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How much of the teaching content at universities in the US is delivered in imperial units instead of SI?

I imagine that industry (e.g. Engineering) is still stuck using imperial units, but research and physics are much better suited to SI units, so I am interested to know how this is dealt with.

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I think a good part of Europe is still stuck with CGS, too. –  Federico Poloni Mar 27 '14 at 14:00
In some universities in the UK they still use imperial units in some subjects, specially in first year Physics. CGS depends more on the fields, like extragalactic astophysics or quantum field theory. –  Davidmh Mar 27 '14 at 14:20
Very interesting... in Australia anything other than SI units is practically unheard of –  Eksze Mar 27 '14 at 14:24
Let me paraphrase real life: if you're a mechanical engineer in the U.S. and have no idea what ft-lb, kips or ksi are, you're in for a world of hurt. –  Kuba Ober Mar 28 '14 at 0:20
It would be malpractice for any university not to teach students to perform dimensional analysis on the inputs to any kind of problem before proceeding. –  Erik Jan 24 at 16:51

3 Answers 3

up vote 15 down vote accepted

When I was an (engineering, US) undergrad, the textbook in one engineering mechanics class included problems using SI units and problems using imperial units. The problem sets for homework and exams came from the book, and could be in either SI or imperial units.

(You can see these examples in a sample chapter).

Every other class I've taken as a physics and engineering student used SI units exclusively.

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I had the same experience, except that I recall some textbooks also included a few problems in cgs just to keep us on our toes. But probably 99% of it was SI. –  mhwombat Jan 15 at 11:51
This was my experience, modulo thermodynamics and heat transfer instead of engineering mechanics. –  aeismail Jan 24 at 15:51

At the US community college where I teach physics, SI is used exclusively in all science courses. (Chem courses do still use calories, which are not SI.) Nearly all physics textbooks use SI exclusively, although a few may mix in examples using feet and pounds here and there.

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In civil engineering, Standard units are used exclusively. Sometimes instructors will mention SI units, but you will never use them on homework or exams.

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Really?!? Can you point to examples? I find it hard to believe that this is still being done, since pretty much every other discipline uses SI... –  jakebeal Jan 24 at 15:41
@jakebeal: This would make sense as the engineering codes that govern building in the US are still largely written in "traditional" units. –  aeismail Jan 24 at 15:55
@aeismail Sometimes, I despair of my country. –  jakebeal Jan 24 at 17:31
@jakebeal: I grew up there, too. But I can be tolerant of this since this is a "grandfathering" situation: the codes existed long before the switch to metric began, and few people are going to take the time to rewrite everything. (And don't forget that the parts are still manufactured to the old standards. It would be a huge effort to change over.) –  aeismail Jan 24 at 17:37
@aeismail I'm sure that it was a huge effort for the UK and Australia and Canada to change over as well, back in the 70s and 80s, but ends up a lot better than the current polyglot system of partial metric. –  jakebeal Jan 24 at 20:23

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