A UK metric time line | UK Metric Association
The current version of the metric system has no problem describing the macroscopic universe. Here is a table from an earlier essay on the subject:
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There is no need for Asimov to have qualified the Gigameter as only being “handy for the nearer portions of the solar system.” This is a pre-Naughtin’s Laws view of the metric system. The Gigameter is completely useful for describing the distance to Pluto and the position of the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft. Asimov continues:
Essentially, Talleyrand, Condorcet, Riggs-Miller, Franklin, and Jefferson were proposing that their three nations France, England, and the USA should cooperate to equalise their weights and measures by the joint introduction of a 'système métrique décimal' (decimal metric system).
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The overall point is that if the metric system was completely adopted in the US without dilly-dallying, we would use the metric system, and its appropriate prefixes, to describe all important scientific discoveries and ideas. Children would grow up memorizing metric prefixes (without the prefix cluster about unity) as earlier children committed multiplication tables to memory. This exclusive metric ecosystem would soon provide a reinforcing context for the relative sizes of the metric prefixes, and make the public as well as people in technical vocations, much more numerate. Astronomy texts would use metric to describe distances, and only mention light years as a gee-whiz! metaphorical supplement to actual measurement units.
Measurement - Real-life applications - Science Clarified
This brings me to a ubiquitous metric system fallacy that seems rooted in the heritage of our Ye Olde English Arbitrary Grouping of Weights and Measures or Ye Olde English. This fallacy Sven and myself call “The Implied Precision Fallacy.” It is the idea that one should decide what measurement units are to be used based on a prejudicial notion of what the magnitude is expected to be measured, and the expected measurement error. It also implies that if you measure further than this, you are implying you are measuring to that precision.
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Dr. Asimov died in 1992, just after the new set of metric units from yocto to Yotta were adopted. They describe the world which engineering and science encompass at this time. It is sad that the gentle doctor has been gone for over 20 years, and we are no closer to adopting metric units for everyday engineering and science, let alone in our public news media. Dr. Asimov expressed his frustration that no one was listening to his appeals for the metric in the early 1960s in his essay Forget It!. The US has continued to ignore the metric system for over 50 years since that essay first appeared. Will metric adoption take 200-300 more years to occur in the US? I don’t know. What I do know is I don’t have time to wait around that long, and neither did Dr. Asimov.