Metric system 'creepy', symbol of 'tyranny' - Fox News host Tucker Carlson

A popular TV host in the US has taken aim at a "weird, utopian inelegant, creepy" symbol of "tyranny" the rest of the world takes for granted - the metric system.

Tucker Carlson, a Fox News presenter whose show is watched by 3 million people every night, told viewers he'd "accept the kilometre when we accept the euro - never".

Carlson's guest on Wednesday night (US time) was a New York-based art critic and anti-metric activist, James Panero.

"Almost every nation on Earth has fallen under the yoke of tyranny - the metric system," said Carlson, introducing his guest.

"From Beijing to Buenos Aires from Lusaka to London, the people the world have been forced to measure their environment in millimetres and kilograms," he added, mispronouncing the latter and screwing up his face in disgust.

Tucker Carlson - pro-imperial.
Tucker Carlson - pro-imperial. Photo credit: Fox News

The US, Burma and Liberia are the only countries in the world in which imperial measurements are widely used. Carlson asked Panero how long the US could hold out against metric.

"We should stand tall on our own two feet, I say, because it was customary measures that measured out the Industrial Revolution and customary measures that took us to the moon," Panero replied.

"The metric system, meanwhile, is the product of the French Revolution. It was imposed at the business end of the guillotine."

Panero went on to claim the metric system of measurements was "totally made up" and "not great for measuring things in the real world" and prevented people cooking recipes handed down by their grandparents, in which ingredients were written in imperial measurements.

"What's an acre? It's the amount of land that a yoke of oxen can till in one day. A mile comes from relay passes or 5000 paces - 1000 paces of five feet each. A metre is what? It's an abstract division of the globe, that isn't even accurate."

In reality, while in 1793 the metre was originally said to be one-10,000,000th of the distance from the equator to the North Pole, it's currently defined as the distance light travels in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458ths of a second.

Panero called metric the "original system of global revolution and new world orders", Carlon nodding in agreement.

"I think you give a lot of us heart to keep fighting against the global tyranny of the metric system and bless you for that."

Though it's inelegant, there are some advantages to using old-style measurements, which unlike metric's base-10, usually involve numbers like 12 and 60.

"Those numbers divide up evenly into thirds, fourths, halves and enables common people to make calculations and to measure their lives without complex arithmetic. What's a third of a foot? It's four inches. What's a third of a meter? 33.3 something centimetres, it doesn't even add up. You see the problem right there?" said Panero.

"The French Revolution went all in for 10. They tried to impose a 10-day week, a hundred hours, a hundred minutes, a hundred seconds. They had a whole revolutionary calendar."

It lasted less than a year, and to this day we still use hours with 60 minutes and clocks with 12-hour faces.

Ironically, nowadays many imperial measurements are actually based on the metric system. In the 1950s, the official US system of 'customary units' were redefined - the inch, for example, became 25.4mm and the pound was defined as 453.59237g.

NASA, the US space agency which took men to the moon in the 1960s, has used the metric system for most of its work since 1990.