Re: Metric Time (was Re: Why not 13 months? (Was La Systeme Metrique))

Whittet (
9 Oct 1995 19:39:29 GMT

In article <>, says...
>In article <457e55$>,
> (Don Stokes) wrote:
>>I think there are five issues that keep feet & inches alive for "casual"
>>i. Familiarity (self explanatory)
>But short lived. I can't really *think* in feet and stuff any more.
>>ii. Divisibility. 10's integer factors are two and five; 12's are two, thre
>> four and six, making a halves, quarters, thirds, sixths and twelths of a
>> foot easily represented.
>Again, metric quarters are easy (two and a half tenths) and so are thirds
>(three and a bit tenths).

Three and a "bit" tenths? How much is a bit exactly?

Twelve is more easily divisable than ten in a practical sense
because it has nore factors.

And it ties in with ordinary mental arithmetic. A
>totally trivial business, easy to visualise. I always found that in
>practice the divisibility argument was irrelevant; if you're measuring
>things up, you have to divide anyway, inches or centimetres; and if the
>measure has feet in it you're straight into nightmare territory, all those
>bloody twelves fouling it up.

Try it in terms of musical proportions, or architectural ones. Stepping
down in terms of halves, quarters, thirds, sixths and twelths is more
pleasing to the eye than stepping down by a factor of ten.
>>iii. The size of the relationships; to represent say a person's height in
>> feet and inches requires two numbers to be remembered.
>I have no trouble remembering that my height is one metre eightythree (1.83
>if you prefer). Does six feet and half an inch sound better? I think it's
>much more confusing. Nobody brought up in the metric system has any problem
>at all with human scale measurements- and neither do I, who like you
>converted when I started to do science in school.

Are you aware that 25 millimeters is one twelfth of an Egyptian foot,
and that the Egyptian divisions of feet into four palms of four fingers
was repeated in the Roman foot which served as a model for the English foot?

The English increments preserve the unit measure in more combinations
but the metric system still works off the same base unit.

>As for kilometers, if you want a shorter version what's wrong with
>"klicks"? In French they say "kils". No problem for anybody. As for "mils"
>the meaning depends on context, and can be made explicit at once if needed.
>Which is true of any of these words.

At this level of evaluation the combination of five millenia of historical
precedent with increments of measure I can relate to on a physical basis
makes it incredibly simple for me to choose feet over meters as a useful
unit of measure.
>I think this all smacks of rearguard action. I actually remember the relief
>when the Brits gave up duodecimal (errr... ignoring the 20 shillings in the
>pound of course) money and suddenly money calculations became instinctive;
>do you remember having to use ready reckoners or dedicated calculators to
>handle routine financial transactions like tax and percentages in shops,
>because I do, and it was horrible- just horrible. I can't imagine the
>nightmare of ever seriously using the Imperial system (oh shit, the thought
>of it) ever again. I only drag it out when talking to some old fart who
>clearly won't function otherwise, and then I am doing conversions in my
>Nobody who never had to learn and use the Imperial system can ever know how
>bloody awful it was... at every level, including human.

hmm, so the real reason for advocating the new system is that a few people
were unaware of the basis for the old system?