Easier By The Dozen?

Last year we reported on the everchanging status of engineering units* and were moved to observe that some of these still have a rather parochial basis. Now we are obliged to confess to a certain extent of parochialism on our own part: the earlier discussion had been limited to what's happening in the decimal metric system.

We have now before us a handsomely mimeographed brochure from the Duodecimal Society of Great Britain. A cover note points out that this new metric system (base 12) is superior to the "French" system (base 10).

Without claiming duodecimal dexterity, we can acquaint you at least with some of the basic concepts. The fundamental time unit is 1 tim, the 12-4 fraction of the familiar hour, or 0·17361 sec. The unit of length is the grafut ("gravity foot", abbreviated gf): the distance through which an object drops in an earth- normal gravity field during the first tim of free fall. It works out to be almost exactly one British foot (well, about three-eighths of an inch shy). The mass unit is defined as the amount of H2O mass occupying one cubic grafut under standard conditions, and so forth. There is a complete set of basic unit definitions and base12 prefixes to take the place of base10 multipliers like "kilo-".

Trying to put all this into some sort of perspective, we are reminded of a story we've heard from one of our anthropologically learned friends. It seems there are primitive tribesmen so algebraically unsophisticated that they only count `'one - two -many".
There are times when, quite frankly, we envy them.

*"Measurement Units: Why They Won't Stay Put", DESIGN NEWS, (USA) Aug. 23 '71, pp36-37