The Metric System: Why We Use It

metric system

Most Americans (and Brits) don’t like, and don’t understand the metric system.  To them, it’s a confusing way to change the normative way (the Imperial System) we measure things. It is an understandable position: nobody who was ingrained with miles, pounds, and gallons would welcome any other way of measuring things. Except there is a better way, the scientific way: the metric system. 

Metric System – Much Easier to Use

Why is the metric system superior? For one, it is based on the decimal system, meaning base ten. So, all metric measurements are divisible by ten, making conversions between units very easy. Compare measuring out one gallon of water vs one liter of the same. Let’s say you need 1/7 of that water for a cooking recipe. Well, 1/7 of a liter is 0.143 L, while 1/7 of a gallon is also 0.143 gallons. Now it gets tricky in the “Imperial system.” One gallon equals 128 oz (how many of you know that??), so 1/7 of a gallon is 18.3 oz, or if you want, 1.14 pints, or 2.28 cups. Does that make any sense? A gallon split in 7 can be variously called 18.3 oz, 1.15 pints or 2.28 cups.

One liter split into 7 is 0.143 L. No silly conversions to the kitchen measurements of cups and pints. The beauty of the metric system is that all units are divisible by 10. Thus 1000 milliliters is equal to 1 liter. Our liter split into 7 gives 0.143 L, or 143 mL. Very easy to calculate vs oz, pints, and gallons. 

One key feature of the metric system is how it correlates the measurements of mass and volume and distance.

A centimeter is one-hundredth of a meter. This is the distance measurement. The base unit of grams measure mass. The two units are correlated by water such that one cubic centimeter of water has a mass of 1 gram. There is additional magic. One cubic centimeter of water is by definition 1 milliliter of water, which then is equal to a gram of water.

Thus: 1 ml of water = 1 gram water = 1 cubic centimeter of water. All three measurement units (Mass, Volume and Distance) are thus connected.

Imperial System

Now compare to the Imperial system. 1 ounce of water does not equal an ounce of weight (and to top it off there are several definitions of an ounce), and a cubic foot of water is 7.5 gallons. No correlation of units. For a scientist, this mismatch of units, and the corrections needed to perform calculations, make using the Imperial system untenable.

That’s why our products are measured in milliliters, and our concentrations expressed as milligrams per milliliter.

We are Vermont Organic Science after all.