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Towards Ideal Measurement Systems

Jamie Stroud

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America uses several different units for any given measurement. It'd be simpler to to use a single unit for any given measurement. The metric system accomplishes this. The flaws of non-metric systems and how to influence further adaptation to the metric system will be discussed in this article. However, even the metric system and the international system of units (SI) have flaws. Therefore, the flaws of the metric system and the SI will also be discussed in this article, as well as how to improve those flaws.

Internation System Of Units (SI) Rules And Notes

International System of Units (SI): Internationally agreed upon weights and measures, both metric and non-metric.

Base Units Of The SI

SI/Metric Measurement Problems

The measurement for the unit of mass is arbitrary. There are already plans to change the measurement definition to relate to the energy of a photon. However, this new definition would make it dependent on the measurements of distance (the meter) and time (the second), which brings me to my next point.

Even though all base units of the SI, except for mass, utilize extremely stable properties of the universe to provide extremely precise measurements, the measurements for distance and time are based on an arbitrary number. To extrapolate, a second is 1/86 400 of a day. In another place or another time, there could be said to be a different number of seconds in a day. In which case, the SI definitions for meter and second would need to be updated to account for the number of seconds in a day. As I'll explain later in this article, America's time system is flawed and I've created a much simpler time system.

The metric system units have inconvenient default settings when it comes to distance and mass. For example, we measure height in centimeters, a fraction of a meter, yet me measure our weight in kilograms, a multiple of a gram. It might be more useful and practical to make the base quantity for these units relatable to our bodies.

Evidence strongly supports that most people can subitize 4 symbols (Trick & Pylyshyn, 1994), that is to say, recognize that amount of symbols immediately and accurately without having to consciously count them. The SI currently recommends separating numbers every 3 digits when it comes to large numbers. However, that'd be less than optimal, we'd be selling ourselves short. There are many societies (for example, China) that already do separate numbers every 4 digits, so it's not a new concept. To clarify this with some examples, ten-thousand shouldn't be 10 000, it should be 1 0000, and it'd need to be given a different name since there would no longer be a "ten" involved in it. In Mandarin Chinese they call it "wàn". For example, to implement this in English, 1000 0000 could be called "thousand wàn".

Comparing The Metric System And Non-Metric Systems

It's generally believed that America doesn't use the metric system whereas most of the rest of the world does. This isn't completely accurate, however. You see, imperial and US customary measurements are now defined based on metric measurements. For example, a foot is officially defined as exactly 0.3048 meters and an ounce is officially defined as exactly 28.349523125 grams. To clarify this, a foot could hypothetically be defined as the length of the average person's foot, for example, and this definition wouldn't connect to the metric system at all. (In the past, measurements did have quite arbitrary definitions like this.) With that being said, while it's simpler to define "non-metric" measurements based on metric measurements rather than on arbitrary things, it'd be even more simple to just use metric measurements and not have to deal with conversions at all.

Distance Issues

In comparison, the metric system only has the meter which has tiers in multiples of 10. Therefore, it'd simplify measurements to adopt this system.

Weight Issues

In comparison, the metric system only has the gram which has tiers in multiples of 10. Therefore, it'd simplify measurements to adopt this system.

Volume Issues

In comparison, the metric system only has the liter which has tiers in multiples of 10. Therefore, it'd simplify measurements to adopt this system.

Temperature Issues

American society uses 3 different scales for measuring temperature: Fahrenheit, Celsius, and Kelvin. Based on the SI, Kelvin has a compelling definition based on fundamental properties of the universe. However, one can also see the convenience of Celsius since it defines it's 0° as the freezing point of water and it's 100° as the boiling point of water, which are variables more relatable to us in our day-to-day lives. With that being said, it might be useful to maintain both Celsius and Kelvin, but society would probably be simpler if Fahrenheit was abandoned.

Angle Issues

There are 360 degrees in a circle. Furthermore, there are 60 arcminutes in a degree and 60 arcseconds in an arcminute. The angle (e.g. degrees) of a circle is mostly arbitrary, one theory is that it was inspired by the days in a year (365-366) yet rounded to 360 in order to be decimal, duodecimal, and sexagesimal compatible (360 is divisible by 10, 12, and 60 without involving fractions). The angles of all other shapes can relate to the circle, and because the # given for the angle of a circle is mostly arbitrary, the angles of all other shapes are mostly arbitrary by proxy.

An interesting observation is that a square is also 360°. Why should a square, of all shapes, have the same angle as a circle? If you attempt to draw a circle from one side of a corner to the other side of that same corner of a square, you'll see you only get 1/4 of a circle. 1/4 of 360° is 90°. By adding all corners together, you'll see that you'll get a full circle (360°).

angles, three hundred sixty (360) degrees

There's a tendency to work with angles in halves. For example, for each additional side of a simple polygon there are +180°. For another example, in athletics or when given directions, people are generally given them in terms of 180° (half), 90° (half of a half), or 45° (half of a half of a half). It'd be ideal to make the angle of a circle a number that's divisible in halves to 1 without involving fractions. Octal would accomplish this well. Fractions of 1 degree would work similarly to metric measurements, having tiers of the base number (which would be a 10 in octal in this case). In this case, a 45° would be 1°, half of the would be 0.4°, half of that would be 0.2°, half of that would be 0.1°, half of that would be 0.04°, etcetera. To clarify, 0.4° might also be called 4 octidegrees ("octi" being comparible to "deci") or 4 arcminutes, for example.

Time Issues

Time Measurements Of The Year Issues

There's a good naturalistic reason for deciding that there are 365-366 days in a year. A day is defined as 1 full rotation of the Earth and a year is defined as 1 full orbit of the Earth around the sun. Between 365-366 (more precisely, though not exactly, 365.25) full rotations of the Earth (days) occur within this full orbit. However, the decision to have months was mostly arbitrary and the decision to have 7 days in a week is mostly arbitrary too. The measurement of months was probably chosen in relation to lunation. Lunar phases of the moon change about every 29.53 days whereas the average month is about 30.44 days. The measurement for weeks was probably chosen to be conveniently (but not perfectly) split into quarters of a month.

Months are entirely extraneous. Society could get along more simply without the unit of months. Weeks, however, probably satisfy a natural drive to have routine and organization. Having days put together in units of weeks more easily allows for routines of activities to be planned and followed. If 8 is the ideal numeral system, then it'd probably be simpler conforming the days of the week to this number. Notice also, that eliminating months also makes it easy for days to align on the same date each week, which is quite unlike the current system in which many people know the day but often have trouble remembering the date. However, for this new system, the mathematics involved to ensure that there's not 1 week out of the year with a different number of days (so that the number of weeks divides evenly with the days of the year) would be somewhat complicated. It'd have to be decided if it's worth doing the math and having leap weeks every so often, or if it's better to just have 1 week out of the year that has a different amount of days than 8.

Perhaps studies should also be done to figure out which amount of days in a week people are generally most content with. Since weeks are primarily useful for organizing routine activities, perhaps a different amount of days than 7 or 8 is actually better for people's well-being. If that's the case, then perhaps it's worth being out of mathematical conformity and instead deciding on a different number of days for a week.

ideal calendar system (ics)

Time Measurements Of The Day Issues

This time system is quite complicated considering that it's essentially a mix of duodecimal, sexagesimal, and decimal. Duodecimal and decimal have been popular numeral bases in many societies. The reason sexagesimal was chosen for use with the time system probably relates to the 360° of a circle (which was probably decided based on the number of days in a year). A circle was probably perceived as relating to the rotation of the Earth (which relates to the day), so 60 was probably chosen as more manageable fractions of 360.

It's be simpler to have a single numeral base to deal with the amount of hours in a day, and have fractions of the hour work similarly to metric measurements, having tiers of the base number (which would be a 10 in octal in this case). This would also rid many confusions. For example, if someone said to meet tomorrow at 9, you might assume 9 in the morning when he meant 9 at night. For another example, many people get 12 a.m. and 12 p.m. mixed up.

Another thought is that basing time on a Planck second (the absolute smallest amount of time) and multiples of it would be most natural, most ideal. First off, the Planck second isn't exactly known yet. Furthermore, this multiple would likely not end up landing exactly (or even closely) inline with the time it takes for 1 full rotation of the Earth (a day). Therefore, for every day use, time is better aligned according to 1 full rotation of the Earth (a day). Indeed, an Earth day would be different from another planet's day, and so time units would be different on other planets by proxy.

Regular Time Octal Time
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Solutions Summary

Distance, weight, and volume issues can all be solved by continuing to take steps towards transferring to the metric system. Technology can help tremendously in this regard. If social network companies like Facebook and Twitter implemented codes to automatically put metric measurements in parenthesis whenever someone posts with non-metric measurements, it'll get people used to seeing those metric measurements. Through repetition of frequently seeing metric measurements next to their other measurements, they'll be able to more easily adapt to metric measurements.

Temperature issues can be solved in the same way as above. Additionally, it's a common meme to say that the body's normal temperature is 98.6° F. Companies that advertise flu products can start adding "37° C" in parenthesis next to this so people will also start recognizing 37° as the body's normal temperature in Celsius.

Time issues can also be solved through technology. Octal clocks can be more widely implemented through big companies. For example, Apple could have an octal clock display next to their normal clock by default. This will get people used to seeing octal time which, through repetition, will make the adaptation easier. Furthermore, ideal calendars can be given as an option in smartphones next to Julian (regular) calendars along with conversion formulas to let people know what the Julian date is next to their ideal date.

In regards to numbers, people can start separating every 4 digits on their own with large numbers and others will probably understand what they mean even if they're not familiar with such separation. For example, someone used to seeing ten-thousand written as 10 000 will still probably understand it if someone writes it as 1 0000 (unless they assume it's a typo, such as putting an additional 0 by accident), though it might take a bit more time to process. It'd be useful to have a new term for large numbers written this way. Unless a widely agreed upon term is devised, "wàn" is a fair option, for that is what it's called in Mandarin Chinese. Furthermore, technology can also help in this regard if social sites such as Facebook and Twitter implemented codes to automatically put traditionally separated numbers in this new separation in parenthesis.


Regular Time Octal Time
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