Friday, May 19, 2006

Interesting concept...

Interesting concept.  Octomatics – looks pretty cool. Probably has as much chance of being adopted as does the Metric system in the US.  I remember as a kid that they started doing our signs in Metric and English units.  That is the only way I can remember the “miles to kilometers” conversion function – there was a billboard near where I lived that I passed probably every day that said “such and such a place – 3 miles, 5 kilometers ahead”.  The 3 miles, 5 kilometers has stuck in my head ever since.

I used that conversion recently in Munich Germany, when I noticed the taxi driver going 180 to 190 kph.  190 * 3/5 is about 114 mph.  I was sure glad I knew how to do that conversion at that point in time.  Maybe ignorance would have been bliss on the other hand.  (Although the Mercedes did feel like it was just hitting its sweet spot as far as speed goes, and we were getting passed from time to time).

I’ve gotten pretty good at the Celsius to Fahrenheit conversion as well – approximately double and add 30/32.  Right now at home, it is 17c – 34+(30 or 32) – 64-66f.  It is close enough.  Traveling around to Canada and Europe makes me do this mental calculation all of the time.

Octomatics – looks like a reasonable idea, that’ll never happen.  Simply because of one of the last sentences in that link:

but habit is a strong force...and we are deeply rooted in
our decimal number system...but who knows...?

Habit is strong.  It has been a long time since I’ve seen any signs in metric in the US.  Probably won’t happen in my lifetime.


Anonymous Tom Fox said....

The only place I've seen so far in the Midwest with a miles and km reading is near Louisville. It's very strange because when you head north on I-265, all the signs are in miles. Then the last sign where I-265 ends and you must join with I-71, there's a miles and km reading. Not sure how that even got put up there.

Fri May 19, 12:53:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Joel Garry said....

The octomatic numbers are not visually distinct enough. Much easier to make a transposition error in the two dimensions, people with slight visual problems such as astigmatism or early macular degeneration will be much worse off, pon't even think about deodle who can't ming their q's and p's.

So what is pi*r**2/e in octal, again?

word verification: ntyyfu

Fri May 19, 12:54:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Cosmic Charlie said....

I have often wondered if the human race would have advanced more quickly if humans had 8 rather than 10 digits. With octal as our natural number system from the beginning of arithmatic would we have become technologically advanced in a shorter time frame?

Fri May 19, 12:57:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Laurent Schneider said....

I remember in the plane to sf, the outside temperature was -40°C, which is exactly -40°F :-)

Fri May 19, 01:37:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Peter Lewis said....

Let's adopt the 12 number version rather than the 8. That way we can quickly switch back to the base 12 British £.s.d monetary system... 240 pence in the pound. Only joking... roll on the Euro - it can't come too soon!

Fri May 19, 01:58:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

The era that the metric system was created was an era of "Improvement" (capital "I" intentional), and it has forevermore been assumed that the metric system is closer to perfection than and an improvement over other measurement systems (e.g. ANSI).

Well, in the chem lab it is. And the concept of having magnitude-based divisions seems intuitively good, although it does make the world less interesting (which as I get older and learn more is to me not a trivial point).

But it seems to me that (a) 12 is a better unified base than 10 (or 8), since it is evenly divisible by 2, 3, and 4 (b) one of the key factors in choosing 10 as the metric base was that it was NOT the 12 of the English system. This too is not a trival point, as anyone who has ever dealt with standards committtes that include French engineers can attest.

So - my preferred outcome of the metric committee would have been a base 12 system with order-of-magnitude subunits.

Now, that is just my opinion, and I may well be wrong. But having lived with English, ANSI, and metric units for many years my observation is that the metric fanatics are nowhere near as rational as they like to think.


Fri May 19, 02:19:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Dougie McGibbon said....

What will trigger the conversion to metric in the US will be exactly the same as what triggerred the coversion in the UK - the price of petrol.
When petrol got ridiculously expensive in pounds - the stations converted the pumps to litres, hiked the cost by 10% and very few people caught on.

Road signs in the UK are still in miles, but weights are metric.

In Ireland, they've converted some of the road signs, but don't bother adding the units. So the usual distance countdown to a town will go something like 10, 8, 11, 6, 8 ...

Fri May 19, 02:35:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Pretty nifty! I'll have to look at that a little closer in my spare time. The numbers look like a weird cross between Star Wars and paleo-Hebrew. I'd love to see TI come up with an octamatic calculator just as a novelty item.

As for base 12: I found myself suddenly thinking of "Hey, Little Twelve Toes", a kind of surreal segment on an old PBS show called "The Electric Company". This little polydactyl cartoon alien was, of course, doing base-12 arithmetic on his fingers. The idea kind of stuck in my mind. I can remember doing a base-12 multiplication table, just for fun, in my senior year in high school. I used the Greek letters Alpha and Beta for "10" and "11".

Of course, we do have some elements of dodecimal arithmetic in our daily lives: just think of dozens, grosses and great grosses.

Bob Shepard

Fri May 19, 02:39:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

> Road signs in the UK are still
> in miles, but weights are metric.

Except for body weight, which is in stone. So if you really want to get into the details of your automobile's fuel efficiency, you end up working in unit of something like miles/litre/stone ;-)

But my favorite is the greengrocer who is released from jail after serving his sentence for selling bannanas in pounds and who then walks into his local pub and orders 500 ml of bweienre. Now the bartender has a real problem: if they guy ordered beer, and he serves 500 ml, HE can be jailed for not serving it in pint qty. But if the guy ordered wine and he serves 1/2 pint, he can ALSO be jailed for not serving it in ml qty!


Fri May 19, 02:40:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Mikito Harakiri said....

Speaking of habits, why exactly do we move the clock twice a year? Would abandoning summer time happen in my liftime?

Fri May 19, 04:39:00 PM EDT  

Blogger David Aldridge said....

The most important consideration in the adoption of a new numerical system is whether the glyphs, when displayed on a pocket calculator, can be viewed upsidedown or sideways to spell rude words.

Based on that I can see some possibilities here, and I urge the creation of a commission to further investigate and develop the symbology.

Fri May 19, 04:41:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Well, octomatics will come in handy when the vestigial pinky finally evolves out of the human species. Should take about that long to catch on too.

On the other hand (or... finger) if we all evolve another pinky we can convert the computers to tri-state logic and go back to Babylon.

The answer to a lot of the leading questions on the site, of course, is Babylon. They used base 60. That made 3, 4, and 5 major roots and gives us all our dozens and multiples of 6 in angles, astronomical observations and time.

Fri May 19, 04:45:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Bill S. said....

If you'd like to see signs in metric measurements in the US in your lifetime, just go to any state bordering Canada. You'll find signs in miles and kilometers.


Sat May 20, 01:04:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Mr. Ed said....

I'm much more interested in font improvements on the road.

Sat May 20, 03:46:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Tharg said....

Having lived and worked in Germany as an impecunious student, I too have witnessed "Stuttgart Taxis" doing over a ton on the autobahn, but this is nothing for the Germans.

On one of my early journeys to Germany, in my 'impecunious student-mobile' (a.k.a. a Fiat Panda, 45 horsepower, top speed 78 mph) I was on an unusually wide 3 lane stretch of autobahn. Obviously I was immediately recognisable as an "Englander" because of my number plate and a 'GB' sticker on the tailgate. An aforementioned Stuttgart Taxi wafted past at roughly 110-120 and its driver gave me a snooty glare. To my utter delight, Herr Snooty Glare was immediately put in the shade by a Porsche in lane 3, which howled past the Merc so fast, it sucked the snooty expression right off Herr Plonker's face.

Ah, the bliss of being poor...



Sat May 20, 03:32:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

If you can't stand the pace, stay off the Autobahn :o)

Mon May 22, 01:51:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

British Waterways signs are in metric (kph) whereas roadsigns are imperial (MPH). Interesting you refer to it as an English Unit, we call it Imperial.

Tue May 23, 07:04:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Because -40C = -40 F you can convert either way by adding 40 (get degrees above -40), multiplying / dividing by 1.8 (2 if you're lazy), then subtracting 40.

Always struck me as easier than remembering whether to add or subtract 32 and when to do it.

Wed Mar 12, 02:29:00 PM EDT  


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