MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - If you go out of the country, you might notice a bit of a difference when driving a car or even the actual temperature outside. The units of measure we use in the U.S. are different than say Canada or England - but why is this?
In this episode of the breakdown, we explain why we use the non-metric system over the metric system, which most of the world uses.
We see it all the time, our thermometers always read Fahrenheit as well as Celsius. Even with the dual readings, most of us really don’t need the Celsius side. That is because the United States has ignored that side of the thermometer our entire lives.
The Fahrenheit scale is associated with the non-metric system, also known as the imperial system. Celsius is associated with the metric system, which is what most of the world uses.
1724, that was the year the Fahrenheit scale was invented by Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit. In this scale, zero is the temperature of equal parts ice, water and salt… this then makes 32 degrees the point where pure water would freeze. While 212 is the point where water will boil.
1742, Anders Celsius, a Swedish astronomer, developed a new scale. The Celsius scale was a way to simplify everything, giving zero the freezing point of water and 100 the boiling point.
If the newer Celsius scale is simpler than the older Fahrenheit scale, why did the United States keep the older measures? This dates to the British Empire. Fahrenheit was used, which was brought to the British Colonies to America.
Once the Celsius scale was developed, the world decided it was easier to use and switched to a new scale of thinking. While the rest of the word switched, the U.S. stayed with the non-metric system and continued to use Fahrenheit.
While it’s not 100% clear why America didn’t switch. Some people have researched the idea and suggest we just didn’t want to change.
Several polls have been taken asking Americans if they want to switch the scale, well most people are just fine with being different.
Not only meteorologists have to switch between the various units, but NASA scientists must also swap between the metric and imperial systems and if they forget to do that, it could be devastating.
Back in 1999, a NASA scientist forgot to make that important switch in measurements to the metric system. This resulted in a $125 million satellite to explode. All due to a simple math error caused a 10-month journey to Mars to fail and millions of dollars lost.