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View Full Version : Why isn't there metric time?


jasonh300
11-21-2005, 08:27 PM
I've always wondered about this, although I don't really use the Metric System.

The whole concept would be 100 seconds in a minute, 100 minutes in an hour, 10 hours in a day. Actually, I guess there would be millidays and so on.

The new Metric second would be .864 of a normal second.

The new Metric minute would be 1 minute and 26.4 seconds (in normal time).

The new Metric hour would be 2 hours and 24 minutes long (in normal time).

Noon would be 5 o'clock. Midnight would be 0 or maybe 10 O'clock.

You'd have times like 8:75 which would be a quarter till nine...roughly 10 pm. 3:50 would be half past 3.

Nine to Fivers would work 3:75 to 7:08.

I realize this is a silly concept and pointless, but since they don't teach kids to read the big hand and little hand anymore and it's all gone digital, why not?

Has anyone else ever come up with this idea or am I just crazy?

Si Amigo
11-21-2005, 08:41 PM
Has anyone else ever come up with this idea or am I just crazy?

You are not crazy, just google impaired. :p

http://www.indwes.edu/Faculty/bcupp/things/metrictm.htm

scr4
11-21-2005, 08:47 PM
We're already using Metric time. The basic unit of time in the Metric system is the second.

What you're proposing is decimal time. It may have some advantages, but there's really no need to create another standard for time because the whole world already uses the same system.

Polycarp
11-21-2005, 08:54 PM
The unit of time in the metric system is the second. Whenever the rate of anything is measured in metric units, it's so many somethings (meters, litres, kilograms, etc.) per second.

For times shorter than a second, we're already using metric: milliseconds, microseconds, nanoseconds, etc. I've seen some measurements using kiloseconds and once megaseconds. (Note that this concept is turned into the standard time-measuring system for a spacefaring culture in Vernor Vinge's science-fiction novel A Deepness in the Sky.

Exapno Mapcase
11-21-2005, 08:58 PM
Has anyone else ever come up with this idea or am I just crazy?
During the process of "rationalizing" measurements, the revolutionary government in France proposed this in the late 18th century. (cite (http://zapatopi.net/metrictime/).) Decimal clocks from that period exist. (http://www.antique-horology.org/_Editorial/RepublicanCalendar/default.htm)

It's been suggested at least annually ever since. In fact, it's offered up about as often as predictions of the end of the world.

Neither has ever happened. Neither ever will.

As others have said, there is no good reason to do so, and the expense and inconvenience would be so enormous that it's contraindicated.

Ruken
11-21-2005, 09:37 PM
I read some books by Vernor Vinge (his Zones of Thought books) where the time units were kiloseconds, megaseconds, etc. They didn't use days, weeks, years, etc. This is science fiction where Earth as we know it is long gone and forgotten.

At least I think it was those books...maybe someone will back me up as I don't have them on me ATM.

It seemed to work ok in the books, and I guess it would work for us as well, it's just that it would be a hassle to switch.

Mr2001
11-21-2005, 11:00 PM
We're already using Metric time. The basic unit of time in the Metric system is the second.
It seems like a bit of a copout to use the "regular" second for metric measurements, though. It's an arbitrary length of time that isn't related to any other metric unit, whereas the meter is derived from the circumference of the Earth, and the units for area, volume, and mass are based on the meter. The metric second should be something like the period of a 1-meter pendulum, or the length of time it takes for a dropped object to fall 1 meter.

Southessex
11-21-2005, 11:47 PM
This is officially the stupidest idea I've ever heard.

Bryan Ekers
11-22-2005, 12:04 AM
I read some books by Vernor Vinge (his Zones of Thought books) where the time units were kiloseconds, megaseconds, etc. They didn't use days, weeks, years, etc. This is science fiction where Earth as we know it is long gone and forgotten.

His then-wife Joan used the same units in her short story Mediaman.

Richard Pearse
11-22-2005, 12:53 AM
This is officially the stupidest idea I've ever heard.

Hey, stick around, it's a pleasure to have your company. I'll even pay your membership fee if you like.

Der Trihs
11-22-2005, 01:31 AM
His then-wife Joan used the same units in her short story Mediaman.She also used it in The Outcasts of Heaven Belt

MEBuckner
11-22-2005, 02:38 AM
The thing is, whether it should have been changed around or not, the second is now one of the fundamental units of the metric system. It's one of the seven basic units (http://physics.nist.gov/cuu/Units/units.html) of the entire system, and if you redefine it now, you'd have to redefine pretty much the entire system. (Note that even one of the other basic units is now defined in terms of the second (http://physics.nist.gov/cuu/Units/current.html).)

CalMeacham
11-22-2005, 08:26 AM
Metric time was proposed back when the metric system was introduced. Scientific American ran an article about it a few decades ago, complete with engravings of Metric Clocks produced ro measure metric time. For some reason, it never caught on, even in France.

Dunderman
11-22-2005, 08:37 AM
It's been suggested at least annually ever since. In fact, it's offered up about as often as predictions of the end of the world.

Neither has ever happened. Neither ever will.
Both of these seem to be rather big assumptions to make. I can pretty much guarantee that the end of the world will come.
This is officially the stupidest idea I've ever heard.
You have led the most sheltered life imaginable. Siddharta Gautama has nothing on you.

Freddy the Pig
11-22-2005, 08:47 AM
I realize this is a silly concept and pointless, but since they don't teach kids to read the big hand and little hand anymore and it's all gone digital, why not?The problem with time, and the reason it resisted decimalization, is that nature saddled us with two incompatible standard units--the day and the year.

The day measures the cycle of daytime and dark, and the year measures the cycle of the seasons. We can't live without either one. Long periods of time are going to be measured in years, and shorter periods in days. If I told you something was going to happen a kiloday from now, your first thought would be, "What time of year will that be?"

No doubt, we could decimalize the intermediate units. There's no reason why hours, minutes, and seconds couldn't be decimal fractions of a day. But even if you do that, you're stuck with the year for longer time scales--unlike the situation with respect to distance, where atomic to astronomical distances can all be measured in meters.

Another factor is that the day and year are universal, so there was less local variation in Eighteenth Century time measures than in distance measures--and less pressure for a new standard unit.

So for distance and mass, you could collapse a series of non-standard local measures into a new universal measure on one standard scale. For time, you'd be collapsing what was already a relatively universal measure into a new measure on two standard scales (the day and the year). The benefits of the latter were, and are, less compelling.

Squink
11-22-2005, 08:49 AM
The Hexclock (http://www.intuitor.com/hex/hexclock.html).
Of course, in an ideal world we'd all switch to base 30 (2 X 3 X 5). The additional prime factor would provide us more arithmetical tricks to ease multiplication and division. 30 hour days might be a drag though.

CookingWithGas
11-22-2005, 09:16 AM
This is officially the stupidest idea I've ever heard.

Is that your official factual answer?

AHunter3
11-22-2005, 09:25 AM
I've always wondered about this, although I don't really use the Metric System.

The whole concept would be 100 seconds in a minute, 100 minutes in an hour, 10 hours in a day. Actually, I guess there would be millidays and so on.

The new Metric second would be .864 of a normal second.

The new Metric minute would be 1 minute and 26.4 seconds (in normal time).

The new Metric hour would be 2 hours and 24 minutes long (in normal time).

That's the model I went with. I referred to them as "millidays" rather than "metric minutes", and "centimils" (hundredths of thousandths of a day) rather than "metric seconds", but same diff.

Noon would be 5 o'clock. Midnight would be 0 or maybe 10 O'clock.

You'd have times like 8:75 which would be a quarter till nine...roughly 10 pm. 3:50 would be half past 3.

Nine to Fivers would work 3:75 to 7:08.

Why not dispense with the colon? If we're going decimal-time here, now is 317.18094 (based on a start of day equivalent to 6 AM in conventional time, i.e., millidays since average sunrise).


Has anyone else ever come up with this idea or am I just crazy?

I had the conversion charts all worked out (in both directions) and could convert in my head for awhile before my obsessive-compulsive brain switched to a different focus. Need I mention that me coming up with the same idea in no way rules out your being crazy, and might even indicate the opposite? ;)

David Simmons
11-22-2005, 09:39 AM
The problem with time, and the reason it resisted decimalization, is that nature saddled us with two incompatible standard units--the day and the year.Good point. And one year is close to 360 times as long as one day. This must have been irresistible to the Babylonians who used a 60-based numbe system. What is more natural than to divide time up in units of 60 and do that six times with 5 extra days of celebration of how clever we are.

naita
11-22-2005, 10:29 AM
I had the conversion charts all worked out (in both directions) and could convert in my head for awhile before my obsessive-compulsive brain switched to a different focus. Need I mention that me coming up with the same idea in no way rules out your being crazy, and might even indicate the opposite? ;)
Here, in case you ever wanna convert, you can use these resources for my equivalent system: D-Time (http://www.tuftin.net/~bjornar/NoWhere/time.html).

Stealth Potato
11-22-2005, 01:44 PM
It seems like a bit of a copout to use the "regular" second for metric measurements, though. It's an arbitrary length of time that isn't related to any other metric unit, whereas the meter is derived from the circumference of the Earth, and the units for area, volume, and mass are based on the meter. The metric second should be something like the period of a 1-meter pendulum, or the length of time it takes for a dropped object to fall 1 meter.
Not quite. The meter is actually now defined as the distance that light travels in... you guessed it, a particular fraction of a second. 1/299,792,458 of a second, to be precise. The second we all know and love is pretty firmly engrained in the metric system now.

sundog66
11-22-2005, 02:47 PM
This immediately reminded me of the Simpsons episode "They Saved Lisa's Brain", in which a group of intellectuals takes over the city:

LISA: "Principal Skinner, how's your transportation project coming?"

SKINNER: "Oh excellent, not only are the trains now running on time, they're running on metric time. Remember this time people, 80 past 2 on April 47th, it's the dawn of a new enlightenment."

This is officially the stupidest idea I've ever heard.And what's the unofficially stupidest?

Stringer
11-22-2005, 03:25 PM
And what's the unofficially stupidest?
Let's get involved in a land war in Asia!

Bill The Cat
11-22-2005, 03:37 PM
Let's get involved in a land war in Asia!But what if he's a Sicilian and death is on the line?

Thirty-Nine
11-22-2005, 03:44 PM
I brought a Swatch Ďbeatí watch a few years back and tried living on metric time for a while. I made sure to switch by drawing up a list of reference points and periods, and never trying to convert between systems. The big problem was regular tram times, since they didnít convert into anything that was easy to remember. Otherwise, there wasnít really any difference. I canít say I did many on-the-fly calculations that made me glad I was using metric time. I think thatís the fundamental problem: itís a huge effort (I assume that we use time more than any other unit) to make for virtually no gain.

My only issue with the system of time we currently have is that there are five times too many minutes (and seconds). Who arranges to meet at 32 minutes past 7? Of course, itís not a big deal now weíve all got used to it. Plus, it could be a lot worse. At least 10 divides sixty.

Of course, in an ideal world we'd all switch to base 30 (2 X 3 X 5). The additional prime factor would provide us more arithmetical tricks to ease multiplication and division. 30 hour days might be a drag though.
30? What about quarters? That'd be the first thing I'd fix about base 10! Rather than primes, I think itís more important to find a number that is divisible by the lowest counting numbers. There doesnít seem to be much need to divide things into fifths, so 12 would seem adequate. Alternatively, a power of 2 like 16 or 8 allows you to keep halving while generating numbers in a memorable pattern. (e.g. 10, 8, 4, 2, 1, 0.8, 0.4, 0.2, 0.1, 0.08, etc)

Eurograff
11-22-2005, 03:49 PM
The problem with time, and the reason it resisted decimalization, is that nature saddled us with two incompatible standard units--the day and the year.

The day measures the cycle of daytime and dark, and the year measures the cycle of the seasons. We can't live without either one. Long periods of time are going to be measured in years, and shorter periods in days. If I told you something was going to happen a kiloday from now, your first thought would be, "What time of year will that be?"

No doubt, we could decimalize the intermediate units. There's no reason why hours, minutes, and seconds couldn't be decimal fractions of a day. But even if you do that, you're stuck with the year for longer time scales--unlike the situation with respect to distance, where atomic to astronomical distances can all be measured in meters.

Another factor is that the day and year are universal, so there was less local variation in Eighteenth Century time measures than in distance measures--and less pressure for a new standard unit.

So for distance and mass, you could collapse a series of non-standard local measures into a new universal measure on one standard scale. For time, you'd be collapsing what was already a relatively universal measure into a new measure on two standard scales (the day and the year). The benefits of the latter were, and are, less compelling.These are precisely the reasons why decimal time never worked while all the other decimal metric units did, and do. Metric system brought a single set of simple units with easy-to-use conversions into Europe which had had dozens of different units with little or no relation to each other, and which might have had different values in each town. Harmonizing the length and mass units in this logical way was an enormous improvement. But no such improvement was possible in time measurement, since not only Europe but practically every culture in the then-known world used the same set of day, year, and derived units. Even a small reform to this system is probably doomed as long as our species lives on planet Earth where these two measures are crucial to life.

Of course what follows is, like any sci-fi author worth their salt has already figured out, that if the human beings are to leave planet Earth some day on the distant future, those same day and year that are so important for us will become entirely meaningless. Clinging to these units and their derivations would probably soon lose popularity as a completely decimal system of kilo- and megaseconds takes the stage. Trying to still follow the old units would be hopelessly terracentric. The base unit would obviously be the SI defined second, and nothing prevents those hypothetical space travellers inventing colloquial names for the bigger units: think kilosecond of 16min 40s as a metric quarter; megasecond of over 11 days as metric week; and gigasecond somewhere between 31 and 32 years as metric generation (or decade or century or whatever). The Earth year does not have any particular importance to human physiology, it's safe to drop it out. Day does have as we have our sleeping patterns: fortunately one hundred kiloseconds is under 28 hours and thus fits nicely, it doesn't take much imagination to picture someone naming 100k seconds as metric day.

The benefits this completely decimalised system gives to our spacefarers are best illustrated when such civilization founds colonies on multiple planets, moons, comets, gigantic space lizards and other things. As each of these things has different rotation speed and distance of their respective suns, the days and years of these colonies would vary wildly. And while a single colony would probably use their own units of time in internal affairs, the interplanetary communication would have to use the metric time. Similarly, life on Earth would still be using their Earth customary units, but at the same time recognize the existence of decimal time, and apply it when necessary.

Thirty-Nine
11-22-2005, 03:53 PM
Ugh... 'brought'. <Shudders>

Anyway, while I'm desperately trying to convince people that I can spell, I should elaborate on my mention of S

Swatch do produce 'metric' watches, which are more of a dot.com throwback than anything else. They divide the day into a thousand 'beats', which are slightly longer than our minutes. They refer to their system as 'internet time', and decided that they would also do away with pesky time zones - the zero 'beat' is midnight in... wait for it... Switzerland. I doubt they had any serious goals of chrono-revolution, but I did see a few swatch metric clocks at ski resorts (but never without a normal clock)

Bryan Ekers
11-22-2005, 09:10 PM
the zero 'beat' is midnight in... wait for it... Switzerland.

How very... neutral of them.

Diceman
11-22-2005, 09:18 PM
The Star Wars novels use terms like "local night" and "local noon" when the characters are on a planet somewhere and the time of day becomes relevant. There's also some sort of standard Imperial time unit, which I think is the length of a day on Coruscant.