Student Question

Why would it be important for scientists worldwide accept and use the SI system for making and reporting measurements?

Quick answer:

It would be important for scientists worldwide to use the SI system because it would eliminate the need for conversions from one system to the other.

Expert Answers

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The SI system is the International System of Measurements. Basically, it is the modern-day metric system, and it used by the majority of countries in the world. It is a wonderfully simple system to work with, because it uses factors of ten, so converting from millimeters to meters is as simple as moving the decimal three places to the left. Another advantage to the system is that the base unit name remains in the measurement. Millimeter, centimeter, meter, and kilometer are all distance measurements. This avoids frustrating units like "ounces," because the question always follows if the ounces are volume or weight measurements.

Scientists around the world are trying to solve similar problems and answer the same questions, so it benefits the entire scientific community to be using the same measurements. If all scientists are using the same system of measurements, there is never the need to convert from one system to the other. This means the work is more streamlined. Time is not wasted converting. Additionally, when a unit is converted from the SI system to something not the SI system, the math rarely works out to give an exact (or short) decimal. The result is that scientists are forced to round their conversions, and that means the amounts are no longer identical. At times, rounding rarely matters, but when working with very small or very large numbers, the rounding is a big deal.

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