Why do Americans use Fahrenheit?  – Big Questions – (Ep. 37)
100 Comments


Hi I’m Craig, I’m of average height. I guess
you could say I’m fair… in height, and this is Mental Floss on YouTube. Today, I’m going
to answer Martin Prince’s big question, “Why do Americans use Fahrenheit?” I know some of you hate it when I don’t
use Celsius, so today I’m going to spend an entire video talking about Fahrenheit.
Let’s get started! First: I’m going to give a little history
of Fahrenheit and Celsius. So, the Fahrenheit scale was developed by a German man named
Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit in 1724. It’s believed that he originally had 0° being
the temperature of ice cold salt water, 32° as ice water, and 96° as body temperature.
Over time, the scale shifted a little, but it was used in English-speaking countries
for centuries. The Celsius scale was developed in 1744. It’s
named for a Swedish astronomer, Anders Celsius, who created a scale in which 0° was the boiling
point of water and 100° was the freezing point. What that’s the reverse! Well The modern
Celsius scale was the opposite of that. In most English-speaking countries, Fahrenheit
was used up until about the 1960s. Then, all those places (besides the U.S.) began to switch
over to Celsius and the metric system. Those crazy free-wheelin metric 60’s. Most had been
trying to switch to metric system since the 1800s because it obviously made more sense.
But there was some hesitation, especially when reporting weather. A 2006 article by
the London newspaper The Times claimed, “-6 °C sounds colder than 21 °F and 94 °F sounds
more impressive than 34 °C.” You want to be impressed by your temperatures, you know? So why doesn’t the U.S. switch over? Well,
we’ve tried. Like, in 1875, the U.S. joined the Metre Convention, which was a treaty signed
by 17 nations. Those nations developed a standardized metric system, which started with measurements
of mass and length, but eventually included temperature. Over the course of the next few decades, it
seemed like the U.S. would definitely switch over to metric, and we did and now it’s metric
everywhere happy ending, not true. The UK and Canada did switch in the sixties so why
didn’t we? In 1975, Congress passed the Metric Conversion Act. This act claimed that Metric
was, quote, “the preferred system of weights and measures for United States trade and commerce.”
It also stated that the government would, quote, “coordinate and plan the increasing
use of the metric system in the United States.” The government agency USMB, or United States
Metric Board, was created soon after the Act was passed. But, the public still wasn’t
convinced. And the Board didn’t have enough power to force the country to switch over.
Eventually, Ronald Reagan’s administration shut down the USMB in 1982. There’s still some traction and many people
in the U.S. who’d like to switch to metric. But, it’s has been a slow process and many
remain resistant. And weirdly, you still see Fahrenheit crop up in scientific journals
and engineering. This is for one main reason: the degrees are smaller, so you can get twice
the level of precision before needing decimals. Then there’s a secondary reason, ‘murica rah. Thanks for watching Mental Floss on YouTube,
which is made with the help of all these nice Celsiuses. If you have a Big Question of your
own that you’d like answered, leave it below in comments. See you next week! That one might
be a Fahrenheit, actually.

100 thoughts on “Why do Americans use Fahrenheit? – Big Questions – (Ep. 37)

  1. What I like about Fahrenheit is I know that if it's 100, it's pretty fucking hot. If it's 0, it's pretty fucking cold.

    Use Celsius for science experiments, use  Fahrenheit  for the weather.

  2. Americans prefer war to education, so the average American doesn't have the brain power to switch to metric.  Actually, they don't even understand imperial themselves.  Ask the average American how many ounces are in a pound, how many feet are in a mile, how many quarts are in a gallon, etc.  They won't be able to answer.

  3. Americans are basically just British colonists.  Still using the old measurements from Britain.  Their flag uses the same colours as Britain.  Of course they don't have their own language, and use the British language, English.  Their parliament is based on Britain's.  Heck, there are even more lovers of the British monarchy in the U.S. than Britain itself.  Better just stick with what great great grandpappy from England used.

  4. Without looking it up, how many of you imperial users can tell of the top of your heads how many feet are in a mile?

  5. Let's market metric as the opposition to imperial units. "Imperial" is a dirty word. It may help sell metric.

  6. My pet peeve when it comes to weights and measures is people who passionately believe that their preferred system is inherently superior (whichever one that is). The fact is neither imperial nor metric is inherently superior to the other. They're just different. People prefer whichever one they're used to.

  7. The UK switched to the metric system, huh?  I didn't know "stone" was a metric weight unit.  I also didn't know that a "pint" was a metric unit of volume.  I also didn't know that a "mile" was a metric unit of length.

  8. it's simple, 1) teach the metric in schools, 2) wait for the old to die, 3) the new generation has metric, 4) ???, 5) profit

  9. It's NOT twice as accurate. It's 9/5… to be twice as accurate it would have to be 10/5 which would reduce to 2. Please do these videos right.

  10. I keep seeing comments comparing the use of the imperial system to the issues of slavery, gay marriage, and racism. Really? Not even comparable.

     Unlike the latter issues, which were easily solved with legislation, the US just doesn't have the power to implement the metric system. It's not just because Americans have been using it forever, but the government would have to change road signs, retrain employees, buy new weather monitors, etc, and it just doesn't have the funding for all of this.

    When Canada was switching, all sorts of measurement mishaps occurred, some of which could have killed people, like the Gimli Glider incident. It's not just a matter of stubbornness, even tough it's a main reason.

  11. Change has partly happened. Engine sizes are in liters and medical science and industry has totally switched to metric system.

    But I really do not understand why the general public still insist of using inch fractions on everyday measurements… that makes simple calculations stupidly complex.

  12. I like using Fahrenheit because it relates to the temperature outside, like generally 0° is just about the coldest it gets (where I live) and 100° is the hottest. It's a nice scale to have for weather

  13. Fahrenheit is a much more useful scale for day-to-day use. That precision Craig mentioned makes it easier to conceive of the subjective temperature.

  14. I think that as far as temperature goes we should keep Fahrenheit. I mean who doesn't understand a scale of 0 to 100 based on what's tolerable to the human body.Length and everything else can be metric.

  15. Cause it's simpler, easier, and provides more info than Celsius. 100 Celsius is like 212 Fahrenheit. The U.S decided that we could either have simple temperature or simple measurements. We chose temperature.

  16. For all of you saying the duodecimal system and the Fahrenheit is more precise (without using decimals) or those that say that the imperial system is more practical and modern. I got something for you because i use PLANKS CONSTANT for measurement for better accuracy and precision, all you prehistoric stone-age men take note!

  17. Truth is, Fahrenheit is great for temperature's effect on the human body. It works very well for weather, as the two extremes are pretty good limits for the human body. Celsius works great for science and calculations, as it is much easier to convert to larger and smaller measurements, and has a much larger scale for staying between an understandable range. To many people who use the Imperial measurement for temperature, going from F to C is like going from C to K.

  18. The UK is bizarre. We "technically" use the metric system but still measure pub beers in pints and all our road vehicles use miles as a distance measurement as do our fuel tanks.

  19. I find it funny that everyone laughs at the US for not "going" metric only.(both US Standard and metric are used) Especially Europeans, I always think "Hey Europe, Pick a single language"…..Mike drop…..

  20. 1000 liters of WATER = 1 m3 of WATER —- notice they are 3 zero in 1000 litres
    WATER is a fluid betweens 0 and 100 degres celcius
    What the f*** is the relationships between gallons, oz, Fahrenheit, inches, foot, miles and ** ???? please

  21. Did you really have to give them excuses?!
    Yanks will argue that they're right even if the rest of the world clearly disagrees, and you give them more bullshit ammunition by saying 'it's more precise'?!

    Oh and before I get a bunch of "murica is number one!!!!111" comments in response, does anyone actually think that besides you guys?
    I mean if I walk around saying I'm the best man in the world despite nobody else thinking so and all the evidence to the contrary; does me saying it make it true? Obviously not.

  22. Fahrenheit is the only imperial unit that's somewhat reasonable. The rest just does not make sense in any way. It's like they're trying to make it hard for people.

  23. There is absolutely NOTHING metric about Celsius whatsoever!!! It is not base 10 in any way! It is just as arbitrary as Fahrenheit! There is no reason to switch! In fact Fahrenheit is BETTER for measuring weather. Other countries should switch to it!!!

  24. Any architectural drawings submitted to the federal government must have both Imperial and Metric distance measurements. Even today.

  25. I think we should use dC, or double Celsius. It's the temperature in Celsius times two. This means that hot days are more "impressive", and you get the increased resolution, but it still is easy to convert back to regular Celsius. It keeps the feel of fahrenheit.

  26. why cant we all have universal standard units of meshuring so all the humans on earth cand understand echother when talking about meashuring something? ohh right,us imperialism

  27. Lol at the argument "Fahrenheit is more precise, so it's better for weather." Really? Why?

    "Oh, it's 94F outside, I guess I can use a T-shirt." or "Oh, it's 90F outside, I guess I can use a T-shirt." Do you really believe the human body can even recognize the difference betwen 94F or 90F?

    Americans can't even bother to learn a second language, so I guess it's not strange it's too much to ask for to adapt to another mathematical system with a much more logical base 10 than base 12. But don't mix up lazyness with "having a more efficient system". It has nothing to do with "being easier to understand in everyday life".

    Considering how much Americans celebrate their independence, it's kind of ironic they cling to ancient and outdated systems implemented by the English kings they rebelled against.

    Speaking of the weather, I can't think of a more logical system than Celsius, that has 0 and hundred for the freezing point and boiling point of water, the most essential substance on this planet to sustain life (and that makes cars slide off the road).

  28. Give me Imperial!
    Give me Metric!
    Don't take away my Farenheit though!

    Farenheight 0-100: a great percentage.
    Celsius -17-38: A better scientific unit.

    You may apply decimals to celsius. However, what are the chances you are going to utter it to your mates, about how cold or hot it is. Farenheit is pleasing to the eye, and shows simplicity in our daily lives. But Celsius is incredibly impotant in its application of decimals; when in use of liquids and agents. Why can not we use both, for those that do would be much well versed in the application of old and new. Its like saving a dying language which we force from our daily lives, until we all fall under one language, which would be boring.

  29. usa's media exports and the internet are slowing their rise to the metric system in that, characters in their tv and movie programs keep using the imperial system, and that's exported to the world; it moves at an even higher rate through the internet. so there are young people getting even more exposed to usa culture in ways designed to make it seem as if it should be their culture as well. i mean, look at the spelling: it's litre, not liter; metre, not meter. you can find these spelling mistakes, and others, around the world now, because it's exported from usa rapidly through media.

  30. The metric system is arguably superior to the imperial system. Except for temperature and weight, that is. Using whole numbers, temperature is more precisely represented by the Fahrenheit scale and weight is more accurate in pounds than kilograms. No weather reports in Celsius countries use fractions of a degree, and no one records their body weight in tens of a kg.

    Anyway, it's not accurate to say that the U.S. doesn't use the metric system. It is used where necessary – in science and engineering. We can handle both systems. It always gets me when foreigners complain that we don't use metric. It's like someone from France complaining that bilingual Canada should only speak French.

  31. SI is perfect because no silly correction factors are necessary when moving between units… different from old units like kcal for example, J is direct.

  32. I wholeheartedly agree that America should switch to meters, liters, kilos, etc, but not Celsius for weather reporting. Fahrenheit is actually very convenient and intuitive as a scale for human air temperature perception. 0 is incredibly cold and 100 is incredibly hot. While these points really are arbitrary, they work quite well. In temperate regions (such as many parts of the US), 0 F is a very cold temperature for a winter day, and 100 F is a very hot temperature for a summer day. Purely coincidentally of course, many US states (and other temperate areas) have year-round average temperatures near 50 F (10 C), which is the midpoint of the scale, and can be considered "halfway between hot and cold." Additionally, Fahrenheit's greater precision means the temperature can be described in general terms. "The 60s" and "the 80s" each have specific feelings associated with them. This can be further broken down into something like "upper 70s," "low 50s" etc. The only non-intuitive thing about Fahrenheit is the fact that freezing is at 32, and that fact is cited by opponents of Fahrenheit weather reporting as if it were an infallible trump card, without considering all the advantages Fahrenheit has as a scale that fits very well with human perception of air temperature.

  33. America is like apple. They are the only ones who wanna be different and prevent the world from being universal. Everyone uses usb, but america has to use lightning. (imperial).They call their country free.. Like every other is slaved or something. And they celebrate stupid holidays (my own opinion, do not get triggered) like thanksgiving. That's like the most non-Free, slavery-like holiday. It looks as if you're slaved and you you celebrate that they didn't take your lifes so you thank them.Oh yeah and America's banks are criminals who print more and more money and inflate the dollar. Use bitcoin guys.. Use bitcoin and be truly free, do not be the bank's marionette.

  34. Fahrenheit allows for greater precision. You could've stopped the video there. Also the metric system is better for scientific & medical measurements, but much worse for practical every day use. Units like Feet are easy to measure with. IE: If you tell me the rug you're selling is 4 feet long, I dont have to fetch a tape measure. I can instantly approximate the length more or less. Meanwhile if you tell me the rug is 1.1219 meters, that doesn't mean crap to me… We currently have this problem with food labels in the US. They measure sugar in grams and the average person who does not measure things frequently at work, will not have a clear idea if you tell them theres 17 grams of sugar in cereal. Is that alot? However if the label stated Theres 1 and a half tablespoons of sugar, they would instantly know. Its very clear how big a spoon is and can relate it to a spoon of sugar for coffee/tea whether the serving is alot or a little.

  35. F = 1.8 (+32) = C the fuck does it have to be so confusing? They just want to be special, nothing more than that. Basically only 3 more small countries use Fahrenheit.

  36. Fahrenheit is far superior to Celsius. It is more precise and the range of 1-100 is where humans can survive.

  37. After watching a lot of YouTubers from the States, a lot of them always mention Celius but use the Fahrenheit's measurement It makes me wonder what they actually learned at school.

  38. In Oz, we use imperial for a small selection of random things, people's height, baby's weights, horse tracks etc. metric is pretty random too, I mean what the livid piss is a gram anyways?

  39. Did you know that a satellite crashed on Mars just due to the difference between the imperial units ( Fahrenheit, etc) to SI units( metres, etc)

  40. Celsius is partying hard.
    Fahrenheit is having a fun chat with people
    Kelvin sits alone at school.
    Rankine literally is in a school where he is the only student.

  41. Why? Because as a nation we're a sovereign, Constitutional Representative Republic, and we don't need the world's permission to do as we see fit.

  42. I think science youtube channels should all use the metric system all the time. And I'm a 53 year old Canadian who still weigh himself in pounds and measure his height in feet, I blame the U.S.

  43. We use imperial measurements because we can. The world's only super power can do whatever the fuck it wants to. Celsius-stupid ass system. 10 degrees, it's cool, 30 degrees, it's hot. Nice range of measurement buddy. We use metric in the medical world/ a lot of industry/ just about all products sold have both systems labeled so it's not like we're totally ignorant or blowing off the metric system. I've learned both and once you get used to metric, it's not as terrifying as one might thing. I was just being a wise ass earlier in this message. I get you metric system people's message.

  44. Fahrenheit is a human scale temperature based upon 100. 100 is about as hot as it is going to get in most places that count. Also above 100 you are getting sick and a little above think about the hospital. 75 is wonderful think 3/4. 50 ( 1/2) is chilly need a coat. Freezing 32 that's about 1/3. 0 that's about as cold as its going to get. Deviations are outliers. Who cares when water boils it depends on elevation, pressure, etc. Do you need to know much else unless you technical. So a system based on human scale and easy numbers 1, 3/4, 1/2 ,1/3, 0. oh yeah chicken at 3 1/4 pizza at 4 1/2.

  45. I really wish we would switch to the metric system already…I’m sick of having to convert lbs to kg before doing dosage calculations 😄

  46. I think that Americans just did not want to be forced into adopting an unfamiliar system. I am an archeology field tech and all of our measurements are metric but the metric system just does not make sense to most Americans.

  47. In Canada, we use celsius for weather, but oven temperatures are still fahrenheit. Thermostats in the home could be either; some people prefer them calibrated in fahrenheit (mostly older folks) and some in celsius. Most if not all programmable thermostats can be converted.

  48. I live in a country where temperatures go yearly above and below the freezing point of water for about the same amount, so using Celsius makes a perfect sense.

  49. Even though the uk switched a long time ago the imperial system is still used
    I mean distances are in yards and miles
    Height feet inches
    Weight stones and lbs (except food its usually sold in grams and kilos but many cooks still use lbs and ounces)
    Temperature well this one is a little tricky most people use a mix of °F and °C
    Old people usually use ° f
    Kids tend to use celsius

  50. just say that its precise ya fucking nerd…dont give us this patronizing "merica…rawr" shit at the end….fucking asshole

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