Standards of Measurement

Abstract: Standards are instruments used by the Government to strengthen its grip over society. Standards of measurement are furthermore prone to the shortcomings of science. One of the most insidious methods used by the Government to enforce its presence upon us, is by introducing compulsory standards of measurements, against all common sense. The article specifically rejects the Metric System, which it argues glorifies the zero.


A. The ugly Metric System

The Government has always been keen to structure the notions of time, temperature, distance, weight and other variables that appear to be measurable. Around the world, several different numbering systems are in use to portray events as if they took place at specific points on a straight line.

In the Decimal System, ten units add up to a larger unit. There are several theories as to how the decimal system came about. Our hands have five fingers each; most children learn to add and subtract by using their fingers, thus getting accustomed to the decimal system from early childhood. Another theory says that the decimal system developed from the use of weights to balance a pair of scales in order to weigh merchandise. By using three one-unit weights, one five-units weight, three ten-units weights, one fifty-units weight and so forth, one could minimize the number of weights that had to be carried along and used when measuring; the number four was created by putting a five-units weight on the positive (right-hand side) scale and a one-unit weight on the negative (left-hand side) scale. This system was used by the Romans with the symbols I for one, V for five, X for ten, L for fifty and so forth (IV is four and VI is six).

In medieval Europe, Latin was the official language and scholars were taught how to count using this Roman system (I, II, III, IV, etc).

Further Mediterranean influence introduced the symbols l, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9, as well as the infamous 0. With the 0, multi-digit numbers could be composed (e.g. 10 as the number to follow 9) thus creating a continuum spanning an infinite amount of (positive and negative) numbers.

The Metric System, conceived in France in 1799, is based on this principle. It derives its name from measuring distance (metre), but includes other variables, such as weight (gram) and time (century). At first, one metre was derived from the earth's circumference, but it now seems to be 1,650,763.73 wavelengths of radiation from a line in the spectrum of Krypton-86. Radiation is measured over time. Thus, the Metric System has to incorporate time as well.

The much older English Imperial System often uses twelve as the number that corresponds with a larger unit of measurement, e.g. twelve inches in one foot and 5,280 feet in one mile. For weight, twelve ounces are used in one pound. Originally, two hundred and forty pennies were cut from one pound weight of silver for coins, while twelve pennies make up one shilling.

More generally, using twelve units is common in the western civilization in geometry (a circle has 360 degrees), in music (the 'octave' spans twelve notes) and time (the clock shows 12 hours, a year has twelve months and even the 'metric' minutes and seconds come in twelve groups of five); eggs are predominantly sold by the dozen; the numbers one to twelve stand out in English and related languages; they each have their own name; other numbers are derived from them. There are many more examples of the common sense behind usage of the number twelve, e.g. the telephone keypad shows twelve buttons (with the * and # instead of eleven and twelve).

B. Which System is best?

There are other numbering systems; an important one is the binary system in which only two different digits are used; this simplicity is particularly suitable for computing. The Metric System has no higher qualities than the Imperial System. The Metric System's focus on adding and subtracting may have some advantages for people who still weigh their produce with weights and scales, but since such measuring tasks are rapidly being computerized, the Binary System now seems mare appropriate.

In Australia, use of the Metric System was made compulsory in trade and education in 1968, but most people in Australia still prefer to measure their weight in stones and pounds and their length in feet. The Australian Government has also abandoned the Imperial System for currency and borrowed a decimal system from the U.S.A. (dollars and cents). The US's decimal currency dates back almost to its inception, yet on the road the mile still rules. But an Act of the US Congress demands the Metric System to be adopted by 1996 for signs on streets and roads built with federal money. At present, the U.S. and Liberia are the only two countries that have not yet converted to the Metric System for roadsigns.

The Metric System is of course associated with dictatorial government and it could well be rejected for that reason alone. The Metric System is a compulsory standard, apparently unable to earn a place next to other systems on its merits. Calculations that use fingers are only mechanical manipulations, used for adding and subtracting; such manipulations are fabrications of accountants involved in stocktaking, counting money and other activities in which numbers are represented as fixed points on a line. With the introduction of money, adding and subtracting were enforced upon society to assist the Government in collecting tax. Manipulations such as adding and subtracting do not feature prominently in nature, as in reality a standard continuum built up from equally distanced units does not exist.

The Imperial System, using the concept of twelve, makes numbers easier to understand. Numbers are regarded more as relations than as intervals on a fixed line. The Imperial System is easier when dividing things in parts. Fractions do occur frequently in nature as well as in daily chores such as cutting a cake for three people.

For children who learn to divide an amount by three, it is easier to develop a feeling and appreciation for things such as music; the marches of soldiers rarely convey the rhythm of three. Few will dispute that, since the introduction of the Metric System in Australia, children's mental arithmetic competence has fallen substantially. The Metric System glorifies the zero, which is a human fabrication, while the Imperial System relates more to reality. In nature, events may relate to each other as multiples or fractions, which is easier represented with the Imperial System than the Metric System.

However, this is no reason to standardize the Imperial System. Standardizing any system as the only one, is a dictatorial act; it is much better for different numbering systems to coexist, such that users continuously have choices in appreciation of potential differences. More fundamentally, the combination of a sequential numbering system with a rational system is a questionable practice. Nowhere in nature does a straight line exist; nor does an infinite number of units each of equal length occur anywhere in nature, as the Metric System is trying to make us believe. Most importantly, the concept of zero does not exist in nature, let alone manipulations in which something is divided by zero.

C. How to measure

So, how can we measure things? The most common practice is to measure by comparison. To measure weight, e.g., people refer to a barely 4cm-high cylinder composed of nine-tenth platinum and one-tenth iridium, kept in a vault in Paris, that represents the kilogram since 1889. Since that time, the cylinder has been taken out of its container three times, for cleaning and weighing, so that replicas could be made. The problem is that between the last two times the cylinder saw daylight, 1988 and 1992, there appeared to be a difference of 23 micrograms in weight, according to scientific instruments that measured it. The difference is due to surface contamination and abrasion of the material. But as the standard kilogram by definition cannot gain or lose weight, the equipment had to be recalibrated in accordance with the new measurements. The problem is that scientists and bureaucrats are not merely looking for an arbitrary standard, but for an absolute standard.

Similar to measuring weight by comparison, one distance can be compared to another distance, as a multiple or fraction of the other. The length of a table may be, say, two and a third times the length of one's arm. Similarly, the height of a door may be two and five sixth times the length of one's arm. Logic says that the table and the door relate to each other as two and a third to two and five sixth even if they happen to be in different houses. However, that is no reason to standardize that arms-length around the population. If the measurement had been taken using another object, one should obtain that same ratio. The discussion should not be about the length or weight of the standard, but about the continuity in length or weight of both the standard and the things to be measured.

Note that the standard for weight (kilogram) also represents the standard for mass, as one liter of water is supposed to weigh one kilogram. But of course, water expands in volume when heated up. In a way, volume is a measure of distance, combining length with width and height. The problem is having a single standard for both weight and distance.

D. Measuring Temperature

Even if one does standardize a particular distance, it will vary with temperature. This means that to measure distance, one also needs to measure temperature. Even if it was possible to find an object with a length that remained constant at a given temperature, there still is the problem of how to measure that temperature.

A typical method to measure things is to fix points on a scale with natural phenomena. After fixing two points, the distance between those points can then be divided by two, by ten, by twelve or by whatever number one needs to get sufficiently small units for daily usage. Alternatively, if one needs bigger units, one can multiply the distance between these points by two, three, four, five and so forth.

On the scale of Celsius, temperature is zero when ice melts and it is 100 when water boils. Celsius thus conforms with the Metric System, but theoretically the Imperial System could also be applied. There is a problem associated with taking the points at which water freezes and ice melts as a fixed point on the scale. When a constant amount of energy is added to ice, its temperature seems to rise steadily until some of the ice starts to melt. Then the temperature of both the water and the remaining ice remains at zero degrees until all the ice has melted. As the scale of Celsius does not appear as a continuum, due to the delays at its fixed points, one wonders what it measures.

In the Metric System the lowest temperature is the point at which there is no movement by electrons, measured as zero on the scale of Kelvin (273 degrees below zero on the scale of Celsius). The problem with Kelvin's absolute zero is that it has only one fixed point, which means that one needs another scale on which to measure things. Theoretically, temperatures can go below minus zero degrees Kelvin, if the electrons start spinning the other way, which makes one wonder what it is that Kelvin measures.

The interesting thing about the scale of Kelvin is that it appears to describe temperature as the speed at which electrons move around an atom. If speed is a combination of distance and time, then measuring temperature really is measuring time and distance; thus, one needs to define both what distance and what time is.

E. How to measure Time?

Time appears to be a crucial element in many types of measurements. Time is a component of speed, force and pressure. Gravity, electricty, light, radiation and other waves are all phenomena taking place over time. Just like the metre is derived from radiation, the second is defined as the time of 9,192,631,770 periods of the electro-magnetic radiation corresponding to a transition in the Cesium-133 atom. Such measurements may remain relatively stable over time, but they are not absolutely constant and they are alien to people. As measuring time in this way is incomprehensible to common people, the Government can get away with dictating us what time it is. Time is an important standard, it can virtually rule our lives. Aware of the power of the concept of time, the Government organizes public transport and regulates shops trading hours, school attendance, holidays and working hours around a rigid enforcement of a standard for time.

The problem with any standard of measurement is that time does not exist as an absolute constant to which all kinds of measurements can be synchronized. The Government likes us to think it knows better what time it is than we do. In reality, time does not exist as an omni-present straight line made up of seconds, hours, days or years. The Government simply defines time as what it says is time, so that it can enforce this rigid regime of time on society, not only through the clock, but also through other measurements in which time is an element.

What makes the concept of time even more complex, is that people are not so much interested in accurate measurements of a single process of change, but in models that combine a number of processes that are in reality taking place entirely independently from each other.

An example is the calendar. There are many theories as to how the concept of the month has evolved, the most common one being that the moon goes through four appearances in the period of one month. Another theory links women's menstrual cycle to the concept of one month. Yet another theory sees a month as nothing more than one twelfth of a year, following the preference of many numbering systems to use twelve basic units. For some, the month is a personal and private experience that should not be standardized, just like menstcual periods differ among women as well as over time.

Problems with standardizing the period of one month are evident in most calendars, as some months last longer than others. Calendars also have to accommodate the concepts of the day and the year. In the Gregorian Calendar, introduced by Pope Gregory XII four centuries ago, February gets an extra day every four years (leap year every fourth year except if divisible by 100 and not by 400). There are again different ways to measure the length of a year and of a day. If the period of a day is to be measured by the appearance of the sun, then a night at the North Pole can last months!

In astronomical terms, a year is the period it takes for an object to rotate around another object, while a day is the period it takes for an object to spin around its axis. The Sidereal Year is the time it takes for the earth to complete one orbit around the sun, a period of 365.256363 days (to the nearest tenth of a metric second). During this orbit, the earth spins about 366 and a quarter times around its axis (the extra one caused by the orbit around the sun itself). Astronomers working with time as in the Sidereal Year end up with clocks that run faster than the ones we are to use, because most people are more interested in the seasons. Seasons are caused by the tilt of the earth's axis and each tilt lasts 365.24219 days, which is called a Tropical Year. The Gregorian calendar is actually 3 hours too fast in 400 years, which means we will have to decide to make either 3200 or 3600 not a leap year, to remain in step with the seasons.

Tbe day itself should not be regarded as a constant measure of time either. Giving the fact that the tides cause friction, the earth's spin is slowing down and days are actually getting longer by 1.7 milliseconds each century. This phenomenon has been discovered by astronomers who studied ancient Chinese and Babylonian data, according to which our clocks would now be about five hours fast.

The Central Bureau of the International Earth Rotation Service in France, has therefore added 18 seconds since it introduced its system of time scale co-ordination, based on the atomic clock in 1972. The last time such a second was added, e.g. to Telecom's talking clock, was on Wednesday, 24 June 1992, at l0am Australian Eastern Standard Time. Some scientists claim that not even this atomic clock is accurate enough for their measurements; they prefer to use the rhythm of pulsars. Anyway, in 5 billion years, the sun will expand beyond the orbit of the earth, which means that by that time no 'earth day' can be experienced at all.

All this shows that the notion of time as a constant measurement is an illusion, as it all too often is based on the combination of two incompatible processes, each of which is a process of change itself, rather than a constant. In nature, there are no processes that take place at a constant velocity. In short, there is no absolute standard, although some ways of timing can be regarded as more appropriate than others in some cases.

Hence, it is nonsense to claim the ability to 'accurately' measure speed, temperature or other variables in which time is a component. The absolute concept of time was already disputed by Einstein, who saw time as a relative variable. Quantum Mechanics subsequently introduced random elements into everything we measure, while Chaos Theory sees the natural progress of time occurring in bumps, rather than in a straight line.

F. Daylight Saving Lunacy

The above discussion about time brings the debate on daylight saving back to what it really is: a political plot to make us walk in line with the Government, against common sense. No authority should dictate us what time it is in the first place, as no absolutely accurate measurement of time is possible at all, as described above.

But even if the Government was reasonably 'accurate' in keeping the time, that is no reason why the timing efforts of others could not be equally or even more appropriate. It will always be preferable for different measurements of time to co-exist. If the Government would leave it up to commercial organisations to co-ordinate people's agendas, then no compulsorily extracted tax would have to be spent for the Government to measure time.

The Government claims its intervention in our notion of time is to ensure that everyone knows what time it is. But NSW, Victoria, the ACT and South Australia have daylight saving from 31 October '93 to 6 March '94, while Tasmania does so from 3 October '93 to 27 March '94. Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory do not change time with the seasons, but have 'time zone' jumps of between half-an-hour and two hours. There now are five different times in Australia up to three hours apart.

There goes the argument to let the Government look after time. Why can people not go to bed and rise at times that suit them? Or work at times agreed with their employers or customers?


Appendix A: Manipulating the Weather

The Government has structured the media in such a way as to give maximum emphasis to nationalism. Newspapers typically have a regional monopoly for daily papers and Sunday papers. At national level, only one newspaper concentrates on the mass market and another one on the financial conununity.

On TV, an outsider may believe there is some competition, but the three commercial networks are suspiciously similar, in fact they have been selected by the Government for their patriotism. The two most watched programmes on TV are sport and news. Sport in Australia is organized on the basis of each club having a monopoly in a particular geographic area. Apart from full coverage of especially teamsports such as rugby, cricket, hockey, soccer and netball, sport on the television networks is also heavily represented in the news.

The most-watched news programme is called 'National Nine News', but only the first half of this programme brings what is supposed to be news and only a fraction of that is international news and then mostly when it somehow relates to Australia. In the second half of this programme, sport dominates, promoting all kinds of nationalist and parochial feelings. At the end of the program, the weather report insists on informing us about the weather conditions all over Australia - in which few locals are interested. Subsequently, all the insignificant places in the respective State are listed with their respective weather conditions - in which even fewer people are interested. Then, at the very end of the programme, we are finally told what the weather forecasts are for (in Queensland's case) South East Queensland - which is what most people in Queensland had been waiting for. To make sure that this treatment sinks in, the same sequence of 'news' is repeated later in the evening.

What is the purpose of this daily exercise? Is it meant to update our geographic knowledge? To lecture us about the importance of even the tiniest place in the State? To create a perception of national and state unity? Or to create some bonding with the farmers in the outback who cannot receive the broadcasts anyway?

Given the abundance of frequencies available above the continent, there should be more broadcasting stations in Australia. It is nothing but oppressive dictatorship that has led to the prohibition of local television in the metropolitan areas. The weather plays an important role in the Government's strategy, which is why the Government is anxious to control weather data through its Bureau of Meteorology. Weather data, geographical measurements, weights, currency and temperature scales are all manipulated by the Government to promote 'nationat unity' by enforcing a system of compulsory standards of measurement.


Appendix B: Manipulating Music

One example of the manipulation of numbers is the desire by authorities to represent musical tones as notes that each have a fixed place on a continuum. One such system uses a seven-note scale, represented by the letters A through to G, fixed on and in between five parallel lines. When adding the black keys on the keyboard, there is the perception of twelve distinct tones in an octave. This system grew out of the desire to write down music, as well as to 'tune' instruments such as church-organs. However, people who understand the background of this system are generally aware that these tones are deliberately fixed 'out of tune' with natural sounds.

In nature, of course, tones relate to each other when they are multiples of each other or fractions of each other, NOT because they are members of supposedly equally distanced notes on a line. The education system, as enforced by the Government, tries to teach us a music-notation system that bears little relation with real music. The reason why the Government manipulates music in this way, is to give the false impression that its laws are in step with nature. The Government portrays music as if it obeys a linear system imposed by a central authority. This explains why, in music, people are more successful if they do not accept this way of thinking; the less people get involved with such an evil notation system, the more likely they will understand and appreciate music.




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