessarily large numbers.It seems there might be a small room in between 1 and also 1000 because that some more units that would certainly make our measurements right into smaller numbers, i beg your pardon are simpler on the eye. More on this in future posts…

Rubbish sounding words

The idea of utilizing prefixes on metric base devices seems favor a great one on the challenge of it, yet you do end up v pretty rubbish sound words. This is because in the metric system, the name of the units are artificially created and stuck to a rigid system using prefixes, and the resulting word might not sound great in daily use. For example;Gram sounds okay, however kilogram is a longish, not an especially pleasant sound word. The very same goes because that millilitre, millimetre and kilometre. They’re not specifically words that role off the tounge. Even the not-so-bad sounding words litre and also metrestill aren’t anything to write house about, and don’t sound quite the exact same as pint or yard.

If i was a scientist ns wouldn’t provide a toss about this, however I think in the units we usage to weigh and measure things in our day-to-day lives, it’s worth making use of words the sound good when we usage them.

Arbitrary scale

While the beginnings of timeless units of measure are based upon things we deserve to relate come on a human scale, prefer a thumb, foot, cup, stone etc; metric units space on much more of a clinical scale. Because that example, the definition of a metre is;

The size of the route travelled by light in a vacuum in1⁄299 792 458of a second

All other units of length (and by expansion area and volume) are based off this an interpretation of a metre. The disadvantage below is that, when this is great in scientific and technical areas where you have measuring equipment, the acquired units space not automatically relative come anything valuable on a human scale. I’m talkingparticularly about the smaller sized units here, centimetre and also millimetre. Once estimating the size of something without a measuring tape, it’s not as simple to visualise thiswith centi/millimetres, whereas friend mightdo far better visualising how plenty of of your thumbs or her feet or paces or your complete body length something is. Quite often, us estimate dimensions by eye – which i don’t think metric units are really designed for.

Plus i think this arbitraryscale teaches us that we require to have measuring tools to measure up something, conversely, it might be much better and an ext fun to teach kids about measuring points using everything they deserve to think of based on what’s around them. This could get kids to understand size and scale a bit much better from the beginning. And also then the course relocate on to using measuring tapes and also rulers!

The prefixes have the right to be cumbersome and also unnecessary in everyday use

Despite the prefixes being one of the pros discussed above, theycan also be a con. Again, I’m not included scientific and technical areas here, however think about how we measure things; us usually just use a couple of systems in a details scenario. Because that example, if measure up a small length (no smart comments please!) making use of the metric system, you will only ever use millimetres or centimetres. You most likely don’t need to understand at that specific time howthe devices you’re utilizing relate to the metre, kilometre, megametre etc. The very same goes because that figuring the end how much away your expedition the beach is going come be. Us all have a preconceived concept of exactly how much 1km or 50km or 100km (or the exact same in miles) is based on prior knowledge. As soon as using kilometres, us don’t care around metres or millimetres.

To show this further, let’s transform the just measurement that hasn’t been metricated however – time. The metric system does have a an interpretation for the 2nd but not any type of other devices of time (makes me wonder howkilometres per hour works) therefore let’s usage the second as the base unit. From over there we relocate up the range to deca, kilo, mega, and also giga to match something close to what we right now use. I protect against at the tantamount of one mainly here and am additionally skipping hecto since it doesn’t fit any kind of unitsclose to typical time. What you finish up with is shown in the table below.

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UnitValueNormal time equivalent
Second1 second1 second
Hectosecond100 sec1 m 40 s
Kilosecond1,000 sec16 m 40 s
Megasecond1,000,000 sec1 wk 4 work 13hr 46 min 40 sec

As you can see, the multiple use of prefix words i do not care cumbersome and would be awkward in day-to-day language. This is a limitation that the prefixed base unit idea, while it does work, it often tends to gain confusing if you should use a many them. Girlfriend could use the very same logic come lengths (a decametre, hectometre etc). We don’t desire to use too many of these prefixes to avoid confusion, which renders me wonder; outside of the clinical circle, what’s the suggest of castle if we only use a pair of them at a time? might we not simply use different words that aren’t straight related to one another? It’s not that hard to mental a couple of words.


So there you have actually it, the pros and (mostly) flaw of the metric system. I think based on the point out above, we have the right to say the the metric system is an excellent in science, maths or any situation where you need precision; but itis no really in ~ its finest when we usage it for everyday things prefer in recipes or at the supermarket. Which of food is fine, nothing is perfect!