Units of Measurement

AllanR

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In Hungary, the decalitre (1/10 of a litre) is a common enough measurement. You can buy wine at the market by the dl and recipe books use it.
 

Christine Wheelwright

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Base 12 is only cumbersome for math when your counting system is base ten. There's nothing magic about the number ten.

However, I think creating a "conmath" with different base would be a bridge too far for most SciFi readers.

Right. I think people sometimes assume the no.10 has some kind of fundamental significance in nature. In fact the use of base 10 in our counting system almost certainly results from the fact that we have 10 fingers. I imagine a primitive man counting on his fingers until he runs out, and then placing a pebble in a pot (the '10s' column) before starting again with his fingers.

Really, any base would have been valid. Base 16 ("Hex") and base 8 have the advantage that they are very easy to convert to base 2 (binary) which is useful in computer science. I suppose base 12 does have an slight advantage in being nicely dividable: 6=10/2, 2=10/6, 4=10/3, 3=10/4.
 

farntfar

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In fact the use of base 10 in our counting system almost certainly results from the fact that we have 10 fingers.
You may remember that in Watership down, Hazel's brother was called Fiver, on the basis that any number above 4 was, for rabbits, Five. (More than the 4 paws that they could count up to.
Somewhat similar to Ender, in Ender's game, being the last possible child, before it became logically too expensive
 

AllanR

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Base 20 if I'm writing an alt history where the Mayans conquered and colonized and became a dominant world force.
 

Yozh

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Right. I think people sometimes assume the no.10 has some kind of fundamental significance in nature. In fact the use of base 10 in our counting system almost certainly results from the fact that we have 10 fingers. I imagine a primitive man counting on his fingers until he runs out, and then placing a pebble in a pot (the '10s' column) before starting again with his fingers.

Really, any base would have been valid. Base 16 ("Hex") and base 8 have the advantage that they are very easy to convert to base 2 (binary) which is useful in computer science. I suppose base 12 does have a slight advantage in being nicely dividable: 6=10/2, 2=10/6, 4=10/3, 3=10/4.
Yes, I think there’s cultural and linguistic evidence for base 12 being a strong contender with base 10 historically, maybe b/c of the 12 months of the lunar year. We still have base twelve time, essentially, and the concept of a dozen or dozens, and 12 inches in a foot. And many European languages have unique word for numbers up to 12 before reverting to a system for counting higher.

Base 10 won out for higher counting and higher math, but it could have been 12.
 

psikeyhackr

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I remember the dull maths teacher thinking he was a proper wit (but he never was) because he gave us all a blank exercise book for his new fangled lessons in the Metric system.
He insisted that we all wrote our names on the front and below it we had to write *drum roll*
'Thoroughly Modern Milli'

Only the class creep chortled, we all sighed because it was basically a fresh subject on top of our busy workload,and we were by then very familiar with the old Imperial system
Half wits think they are wits. What can you do?

It sounds better than a math teacher who would scream "HERESY!" whenthe student made a mistake and throw an eraser. I can even find it funny now but not then.
 

Pyan

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‘Everyone knows trolls can’t even count up to four!’*


*In fact, trolls traditionally count like this: one, two, three, many, and people assume this means they can have no grasp of higher numbers. They don’t realise that many can BE a number. As in: one, two, three, many, many-one, many-two, many-three, many many, many-many-one, many-many-two, many-many-three, many many many, many-many-many-one, many-many-many-two, many-many-three, LOTS.
Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms
 

Anne Martin

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‘Everyone knows trolls can’t even count up to four!’*
*In fact, trolls traditionally count like this: one, two, three, many, and people assume this means they can have no grasp of higher numbers. They don’t realise that many can BE a number. As in: one, two, three, many, many-one, many-two, many-three, many many, many-many-one, many-many-two, many-many-three, many many many, many-many-many-one, many-many-many-two, many-many-three, LOTS.
Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms
Isn't that base four? :)
 

JunkMonkey

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I tried to explain pre-decimal money to my kids a couple of years ago. explaining that we went from base 12 in the first column (pennies in a shilling) to base 20 in the next (shillings in a pound) OR base 21 (shilings in a guinea) then after that used base 10.

They looked at me as if I was an idiot.

And I learned the other day that the Imperial system is now defined by reference to the metric. A meter has a :speed of light divided by' base reference. Imperial is piggybacked off that with an inch being defined as 25.4mm.
 

JunkMonkey

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My favourite tape measure:

tape-1.jpg


and this is why:

tape-2.jpg
 

Pyan

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I tried to explain pre-decimal money to my kids a couple of years ago. explaining that we went from base 12 in the first column (pennies in a shilling) to base 20 in the next (shillings in a pound) OR base 21 (shilings in a guinea) then after that used base 10.

They looked at me as if I was an idiot.
Yet I bet there's a lot of kids that could tell you exactly how many Knuts there are in a Sickle, and the number of Sickles that make up a Galleon...
 

farntfar

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Yet I bet there's a lot of kids that could tell you exactly how many Knuts there are in a Sickle, and the number of Sickles that make up a Galleon...
And their fathers (or perhaps grandfathers) may remember how many Ningis there are in a Pu. (8, in case you've forgotten.)
 

farntfar

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It"s actually currency, Alex, from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Possibly only in the Radio version, but I think in the books too.

In fact there are three freely convertible currencies in the Galaxy, but none of them count. The Altarian Dollar has recently collapsed, the Flainian Pobble Bead is only exchangeable for other Flainian Pobble Beads, and the Triganic Pu has its own very special problems. It exchange rate of eight Ningis to one Pu is simple enough, but since a Ningi is a triangular rubber coin six thousand eight hundred miles along each side, no one has ever collected enough to own one Pu. Ningis are not negotiable currency anyway, because the Galactibanks refuse to deal in fiddling small change. From this basic premise it is very simple to prove that the Galactibanks are also the product of a deranged imagination
 

THX1138

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It"s actually currency, Alex, from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Possibly only in the Radio version, but I think in the books too.

In fact there are three freely convertible currencies in the Galaxy, but none of them count. The Altarian Dollar has recently collapsed, the Flainian Pobble Bead is only exchangeable for other Flainian Pobble Beads, and the Triganic Pu has its own very special problems. It exchange rate of eight Ningis to one Pu is simple enough, but since a Ningi is a triangular rubber coin six thousand eight hundred miles along each side, no one has ever collected enough to own one Pu. Ningis are not negotiable currency anyway, because the Galactibanks refuse to deal in fiddling small change. From this basic premise it is very simple to prove that the Galactibanks are also the product of a deranged imagination
I seem to remember that on the BBC tv series too.
 

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