My 10-year/$25,000 Report to the House Subcommittee on Science, Space, & Technology on Metric System Adoption in Honor of National Metric Week, dated October, 10, 2022

Well, the first/last(?) More Than 1.6 Kilometer Ahead awards are out.

Then, on Monday, October 10, 2022, I sent a concern to the House Subcommittee on Science, Space, & Technology regarding our lack of metric system adoption. I requested a Congressional hearing and tried to lay out my case for why this issue is vital to our country.

The first page of my 10-page concern. Know the goals of your audience.

Will I get a response? I have no idea, but I am also attempting to interest the media looking for support/coverage.

Trying to put 10 years of research into a 10-page document was no easy feat, and I didn’t have an opportunity to run the document past people, so I own all my mistakes in it. Still, I did my best with what I had (including Grammarly). I’ve already started to find typos, but I can hope its substance means more to people than some surface blemishes.

Using my (at best) meager layout skills, I tried to build my case based on my knowledge of the subject. I must have “touched” more than 200 documents as I pulled my “case for the metric system” for the Subcommittee.

I had to look up old information, confirm dates, leverage old graphics, find new ones, and generally worked to make the most “rock solid” explanation possible for serious federal consideration. I only get one shot at this, and people’s lives are at stake due to dosing errors alone.

Produced in three sections, the first section centered on the stated goals of the House Subcommittee’s “Congressional Oversight Plan.” I did everything I could to point to the intersections of the Subcommittee’s Plan and the metric system project.

Section 2 contains what I call my “Initial Documentation.”

I started with the New York Times article dated August 18, 2020, by Alanna Mitchell:

My biggest question: Why are we still redefining our feet (our new “survey foot” goes into place on January 1, 2023) when the metric started in about 1790?

Second 3 contains my request for a Congressional hearing on the topic of the metric system.

I’m trying to make this issue about multiple costs

I tried to work into the document the concept of “our costs” for not adopting the metric system. In lives lost or derailed due to dosing errors, in time wasted looking up conversions, and (let’s face it) our country looks ignorant to the rest of the world. (I have a theory about why so many people from other countries look at my blog. Think “car wreck.”)

What put me on this path?

My contact at the National Institute of Standards and Technology sent me a link to a hearing that took place back in March of this year, and it got me thinking and digging.

After clicking around on the site, I came across this icon.

That icon led me to this page https://science.house.gov/contact/whistleblower

And that page led me to this sentence in the second paragraph:

If you have information to share regarding concerns about federally-funded science, research or technology-related programs, please contact us.

https://science.house.gov/contact/whistleblower

And I do have grave concerns about our lack of metric system adoption. So I pulled together my document and sent it in in honor of National Metric Week.

Either I can make a compelling case, or I can’t. It is now up to others to decide.

Here are a few quotes in my lame attempt to get you to read the entire, ~1,700-word report, but it does have a lot of graphics.

The experiment that John Quincy Adams worried about in 1821 ended very long ago, and the metric system won. Almost every place but here.

Linda Anderman, Page 1 of the report

How much will it continue to cost us in health, safety, education, commerce, and international scientific standing within the world to coninue on our current trajectory?

Linda Anderman, page 2 of the report

Dosing mistakes can be lift-threatening! Avoid if possible. The metric system will help us get this right.

linda Anderman, page 6 of the report

I closed the report with the quote I wrote many years ago, but still holds true.

When you think about all the problems in the world (war, illness, environmental disasters), once we fix our metric system problem, we never have to fix it again. No country that has switched to the metric system as switched back.

linda anderman, page 10 of the report.

Please try to overlook any typos or poor layout of this document, but feel free to share.

It’s a public record now. Let’s see if we can get this discussion back on the table after a 40-year lapse in attention.

Thanks for sticking with me.

Linda

The First (and Last?) “More Than 1.6 Kilometers Ahead*” Awards go to: “The Simpsons” and Stephen Colbert/”The Late Show With Stephen Colbert”

The first/last 1.6 Kilometer Ahead awards are in the mail to the respective shows.

Almost exactly 40 years ago, the U.S. Metric Board’s funding was pulled under the Reagan Administration. The failure of our last attempt stemmed from weakness in the 1975 metric system legislation and a later Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that said basically (but truthfully), “Nope, United States, you don’t have to do this; it’s VOLUNTARY.” (See below.)

From the Government Accountability Office “Disclaimer.” Yikes!

Guess what happened next…people moved on from this “lost cause” with little need to predict what would ensue during the next four decades.

Today, while most Americans have lost sight of the metric system—except for looking up unit conversions on Google—the National Institute of Standards and Technology (part of the Department of Commerce) did not, and it continues to implement various standards for such things as the Fair Labeling and Packaging Act (enacted in 1967) as commerce, education, and public needs continue to evolve.

I’ve got 10 years and $25,000+ of my own money invested in this project and I am prepared to walk away, but first…a couple of metric system standouts get recognition on my watch.

The two television shows I’ve identified have brought attention to our metric system plight for more than my short decade; these shows helped ensure that the metric system got noticed by including references to them within a humorous context for multiple decades.
And the first (but hopefully not the last) More Than 1.6 Kilometers Ahead awards go to:

#1: The Simpsons

To be clear, I put The Simpsons first due to seniority, not comparable quality or relative relevance. Both shows are incredibly funny and have made vast impacts on American society—although not necessarily in this particular area.

The Simpsons has run for more than 30 years! During that time, there have been countless metric system references: from Bart’s judge-issued restraining order given in meters to the We Do (Stonecutter’s Song) From Season 6, Episode 12: “Homer the Great” at roughly 12 minutes into the episode.

Who can forget such memorable lyrics as:

Who controls the British crown?
Who keeps the metric system down?
We do, we do
Who keeps Atlantis off the maps?
Who keeps the Martians under wraps?
We do, we do…

If that weren’t enough, there is the scene that people particularly remember: Grandpa’s rant at the public meeting (From Season 6, episode #18, “A Star is Burns” at about 3:15 minutes in:***)

Marge Simpson: Now, I know you haven’t liked some of my past suggestions like switching to the metric system…

Grandpa Simpson interrupts: The metric system is the tool of the devil. My car gets 40 rods to the hogshead and that’s the way I likes it.

We Do/Stonecutters’ song

[Sorry to those out of the country. I’m not sure the clips will play for either of these.]

#2: Stephen Colbert/The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (LSSC)

I feel like I need to incorporate Mr. Colbert—from both his Comedy Central days (see the clip below)—and his current work with the fine folks at LSSC.

Stephen Colbert illustrates the really old way to determine a yard in King Henry’s day. https://www.cc.com/video/l00qbc/the-colbert-report-the-metric-system


Excerpt from the above clip:

Now the English makes total sense. A pound is a pound. A hogshead is a hogshead. A yard is the distance between King Henry’s nose to his finger and a gallon is the amount of rain you can catch in a buffalo’s skull. Rock solid

Stephen Colbert, The colbert report, 2007

 I’ve noticed that the LSSC scripts hold wonderful references to not only the metric system but with my Los Alamos National Laboratory background (as a communications specialist, not a scientist), I always perk up when he touches on science stories (because I know the research staff know how to work their “reference magic”), and I know it’s because Mr. Colbert is drawn to it**. What draws him to the metric system? I have no guess. Fingers crossed, maybe I’ll get to ask him someday.

The reason I conceived these awards was due to a recent kilometer reference on LSSC, and I realized that, if I want to acknowledge the metric system contributions of these two television shows, this might be my only opportunity since—if I can’t move the needle on this—if American’s don’t care about this incredibly important topic (based on my decade of research)—it’s time for me to “close up shop” and go home.

I do have an “exit strategy,” but I hope I don’t have to use it.

At least these awards will go out one time.****

Thanks for reading this far.

Stay tuned; more on the horizon very soon.

Linda 

(*) Note: The award’s title is based on the “opposite” of the project’s title. As in More Than a Milebehind/More Than 1.6 Kilometers Ahead.

(**)  I know the history that his deceased father, James William Colbert Jr., was a physician who once worked for the National Institutes of Health.

(***) Thanks to long-time project collaborator, Peter Goodyear, for ensuring I included this non-singing, but very popular reference from The Simpsons.

Because this is where we are, my receipt for the dimensions of the plaques is in inches…sigh

(****) Thanks to Chad at Ortiz Printing in Santa Fe, NM for helping me pull the plaques together.