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Monday, October 8 12:00 AM ET

Mile Now Same Length as Kilometer

By Ian Toltz

Washington DC – Recently the Canadian dollar has met the US dollar in value, now, another American icon has fallen: for the first time in thirty years, the kilometer is as long as a mile.

Henry Ferrel, curator of the National Weights and Measures Museum, told us a bit about the history of the kilometer and the mile. "Not many people remember now-a-days, but up until the 70s the kilometer was actually about forty percent longer than the mile. Then when Gerald Ford took office in '74, he had to find a way to take peoples' minds off the whole Nixon debacle.

"It was Tom Rizzle-- director of the National Bureau of Standards--who suggested that Ford make the mile longer than the kilometer, both to make Americans feel superior to Europeans and to make distant places seem closer and encourage road trips. The mile was previously about seven tenths of a kilometer, but its new length was more than double that, and so a trip to the country to see your parents now seemed half as long."

A few scientists have been predicting that the kilometer would once more overtake the mile for several years now. "It's no secret that the IPK [International Prototype Kilogram] has been slowly losing mass for some time now," explained Renée DesCartiér of the International Bureau of Weights & Measures, "and that mass had to have been going somewhere. The IPM [International Prototype Meter] was stored in a vault underneath the IPK, and it appears that the IPM has been growing even as the IPK shrunk."

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There have been rumors that President Bush may follow in Ford's footsteps, increasing the length of the mile yet again to try and boost morale in a country increasingly unsatisfied with the war in Iraq. Many staunchly oppose this change, but none more-so than the American automakers.

"It's crazy, he's giving us mixed signals," said Leonard Bass of Ford Motors Company. "On the one hand, they're trying to get us to increase efficiency and gas mileage, but then they try to pull the rug right out from under us with this little trick. What they should do is put the mile back where it used to be, at 0.7 kilometers. That alone would instantly double the gas mileage of every car on the road in America."

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