New book: “The Dimensions of the Cosmos”


This book is now available from Amazon for $19.95

As well as myself, another staunch supporter of metric system adoption in the United States is Randy Bancroft, who writes a blog as “The Metric Maven.” He has a new book available called The Dimensions of the Cosmos: Tales From Sixteen Metric Worlds. It sells through Amazon for $19.95.

In the preface, the author states his intent as:

This books exists to address a problem most people don’t recognize: understanding the magnitudes of the world around us. This problem is almost invisible in countries which have used the metric system from the earliest days of its earliest days of inception. (p. iii)

He then goes on to point out that our lack of metric system adoption has left us with a mishmash (my word) of measures that make it difficult to gauge their comparative sizes between one unit and another. I couldn’t agree more.

The book itself includes a section on the metric system, and it includes references to both microscopes (and really small things) and astronomy (and really, really large things) and talks about the units themselves before starting to break down the relative sizes of the measures.

They run from the section Uniworld:

Uniworld is where we define the size of the metric units which are used as a basis. These basic units will be magnified or reduced to describe the Cosmos.  (p.22)

to Yoctoworld:

Protons and neutrons, which make up the nuclei of atoms, are near one yoctogram in mass. (p.177)

He covers the metric units in all their various sizes.

For instance, in Uniworld, he points out that the section:

…is about the world from 1 meter to 1000 meters but by using human dimensions as a lower end reference, we end up comparing values which are often less than one meter for context. (p.23)

He also includes a number of examples to try to help the reader grasp the various units such as:

The largest known meteorite is the Hoba meteorite in Nambia [sic] in southwestern Africa…The meteorite remains where it fell because of its large mass, 60 Megagrams. (p. 57)


The Baobab tree stores up to 100 Kiloliters of water in its trunk, which it uses to survive droughts. The volume of water stored is about four times the displacement of the diesel engine. (p. 57)


A Baobab tree

Ultimately, I’m not sure how helpful some of these references are since I doubt many people can immediately imagine what a Baobab tree looks like so the liter citation has a context.

He also uses the opportunity of the book to make a case for working only in millimeters.




The reason for this retreat from centimeters, is that for most practical everyday purposes, millimeters allow people to use integers without the need for any decimal arithmetic. (p.13)


The upper and lower casing of the metric units is not convention.

The upper and lower casing of the metric units used in the book is not convention.

Throughout the book he also begins “larger” metric units with uppercase letters and “smaller” units begin with lowercase letters (see image). The only problem with that is IT IS NOT the current naming convention. I worry that readers less familiar with the metric system might be misled into thinking that his use is accepted but it is not. I’d hate for anyone to get led down the wrong path unknowingly.

In any case, if you have any interest in the subject matter, I encourage you to purchase the book in an effort to support another person who has devoted considerable time helping our country figure out the error of our ways.



My Metric System Demo at the Los Alamos Science Fest

Los Alamos Science Fest was Saturday

Los Alamos Science Fest was Saturday

On Saturday I spent four hours talking up the metric system at the Science Festival here in Los Alamos. Specifically, I was trying to help people understand how much easier the metric system is to use in the kitchen. Rather than having all those volumetric cups (and a half, and third and quarter) and tablespoons and teaspoons (and all those fractions down to an eighth) you really just need two things: a liquid measuring cup and a scale that measures in grams (most electronic ones can convert between different units).

Not only is a scale a more precise and consistent measure in the kitchen, it’s also easier than what we’re used to in this country. Since we don’t use the metric system here, most people have no idea how handy a scale can be in the kitchen. I wanted to show them.

Here’s what I did:

I asked if people were willing to take a metric challenge. (There were a lot of children there and almost all of them were game to give it a try.)

Toy coins worked well for the demo since they don't fit neatly into the cup

Toy coins worked well for the demo since they don’t fit neatly into the cup

I then gave two participants each a one-cup measuring cup and had them measure a cup of toy coins (I wanted objects that would not fit neatly within its area). When they were done, we put the cups on scales to how closely they measured in grams. In some cases, even when the cups looked like they had the same amount in them, the mass varied usually by around 5-7 grams but throughout the day I saw measures all the way from 30 grams up to more than 100. That’s quite a difference!

While the they were measuring, I told the adults, or other observers, some of my points about wasting our kids’ time in schools by teaching them a complicated system that no one else uses. I also pointed out only needing two things to measure with saves space and hassle in the kitchen.

Using the metric system, all you need is something to measure wet and dry ingredients (left) instead of the stuff we have to keep track of now (right)

Using the metric system, all you need is something to measure wet and dry ingredients (left) instead of the stuff we have to keep track of now (right)

Once that was done, I showed the parents how easy it is to measure ingredients right into the bowl and bypass dirtying all those other measuring cups and tablespoons we currently have to deal with.

I also talked about something that happened to me not too long ago when I had a recipe that called for a cup and a half of brown sugar. Not only do you have to pack the brown sugar to get the right amount, I also debated whether I wanted to wash a spoon (to dish out the sugar) and two measuring cups or a spoon and one measuring cup but have to pack it three times. In the end I decided I didn’t want to do either and looked up how much brown sugar that would be in grams. Then I put the bowl I was using on my scale, zeroed it out using the tare function, and then measured that amount directly into the bowl. In the end I only had to wash a single spoon.

In addition to the demo, I had a primer (Cooking in a metric kitchen (pdf)) on using scales in the kitchen. While many sites don’t include metric measures, several do including the wonderful (though it takes an extra click to make the conversion). I also had a hard copy of the Metric Maven’s metric cookbook along with its link and the source for a metric chocolate chip cookie recipe from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. If you have additional sites or references to assist with metric cooking, send them to me at and I’ll share as appropriate.

Also had an opportunity to reconnect with Dave Schwellenbach who had the booth next to me with his Kraz-E-Science demo. You can check out his website here.

More blogs are in the works. Thanks for checking in.


The Metric System in the Media's logo’s logo

A few weeks ago I was interviewed by a science reporter from Frankly, I wasn’t familiar with this site but the reporter sent me a link to a New York Times article regarding its launch in April. Masterminding the enterprise is a former editor of the Washington Post. After I received the notice, I immediately went to check out the site to see what kind of reporting I could expect. (Reporting styles can vary from balanced to hatchet jobs and I wanted to see what alley I might be turning into.) I was pleasantly surprised by the site itself. A tagline is “Vox Explains: Everything you need to know, in two minutes.”And it turns out she was a former editor of Popular Science magazine. Impressive.

Our interview lasted about 10 minutes and we talked about how I began working on the documentary and various other issues, some of which apparently appeared in the piece. How can I not be sure? Well, she interviewed at least two other people and I have no idea what transpired during those conversations. Frankly, it was laudable that she worked to get at least three interviews. Some reporters don’t like to put that kind of time in when they’re under deadline, as she was.

I was very happy to see that the title of the piece was “It’s time for the US to use the metric system.” I could talk more about what’s in it but I’d recommend that you read it for yourself. While I wasn’t directly quoted, there was a link to this blog at the bottom of the story. I was even MORE happy to see that (as of this writing) there were more than 3,900 Facebook shares and more than 1,100 tweets of the story. The Vox pages don’t allow comments but the reporter’s contact information is on the page. I wrote her a follow-up email inquiring what kind of feedback she’d gotten and she said “Lots of passionate responses from readers from both sides of the aisle.” As of today, there were almost 260 click-throughs to this blog page. Not a huge amount but any publicity on this subject is fine by me.

Metric system undercurrents

I’ve said it before, but there seems to be an undercurrent of interest in the metric system that is on the rise. Not only did this article come out of nowhere (may ask her what prompted her to research this topic) but the number of articles is starting to pick up.

As brought to my attention by the Metric Maven, just recently the Journal of the American Association ran a story called “Group Urges Going Metric to head Off Dosing Mistakes.” A guest blogger and HUGE help to this project, Peter Goodyear wrote about this issue in March of last year.

I plan to write more about this medical turn of events in future but let me point out a few other mentions that have come up lately.

National Public Radio (NPR) “How did the meter get its length?” (June 26, 2014)

Metric system switch is long overdue, as illustrated in Trexlertown” (June 26, 2014)

Coming Soon: The Metric System, Global Cooling, And Soccer Domination” (June 14, 2014)

At 44, metrification still a mess” (June 14, 201)

Update: What If The Common Core Required The Metric System? In Alexander Russo’s This Week in Education” (June 6, 2014)

UK Myth: The Metric System” (June 5, 2014) [Points out that the UK is not metric. When I asked the head of the UK Metric Association some time ago why not, he said “Because you don’t use it…]

NFL Ditches Roman Numerals for Super Bowl 50, But Won’t Switch from Using Yards in Favor of Metric System” (June 4, 2014) [While the article doesn’t really talk about the metric system, just a mention in the headline is remarkable—this is the Slate!]

Also UK: “Give me a centimetre and I’m lost” (June 2, 2014)

Canada: “Metric mixup plays role in Lake Cowichan crash” (June 1, 2014)

Canada: “Parents can keep dignity under questioning” (May 30, 2014)

It’s time for the US to use the metric system” (May 30)

The Metric System, Traffic Circles, and Us” (No direct date but I got the notice on May 31)

The story on something called “Real Clear Science.” May 30, 2014

The story got picked up by Hacker News and someone expanded on the story’s content. (May 31, 2014)

The accompanying image

The accompanying image

Australia uses the metric system, so this is what I have to think of when someone uses feet and inches” (No date and some of the comments are 11 months old but I was just notified.)

It included this image [Has gotten more than 344 comments so far]

UK: “Great miscalculations: The French railway error and 10 others” (May 22, 2014) [Includes a number (ha) of measurement errors.]

Having working on this project for two years, (anniversary of its conception was June 15 BTW), that’s quite a bit of media coverage in a short period of time. If my predictions are correct, it’s going to pick up from here.

We’ll have to see where it leads us.


[Note: I’m moving to a new phase of this project and will likely post to this blog less often, however, if you wants short snippets of what’s going on behind the scenes, send me your email (to as I’m now planning to employ a mailing list to keep people up to date. Do what works for you. I know I am since I have lots of other aspects to this work that need to move higher on my list to keep everything moving forward.]

Guest Blog from the Metric Maven: Metric Metaphors



In the 1970s, during the world-wide metric conversion frenzy, there were those in the US who bemoaned the possible coming of the metric system to America. They were depressed by the possible loss of literary aphorisms and metaphors:

A miss is as good as a mile.

I wouldn’t touch him with a ten foot pole.

Give him an inch and he’ll take a mile.

They would convert the old aphorisms directly as if they were actual technical relationships to lampoon the metric system, and perhaps to claim the metric system is unsuitable for literary expression. Here are LM Boyds offerings from 1973:

You of course use “He’s all wool and a yard wide” in your everyday conversation these days—right? How could you get along without it? I never even heard it used back then. How about: “Don’t hide your light under a bushel basket.” “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” does still appear to be in the vernacular, but is not used that often. It is worth converting, so indeed a gram of prevention is worth a kilogram of cure. This actually makes the aphorism more cogent as we don’t need to wonder just what type of ounce is used. “I would not touch him with a ten foot pole” is a curious statement as a pole is 16.5 feet long. Why would you shorten it? What should be done about the ten gallon hat? Well it only holds about 3 quarts first of all so it might be better metrology to just drop the name. Boyd really shows his metrological barbarism by using centimeters to convert:
“give her an inch and she’ll take a mile.” At least say Give her 25 millimeters and she’ll take a kilometer. He clearly has no respect for the language.

Now and then the mismatched set of Ye Olde English units we are forced to use comes up short for metaphor. The biggest problem for Olde English is that no one recalls that three barleycorn make up an inch, so any metaphors with barleycorns would fall flat. A barleycorn is only about 8.5 mm anyway, so it really doesn’t help for small metaphoric quantities. One night I was watching Ken Burn’s documentary on Prohibition when I heard my first “mixed unit aphorism/metaphor” Catherine Gilbert Murdock made this statement:

By 1928 when The Drys, who are may I say the most inflexible people I have ever come across. It is completely their fault that Prohibition failed, they refused to give an inch—a millimeter.

She had no Olde English Unit that was quite suitably small for a proper literary comparison apparently. Ms. Murdock tried to shoehorn in the barleycorn inch, but it was just too big of a metaphor, and so quickly switched to millimeters. The lack of metric in the US is stifling our metaphors and aphorisms!

PicoWhile examples of metric units in US aphorisms and metaphors are still somewhat rare, there has been a complete embracement by  Americans of perhaps the most important idea introduced by the metric system. I speak of course, about the metric prefixes. We live in a world where one can wet one’s whistle at microbreweries, and now even nanobreweries if you want.

Remember, they’re not moonshiner’s they’re nanobrewers. We have and attend MegaPlex theaters. We can play the Mega Millions lottery at the convenience store near the Mega Mall. We hear jokes that question Bill Gates potency and need for male enhancement when he named his company Microsoft. Authorities shut down MegaUpload, because it had Petabyes of the wrong kind of files. I purchase hardware from Microplastics and obtain computer parts at Microcenter. Milli Vanilli is infamous in music world and the Ipod Nano is a necessity if you want to listen to a collection of music. One no longer owns a salt water aquarium, they have a nano reef (I’m not making this up!). For those who like smaller marine environments a pico reef might be best. If you need to use your cell phone, be sure you are near a femtocell. I spray my hair in the morning with MegaSpritz.

Shriner’s now have a name for the cars they drive in parades. They are nano cars. Now if they will just use Liters/100 Km for fuel efficiency. If they are in Colorado they can tune their car radio to 94.3 Megahertz and listen to KILO, but probably not hear Kilo Ali or Kilo Kish.

You can purchase Giga Pets, but beware of Giga Bowser. You can make Giga Pudding and eat it inside of a Giga Ball. If you want to hang out with other over achieving test-takers you can join the Giga Society. Mensa is so old school without a metric prefix.
I think I’ve made my point and I’m Mega tired now, so I think I’ll end this essay and take a nano-nap to refresh myself. We have the prefixes down, now let’s get down with the metric system.

[For more posts from the Metric Maven, go to and subscribe. I have!]

Metric Resources (A World to Share)

In the half year that I’ve been working on this project, it has been my pleasure to come in contact with a number of metric like-minded folks who have been moving in this direction far longer than I. I’d like to take this opportunity to share their sites with you in case you find them of interest. (I sure hope so or else why are you reading this thing?)

National Institute for Standards and Technology—U.S. Department of Commerce
There is tons of information on the main website at, If you want to drill down to the metric system resources, they’re under the Physical Measurement Laboratory ( and then you get down to the resources for the metric system:

U.S. Metric Association
There is a phenomenal amount of information on this organization’s pages and it’s been around since 1916. (I love people who don’t give up the good fight.) It was the extremely sad litany of information on this page ( that led me to embark on my current quest. Feel free to look around and join the organization. I’m sure they’d love for you to sign on as a member and it’s only $30 a year (see page for multi-year discounts) to help along its fine work.

The Reddit Metric Pages
Reddit, which refers to itself as “The frontpage of the Internet,” has its own metric posting pages. The metric section already has more than 5,000 members and it’s free to join in: There are also now subpages devoted to metric cooking: Come on in and look around. You might decide to stay for awhile.

The Metric Maven
The Maven has spent considerable thought on metric issues and shares his insights on his blog, which he adds to on a regular basis. Yes, we cross promote because we’re both heading in the same direction. Just makes sense to me. Go to to read more.

Metric Pioneer
Another advocate, this site describes itself as “ is dedicated to United States President Andrew Johnson and to Metric Pioneer Antoine Lavoisier (1743–1794 CE) Father of Modern Chemistry, who helps construct the metric system during the French Revolution while working alongside Benjamin Franklin in France.” Metric products are for sale here. As far as I know, he’s currently got this market cornered. Check it out:

M Power
One of the first people to reach out to me, the lady behind this site states: “Our goal is to empower K-12 students to succeed in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Military (STEMM) by preparing them to think in STEMM’s occupational language.” Find out more at Another nonprofit organization, help out if you can.

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
While this might seem like a niche organization, these are the folks are the keepers of National Metric Week (the week in which November 10 falls [as in 10/10]). Its mission: “The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics is the public voice of mathematics education, supporting teachers to ensure equitable mathematics learning of the highest quality for all students through vision, leadership, professional development, and research.” More at

U.K. Metric Association
This organization has been supportive of my efforts from early on. While the U.K. is mostly metric, it’s not all the way there and we’re holding them back. Let’s stop that. For more information, go to

National Measurement Institute
I have it on good authority that Australia has embraced the metric system and Imperial units are difficult (if not impossible) to find—which is a sign of real success. This is a country we may want to emulate when our time comes. For more information, go to

I know less about these folks, but they’re out there so let’s cheer them on:

Go Metric USA
Its pages state: “GO metricUSATM is an organization dedicating to promoting the adoption of the metric system in the United States of America and to help industries cut costs.”

Go Metric America
Don’t know much about this either, but it follows me on Twitter and frequently retweets me. Its Facebook page states that its cause is to “Educate, promote and encourage daily usage of the Metric System. Make SI the only measurement standard of science, math, industry, trade, and education in the USA.” Here is its link on Twitter and Facebook

Metricate America (Metric8America)
Don’t see a website for this one, but the Twitter page is

If I’ve missed you, I apologize. Let me know. Relevant ones can always go into another blog on the subject.


All A-Twitter

All A-Twitter

I have to say that as soon as I started using Twitter, I really liked it. Very straightforward. You get 140 characters to say what’s going on and if any of it is interesting, people just might listen. When I had my own personal account, I followed more people than followed me.

Once I started my “branded version” I’m STILL following more people than are following me, but it’s a very different sort of interaction.

When I began with it, I’d read that “if you want people to follow you, you should follow them first.” Okay. Seemed reasonable. So, that’s what I started doing. Science, math, film and allied fields made apparant sense.

Unfortunately, when looking up “metric system” within Twitter the sad, frequent thread was (and I’ll go capture some right now) [Boldface was already in these.]

“WEED. Helping Americans learn the metric system. One gram at a time.”


“Drugs have taught an entire generation of American kids the metric system.”

There are too many of these types of comments to count. It’s a pathetic situation, in my opinion.

(Yeah, international trade uses the metric system and drugs are an international commodity. So, if you want to buy drugs you usually use the metric system.)

I also see that the also see that the Wall Street Journal (which I’ve been told by the Metric Maven, and another source, is anti-metric) DOES seem to be reveling in anti-metric sentiments. It tweeted (11/26/12) its story from November 24, “The metric system thwarts a new generation of American chefs“ with a link to its story titled “Cooking a Poundcake in a Metric Oven Is No Easy Task.”

To be fair, the article does capture the current situation when it relates: “The keepers of America’s metric flame are the roughly 300 members of the U.S. Metric Association. By most measures, their efforts in recent decades have failed.”

True enough about past efforts.

Though, I could suppose one could question the reason for running the article in the first place. Was Thanksgiving really a reason to point out the status of the metric system?), let alone retweeting it. Was it its most stellar piece of journalism that it needed to make sure it was not overlooked? I suspect it had hundreds of other articles it could have featured. (To view the original article, go to

It would also be easy to say that the piece was meant to attempt to make pro-metric folks look like eccentrics who really don’t know what the real world is like.

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

Perhaps someone is interested enough to write to get his thoughts on the matter. I’d be interested in the answer.

But I digress.

What does make me happy is that there are so many organizations out there trying to improve our children’s education. Thank goodness. While most studies show that American students now lag behind those of other nations when it comes to math and science (this one posted on the American Psychological Association, for math shows us in 24th  place) means there is much room for improvement.

Unfortunately, I hit a ceiling with Twitter this week because it only allows me to follow 1,000 people. That makes me sad because I can only follow more people if more people follow me or I drop some of the ones I follow currently. I was pretty generous in the beginning, but now I’m going to need to cull folks so I can hold on to the more important ones. If I “unfollow” you, don’t take offense. Know that my heart is in the right place.

Of course, I would have more followers if I’d kept all those scantly-clad women with statistics like: Tweets: 0, Following: 463, Followers: 30. Thank you, no.

Two things kind of surprised me as I started down this road. First, there is a lot of interest on the subject of the metric system in England. The U.K. Metric Association started retweeting me right away. Frankly, I thought our metric status would be of interest mostly to us U.S.-types.

Second, about half of the people following me found me first. There are lots of ways to find people to follow, but somehow these folks approached me.

I thank everyone who follows this on Twitter and while my ability to post things (I do try to make them somewhat interesting after all. Drivel is easy. Interesting is harder.) waxes and wanes depending on workload. I’m learning interesting things from it.

Thanks for your kind attention. (It would have taken more than 500 tweets to relate all that!)