[Physics] Does the imperial system have any advantages (besides its wide acceptance in the US)?


The United States (and one other country, somewhere in Africa I think) uses the imperial system (feet, pounds, etc.), while pretty much everyone else uses the metric system (meters, kilograms). The reason the US still does so is probably for historical reasons; said reasons are not within the scope of this question, however.

Does the imperial system of units have any advantages over the metric system besides its widespread use in the United States?

Best Answer

The United States legalized the metric system in 1866; here is the Canadian view.

There are no advantages in the engineering world except for familiarity; applications with mixed units often result in errors. I have worked on numerous engineering and controls applications which attempted to use both, but by the mid-1990s, as the older engineers retired, and with greater international cooperation, the move to the metric system increased within certain industries, such as automotive, where I was then working.

For everyday use there remains the problem of familiarity; your favorite recipe, given in teaspoons, cups, and pounds, needs to be converted. With computerized recipes this may be easier.

Note also that all surveys in the US are done in the Imperial System, with chains and links, feet and acres. It is convenient that there are 640 acres in a square mile, which makes a section of land in the Northwest Territory (Great Lakes states); it divides nicely to make quarter sections and quarter-quarter sections. So if you live on a farm you would know a lot from the acreage or the distance.