What is often assumed from the statement that "metric is better than imperial" is that metric is the ideal system. Indeed, at first glance, it seems very clean - what could be better? This is unfortunately far from the truth.
Metric (otherwise known as Base 10)
The basic premise that makes the metric system generally better than imperial is that you have a single "base" multiplier between different units:
1cm x 10 = 1dm
1dm x 10 = 1m
1m x 10 = 1dam
1dam x 10 = 1hm
1hm x 10 = 1km
I've bolded the units most people are familiar with (centimeter, meter, kilometer). Anyway, the problem with metric is the number 10. It makes the math "easy" because our number system also uses 10, but that is also broken, I claim. Most computer-related people would guess that I'm about to suggestion using a base that is a power of 2, like 8 or 16. Instead, 12.
If both our number system and metric system were base 12, life would be even simpler. The problem with 10 (or powers of 2) is that it can't be cut in thirds. 1/3 of a mile is 5,280 ft / 3 = 1,760 feet - an integer. 1/3 of a kilometer is 333.3333333.... meters, neither an integer nor a trivially representable decimal. 1/3 of a unit in base 12 is 4 of the next smaller units. 4 is cleaner than 1,760 or 3.3.... Base 12 units are the smallest units cleanly divisible by 2,3, and 4. We could go up to 2,3,4 and 5, but that would require base 60 which for a 1st grader is a little unwieldy when learning all of the digits. 12 is the sweet spot. I'd rather be able to divide things by 3 (more often needed) than 5 if I had to pick. You could even go down to base 6 to simplify further, but that prevents you from dividing cleanly by 4, which seems useful.
What already uses a power of base 12 as it's base?
- Geometry: 360 degrees in a circle: 12*30 = 360
- Time: 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in a hour, 24 hours in a day: 12*2 = 24, 12*5 = 60
- Imperial: 5,280 ft in a mile (12 * 440 ft), 12 inches in a foot
- Eggs: 12 eggs in a dozen: dozen = 12 * 1 egg
Apparently there is already a term for a system like this: Duodecimal
We should all switch immediately.
Interested in other things misunderstood in school? Check out: