Yardstick: Ruler of Measure
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© 2002 Brian F. Schreurs
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A simple measure of metrics will find that as a rule the yard is the yardstick by which all other rules are measured.
It is time the world moved to a standard system of measurement. The metric system, long used in Europe and other parts of the world, is a failure as a unit of length. While it makes using a calculator easier, it makes using a brain harder. Its decimal-based units are inadequate for normal use, favoring applications for computers and mathematicians rather than real-world measurements. Machines must be designed to accommodate humans, not the other way around, so it's time to bring computers up to speed and teach them the Imperial system, a more human, more natural system of measurement.

For human purposes, the metric system fails because of its decimal-system gradations. These gradations quickly become unresolvable for any practical purpose. An excellent example of this is the meter. The meter is divided into ten decimeters, which largely go unused. Each decimeter is divided into ten centimeters, the most common subunit of the meter. Each centimeter is divided into ten millimeters. Therefore, a meter has 100 centimeters and 1,000 millimeters. Mathematical, computer-friendly precision. But nearly useless for a human.

Its Imperial competitor, the yard, is nearly the same length. It is divided into three feet; each foot is divided into 12 inches. Each inch is traditionally divided into halves, quarters, eighths, and sixteenths; however, there is also an alternate scale that divides each inch into six picas, and each pica into 12 points. Though on paper this appears to be a messier system, lacking the tidy decimal precision of the meter, in practice it is much more effective.

By taking three rulers and placing basic marks on paper, it's easy to find the practical resolution limit of each measuring system.

Length Divided By 2

MeterYard (trad.)Yard (alt.)

1 meter1 yard1 yard
5 decimeters1 foot 6 inches1 foot 6 inches
25 centimeters9 inches9 inches
125 millimeters4-1/2 inches4 inches, 3 picas
unresolvable2-1/4 inches2 inches, 1 pica, 6 points
unresolvable1-1/8 inches1 inch, 9 points
unresolvable9/16 inchunresolvable

Length Divided By 3

MeterYard (trad.)Yard (alt.)

1 meter1 yard1 yard
unresolvable1 foot1 foot
unresolvable4 inches4 inches
unresolvableunresolvable1 inch, 2 picas
unresolvableunresolvable2 picas, 8 points

Length Divided By 4

MeterYard (trad.)Yard (alt.)

1 meter1 yard1 yard
25 centimeters9 inches9 inches
unresolvable2-1/4 inches2 inches, 1 pica, 6 points
unresolvable9/16 inchunresolvable

Length Divided By 5

MeterYard (trad.)Yard (alt.)

1 meter1 yard1 yard
2 decimetersunresolvableunresolvable
4 centimetersunresolvableunresolvable
8 millimetersunresolvableunresolvable

Length Divided By 6

MeterYard (trad.)Yard (alt.)

1 meter1 yard1 yard
unresolvable4 inches4 inches
unresolvableunresolvable2 picas, 8 points

Length Divided By 7

MeterYard (trad.)Yard (alt.)

1 meter1 yard1 yard
unresolvableunresolvableunresolvable

Only one time out of six does metric prove to be more adaptable than Imperial. Any time someone is faced with a complicated reduction problem, they only have a one-in-six chance of arriving at a precise answer in the metric system -- and a five in six chance that their measurement is nothing but a good estimate. That computers find metric more convenient is of little consequence: they can have their base-ten system and puzzle out what one-third of a meter looks like, while the humans on the world continue to live by inches and feet. All those zeroes lined up neatly have little bearing on the real world. Clearly, under most circumstances the Imperial yard serves as the superior unit of measurement for humans.

The metric system also fails to be sized appropriately for humans. Because of its derivation, units of measure are divisible by ten, but ill-suited for labor that does not involve extensive mathematical computations. Is it any wonder that a man is still six feet tall? Measuring a six-foot, 31-year-old manís height in centimeters (182) makes as much sense as measuring his age in months (372).

Humans are natural creatures that work best by making sense of their universe in a natural way. A year could be divided into ten months of 36.5 days apiece, but what would be gained from it? The new measuring system would fail to account for natural cycles of the moon and the seasons, and would throw away centuries of cultural wealth, while adding no particular value to the calculations. How is measuring time any different from measuring space? It is not. Any measuring system must be tailored to the users of that system. Let binary computers use base-ten measurements if it makes them compute faster. Let humans use a system predisposed to work well within their natural environment. For the sake of the citizens of the planet, the Imperial system must be adopted!