Thursday, 2007 August 9, 23:56 — futures, humanities

O tempora, O mores!

I don’t suppose there’s any country where there wasn’t grumbling, when the French Republican system of measurement was proposed, that it is unnatural, lacking traditional measurement’s intimate link to human scale. And likewise I doubt there’s much agitation to go back in any country where meters and grams have been the rule for more than a generation. But . . .

I’ve read several stories in which seconds, kiloseconds, megaseconds, gigaseconds are the only units of time. The first that I remember was The Outcasts of Heaven Belt by Joan D. Vinge; another is her ex-husband’s A Deepness in the Sky; most recently, Charlie Stross’s Glasshouse.

Unless the human sleep cycle is somehow made obsolete, I can’t believe that people would not keep a word for a unit of roughly 86400 seconds. The key question is how roughly is is too rough? Can most people adapt to a cycle of 100000 sec (27:46:40)? I wouldn’t count on it, and anyway, it would be atrocious to impose such a cycle for the sake of mere notational convenience.

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