The French should of switched to base12 instead of bringing Metric to base10



that only looks weird to us due to the circumstances we were taught under.
if we were taught base12, the two additional characters would look perfectly normal.

(David Rutten) #42

Of course. Anyone familiar with hex colours has already been through this process. I almost never use hex, but #FF006A doesn’t look that weird to me any more.


Nope, that’s just the “Americanized” versions, which are the equivalent of 48" x 96". Here, thin aircraft plywood often comes in square sheets 155cm x 155cm… again, go figure…

Here are just a few of the sizes that various forms of plywood come in:

2520 x 1850 mm
2520 x 1870 mm
2500 x 1250 mm
2500 x 1830 mm
2500 x 1220 mm
2500 x 1250 mm
2500 x 1500 mm
1500 x 3000 mm
1550 x 1550 mm
2440 x 1220 mm (I did find one, probably origin USA!)

And guess what - any kind of particle board or MDF is different again…

It’s a jungle here for wood sizing, you just have to get used to it… (French)


(Radovan Grmusa) #44

what about octal number system


Trenary - less is still more :wink:
the next big thing after intel


heh, yeah… we can get weird sizes over here too though generally not at big box or even local supply houses throughout much of the country… being in NYC however has an advantage for this type of stuff… i can get pretty much anything here locally (via the importers or their direct outlets)… same thing on the west coast

generally speaking though… yes, we have one size :slight_smile: 48 x 96

with at least some of the sizes you’ve listed (and again for the MDF), they’re likely varying slightly due to typical end usage…
for, say, a sheathing application, we’ll always get 4 x 8 with layouts typically being 16" centers (or something else that goes into 48… i use 8" o.c for ramp construction)…

but things like MDF/particle board/etc… things that will likely be cut down into smaller pieces… they add a bit more to the sheet (49"x97") to account for the blade kerf… ie- you can get 3- 16" rips (exactly 16") out of a sheet of MDF even though the two cuts ate up 1/4" of material.

we can also get sheets that are slightly undersized… some roofers will use it as it allows them to use clips between the sheets while maintaining their layout without needing to trim each sheet.

i couldn’t understand the words at your link but the pictures of the glue-lam beams are sweet… i like that stuff… ‘engineered lumber’


something interesting about needing the additional digits is that in our language, we already have words for 12 digits…
we just don’t use our numbers accordingly.

we have the words eleven and twelve and they’re the only numbers which are used only when the number is their exact value.

all the other words for numbers are built off the single digits…

it should go:
ten one (oneteen ?)
ten two (twoteen)
ten three (thirteen)
ten four (fourteen)
ten five (fifteen)
two ten (twenty)
two ten one (21)
two ten two (22)
three ten (thirty)
three ten one

four ten (forty)
five ten (fifty)

except we have unique words for all numbers through 12… not just 10 as the base would imply we should have… our language implies we should have eleventy and twelvety prior to reaching the digit 100.

i would almost guess the numbers 11 & 12 are said the way they are since they were previously used in some sort of base12 system at some point in history…

the problem though being ‘eleven’ is three syllables which wouldn’t be very good for a number designed to create other numbers… i think all of our single digit numbers are single syllable words for this reason. (aside from 7)

11, in base12, could be called EL
…and maybe written Ɛ …(like a backwards 3).
seems like pretty good way to deal with 11 imo.

that looks weird to me… always has and likely always will :slight_smile:
but yes, if i were doing stuff which had me needing to use hex, i’m pretty sure it would normalize


oh… i went off on the language tangent and forgot to reply about this part which was more on topic (or what i meant as the original topic at least :wink: )

what you describe is an imperial foot.

it’s definitely more confusing than necessary and if a standardized number and measuring system were designed together, from a clean slate… yes, it would be really stupid to build it this way.

a foot functions as if it is base12 except we used base10 to describe its increments.

if the foot looked & functioned the exact same except we use base12 to describe its increments… then 5 feet equals 50 inches… 7’ = 70" … 20" = 2’… or .4’ = 4"
the numbers then work ‘cleanly’ in the same exact way as metric/decimal… (5cm = 50mm or .7m = 70cm etc)… and we would also have the benefit of being able to divide the foot more cleanly as we can in imperial.

this gets closer to what i was originally trying to say… that if we had base12, we would be using a system which combines parts of both metric and imperial…

both systems have faults… both have advantages… base12 combines the advantages into one while bringing on zero additional faults to system…

well, some of the advantages of metric are not related to the numbers… these too would need to come over.
@Helvetosaur mentioned it earlier about how metric is related across scales… volume measurements relate to distance which relates to weight…

that is probably the greatest advantage of metric over imperial…
the hodgepodge of imperial units across various fields would be unified with a modern number&measurment system in a similar way as metric.

and fwiw, if it’s not clear so far… i’m saying we completely ditch imperial… we adopt nothing from it in the new system… we do (almost) everything that’s been done with metric.

the difference is that the system uses base12 but the rationale behind the metric system continues forward.

the advantages of doing that can be seen in parts of the imperial system but in no way am i saying something like ‘let’s try to breath new life into imperial system’ because i’m not… kill the imperial system.

not-- ‘let’s come up with a compromise system that combines metric and imperial’…
no… kill the imperial system entirely.


the thing is, the discussion of which base would be best to use isn’t opinion based… (well, it totally is as we can see above… it’s just that it shouldn’t be opinion based discussion as it’s only causing static)…
it’s not-- “oh, base 12? why not base 9? i like that better”…
it’s more like – base12 is factually* the best system for humans to use.

*ok… maybe not factually as i haven’t done the analysis and haven’t seen the results from someone else’s analysis but, this is very likely true:

if you were able to analyze every single instance math was used throughout a day by every human on earth… (maths that aren’t needing calculators/computers to compute)… so maybe 10 billion calculations were to be analyzed.

if you took every one of those scenarios and used a variety of bases to see which one would of made this calculation cleanest and easiest for the individual…

…you will very likely find base12 to be the optimum base that handles the majority of situations in the cleanest fashion…

i would wager base12 would be far ahead of the nearest competitors (of which, base 10 wouldn’t be included in that group either… we’d probably find base16, 8, & 6 to be more effective than base 10… like, base 10 wouldn’t be anywhere close to the best in the vast majority of cases.)

in other words-- it’s not better because i say it’s better or i think it’s better…
it’s better because it’s better.
and could be proven better if someone had a way to do the analysis.

for sake of example, here’s what i mean by a calculation that would be included in the pool:

ordering pizza

pizzas are usually divided into twelves or eights (and you can’t even divide a pizza into tenths in the first place with the tools/techniques we use… regardless, even if you could, it’s still a fail in this example

[edit]hmm i suppose you could divide a pizza into tenths using our tools/techniques… it’s just that we don’t do it because 10ths don’t make a whole lot of sense for divisions :wink: [/edit] )

the amount of people ordering a pizza will be mostly 2 people…
next would be a group of 3 people ordering the pizza.
next would be a group of 4
then 5
then 6

with base12, it accommodates the most scenarios out of the majority of group numberings.

if two people order, each get 6 slices
if 3 people, they get 4 slices
if 4 people, they get 3 slices
if 5, then a problem
if 6, they get 2 slices

with base10, dividing a pizza only works well with 2 or 5 people…
groups of 3 and 4, which represent a very large amount more people than a group of 5, are problems.

if you have 10 slices of pizza to divide amongst very common group amounts, you have complications due to the ten_ness of the scenario.

…so do that over and over with the millions of everyday scenarios and you’ll find 10 fails… a lot.
where as 12 succeeds… a lot.

(Nathan 'jesterKing' Letwory) #49

This is of course something that differs per language. For instance Finnish doesn’t have distinct names for 11 and 12, instead you actually say one second (second for the second group of ten), two second. (eleven through nineteen are a bit odd, with that second, but save from those it is all regular, read from left to right like in English (whereas the Dutch like to do a jumping game over digits in groups of three - 333, three hundred thirty three (en), kolmesataakolmekymmentäkolme (fin), drie honderd drie en dertig [three hundred three and thirty] (nl)).

Sorry, tangent.

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lol say what?

that looks crazy to me :slight_smile:
congrats to whoever can read that.

but yeah, i don’t truly think ‘eleven’ and ‘twelve’ are remnants of a past base12 system…
the 3-syllable eleven throws it off so it probably came from some king name Elvin who decided he wanted his own number…
: )

i just thought it was interesting to notice is all but not meant as a proof for anything.

neither the digit 11 nor the word ‘eleven’ works well in a true base12 system.

(Wim Dekeyser) #51

That would be driehonderddrieëndertig if you wanted that correctly (getallen tot duizend worden aan elkaar geschreven).

In Norwegian, they used to have it that way as well (i.e. last digit is spoken before the “tens”-digit) and older people still say numbers that way but the current rules have it the “english” way.

Yes - tangent.
BTW, my wife now wonders why we divide a circle in 360 parts…

(Nathan 'jesterKing' Letwory) #52

Aye, just wanted to visualize the partitioning.

(David Rutten) #53

Slavic languages (the ones I’m familiar with anyway) also don’t special case eleven and twelve. They have words for ‘dozen’, but I’ve never heard anyone use them. I hear the Chinese words for numbers are even simpler than that, which is one reason put forward for why Chinese schoolchildren seem to be 1~2 years ahead of their western counterparts in basic maths. Because it’s just easier to do the maths by saying it.

(David Rutten) #54

That’s a Babylonian heritage. Comes from their base-60 system.


I was not joking. Actually I find number systems fascinating and I know that each has it’s advantages. However, I think in the future the Ternary system will affect us more than base 12. We will see… :wink:


Not difficult at all! :wink: Very simple!


(Marc Gibeault) #58

You can use de French words;
11 = onze
12 = douze

In fact, in French, all numbers from 1 to 13 are one syllable (maybe not quite with 4 (quatre))


here are the two fundamental flaws of the metric system (imo).
It’s a great system that’s built upon a questionable foundation.

  1. It’s inflexible and unable to adapt or optimize itself per various use case scenarios.

in practice, you are basically limited to using metric at a tolerance of 1mm.

this is in contrast to imperial in which you can change tolerance on the fly depending on the scenario/scale/materials/skill/etc…
the imperial inch functions as if it’s base 16… using 16 divisions instead of 10 allows for something really interesting to happen… that being, you can continually double your precision or double your allowance. (@emilio brought this up earlier with a base16 example)

with metric, you can do this move exactly one time… if you’re working to the nearest cm, you can double your precision and switch to nearest 1/2cm… that’s it… if you want to go tighter, there’s nothing allowing for this to happen practically… you have to switch to single mm at that point which leaves you, in many situations, working at too tight of tolerance.

with the inch, you can go from 1" to 1/2"… if 1/2" is too loose then double your precision and work in quarters:

(only meaning to show the red and black lines… ignore the green&orange in these shots)

…if that’s too loose then double down and work in eights:

or again in 16ths… then 32nd… then 64ths (after this point, you’re too small to be marking/cutting by eye… but you can do it infinitely in theory)

so, with the same scale, you can work tiny or fine and you can also frame a house… while using a tolerance which complements with the scope…

(this isn’t something that’s necessarily taught in the trades… but it is something that pretty much every craftsman using imperial does… whether they recognize it or not)…

but again, with metric, you aren’t given the luxury… 5mm tolerance is too big for the majority of my scenarios… when i’m using metric, i’m using mm and only mm… the way the scale divides up, it’s also awkward to work in 1/2mm (ie- 2.5mm,3.5mm, 6.5mm and 7.5mm become a blur with each other… there’s no .25 division to assist in breaking down the left and right sides of the scale into further divisions and all the mm lines are crammed in there without obvious separations when wanting to work tighter)

with an inch, there’s no problem working in between the 16th ticks (32nds)… and a skilled builder can consistently mark 64ths if need be…

i feel i can work to a higher degree of precision (regarding my measurements and layout) using imperial… (1/32" is smaller than 1mm)… and i can do that in a more comfortable/quicker manner due to the way the inch is divided…

but when that type of precision isn’t necessary, you can’t (or don’t) switch to using 2mm increments with metric… or 4… it’s just not practical to do this in metric so even framing a house, you’re left squinting for millimeters where as the inch, you switch to 1/8 without even thinking about it.

metric works great…

…when you use it the way it works best… when you work in tenths and only tenths… and when you work at the scale of 1mm… and only 1mm.

when describing that on paper, it looks awesome… when actually using it in various scenarios, it falls apart quickly since it’s very seldom when working in tenths is optimum and there are many cases when working at 1mm is the wrong size… but again, it’s rigid and unable to adapt.

the metric system is a complete fetish_ing of the decimal system with zero regard for how decimal works in a practical manner in scenarios where measurements are needed to be used…

it worked out awesome in some dude’s mind(s) but it’s like they never actually tried using the system prior to standardizing the empire with it…

imo, the most important factor, the usability, was of (at most) secondary importance…

however, the other flaw leads me to believe usability wasn’t even secondary importance either…

  1. Metric size divisions are derived from a distance that’s insignificant to practically every single application it will ever be used for.

the physical size increments throughout the metric system are based off the meter being:
one-ten-millionth the distance between North Pole and the equator through Paris…
(which ended up being wrong anyway but not the point)

uh? what?
does anybody ever need to measure that or does any measurable percentage of users ever need to work at that scale?

again, just an awesome idea that sat well in someone’s mind but nothing to do with usability…
they just let the chips fall where they may and unfortunately, imo, the chips fell poorly.

the meter is too big (or too small)… the mm is too small (or too big)…

you’re left using numbers in the thousands to describe an object 7 feet long or you’re left using 1.smthng…

the meter would be better if it were 1/2 its size… or a 1/3…
or if the meter ended up being bigger during the size lottery (say, they measured from north to south pole), that might be pretty good too as the decimeter might then become a usable division instead of disregarded… the mm would be larger(allowing for more practical usage of the 1/2 mm)… having 12 divisions instead of 10 would likely help too… there would be more separation in size between mm & cm… or cm & decimeter… etc… those are crammed together too close too.

not that any of the preceding paragraph is anything but opinion… my point isn’t trying to say what the optimum size of the base length should be…

my point is, in an ultimate human numbers & measuring system… the optimum size with regards to usability would most certainly be the main consideration when determining THE base length…

deriving the very unit that all other increments will stem… from something that no one will ever need or be able to grasp practically… is a fundamental flaw.

(with all that said… i do like what happened with the gram and milliliter (though not necessarily kg and liter)… those are both good sizes for situations calling for them… of which, there are tons)

in a new system, proposed unit sizes would be trialed by many of the various end users:
mechanics, carpenters, bakers, civil engineers, etcetcetc…

mathematicians and/or other very smart people (no politicians… even if they’re smart politicians :wink: ) should ultimately be in control of creating the system… the root length as well as the numbering system.
however, much of their logic should be geared towards analysis of real people using the numbers or measurements in real situations.

that’s my main point of the whole thread… the last few thoughts.

and the image in the original post was meant to be my contribution to the trial pool if it ever were to happen… it’s the tape measure i’d like to trial in a variety of projects ranging in scale from, say, a jewelry box to a city park…

(fwiw, my idea was to make imperial’s 16th just a tiny bit bigger to further accommodate working between those ticks… what i tried first was doubling the length of a cm then dividing it into 12… and liked it immediately : )

if comparing to the two main systems today-- the ‘newUnit’ (that i personally would be interesting in trying) is a little smaller than an inch or double the size of a cm… which in turn means what we know as a cm today would be divided into 6 parts… instead of 10 (ie- the mm grows while allowing it to be further divided into tighter tolerances without changing scales)


Hi Jeff

As far as I can tell, this is a design problem , and actually I experience it somehow using Rhino (when using the grid snap)
Building things in the real world, I never felt disturbed by metric units.
( Except maybe for this:

… but It’s more a problem of getting old. When I was young, with good eyes and not-so-bad brain, there was no problem :wink: )

In the technical world, for not so big things, you just use mm’s, with tenths and hundredths when needed,
no problem.

In everyday life, people just use meters or centimeters (non-technical people often have no idea ‘how-much’ a mm is )
Most of the times you may say half, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 cm then 10, 15, 20, 25 and so on
Then half a meter, one meter, one and half etc.
You also say 1-and-ten, 1-and-twenty, 1-and-thirty, 2-twentyfive etc. meaning meters and centimeters

I guess it’s not so different from using feet and inches …

A meter is about a (long) human step.
Rooms are 3 m high and can be, say 2, 3, 4, 5 meters wide
Cars are almost 2 meters wide and 4 ~ 5 meters long, trucks are 2.5 m wide
( And American pick-ups are 2 by 5 … or more :wink: )
A street can be 10 m wide (or more, but often even less … often we are short of space in Europe … :wink: )

A bottle of water, wine, milk, beer etc. is often 1 liter, sometimes 2 or 1/2 or 2/3 or 3/4 … hey, we use fractions too :slight_smile:

For things small enough, we’re used to use centimeters or tens of centimeters.
I think it’s a matter of getting used to … feels natural enough.
… But … yes, between, say 5 and 50 cm … I think that inches would be a little more practical. :smile:

Also … sometimes we do use inches here too. Our wheel rims are 13", 14", 15", 16" etc … :slight_smile:


(Tom) #61

just two more cents:

if speaking of practical usage:

what prevents you in using a metric ruler, with 1/3 2/3 3/3 markings.
There are actually a lot of them out there having that.

If you use a cm but its too big, how can a mm being to small?
Everybody can count to ten.
there are actually more units in a metric system, and even if you do not know all,
you can guess how big they are , since “milli” means 1/1000,“deci” means 1/100 “centi”-(from french “cent”=100)
for hundred 1/100, “kilo” is 1000 and so on. You can apply that same logic for units such as Liters, Joule, Watt, Calories etc…
Even Kilodollars would work, althought this sounds weird, its practically and everybody would know what you mean.Much more precise
as saying “Grands” since this not directly yields *1000.
In comparision, is a half inch 500 milliinch? No it is not. You have to learn dozens of units to
actually understand that. 12 miles and 10 yards and 5 feets are how many yards only? For a civil engineer this can be a practical problem using a non-metric system.