The Irascible ProfessorSM

Irreverent Commentary on the State of Education in America Today

by Dr. Mark H. Shapiro
Education costs money, but then so does ignorance.   .....Sir Claus Moser, 21 August 1990

Commentary of the Day - September 30, 1999:

It turns out that the loss of the Mars Climate Orbiter likely was the result of confusion caused by the use of both English units (feet, miles, pounds, furlongs, etc.) and metric units (kilograms, meters, and seconds) by different groups working with the Orbiter.  The United States is the last major industrialized country in the world that continues to use the antiquated "English" system of units.  Unlike the metric system, in which all multiples of the base units for length and mass are related by factors of 10 (1 meter = 100 centimeters, 1 kilometer = 1000 meters, etc.), conversion between units in the English system requires cumbersome calculations (1 yard = 3 feet, 1 mile = 5280 feet, etc.).

If we had any sense we would introduce the metric system in grade school!  Our failure to do so has has cost us substantial sums of money, not only through errors like the one that led to the loss of the Mars Climate Orbiter, but also through the need for many American manufacturers to maintain different sets of tools to produce goods for the domestic and international markets.  You would think that our politicians and educrats would have wised up by now.


The Irascible Professor invites your comments.
©1999 Dr. Mark H. Shapiro