The Metric System isn’t that special

Alright. Time to rustle some jimmies. I’m supposed to be studying Japanese but fuck it. This as to be done

I studied physics in undergrad and graduate school. I know many engineers and engineering students. And of course in today’s connected world, I talk to many Europeans and… let’s just say I talk to non-Americans. I see this all the time. “The metric system is superior to all other systems of measurement”. As someone who studied sciences and who knows the equations and constants mostly in their metric units and knows the nice conversions between these units I can understand why someone might believe this. However, I personally disagree with the statement. While I don’t think there’s anything particularly special about the metric system, I also don’t think there’s anything particularly bad about it.

In this blog post I am going to run counter to the common arguments and demonstrate why they don’t really hold up and they certainly don’t hold up in today’s society.

“It has very accurate definitions”

The common example I see with this is with the meter. Today, the meter is defined as the length light travels in (and I am not joking) 1/299,792,458 of a second. In other words, we know light travels at a constant speed. Take that speed, take a specific time, we can easily calculate how far light has traveled in that time.

“Oho, Artemis. See how nice that is? We can define the meter very accurately no matter what using this definition”. Well, yes. But I do take issues with it.

  1. This definition kind of reeks of being “hacked together” because there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly special about the number 299,792,458 other than if you divide 1 by it you get how long of a second passes before light travels one meter. The reason for this of course is because the meter was defined before this standard was used so to keep everything the same conversions had to be made.
  2. We can also define literally any distance using this definition. It’s why units like light-second and light-year exist and are used despite not really being metric definitions.

Being able to reproduce a measurement is very important especially when you want to build structures that don’t collapse on people so I can see why these standards have been adopted and updated throughout history. But since we can define any distance quite easily by modifying the time, there’s nothing particularly special about the meter. In fact, using similar methods for other measurements, we can pretty much ape the definition method for everything else and just fiddle with the values. And before you get upset with, just remember that the kilogram was defined to be how much 1/1000 of a cubic meter of the stuff weighed. So the “nice Base-10” factor is just one of construction, and theoretically we can use any atom or molecule we like. and produce any ratio we like.

And now that I’ve mentioned it, let’s get to that. Let’s get to divisibility.

“It’s all in Base-10”

This is very likely the most popular argument in favor of the metric system and again I’m not trying to say that the metric system is bad, rather than it’s not particularly special.

Big controversial opinion incoming: There’s nothing special about Base-10. Yes. By nature, humans have 10 fingers and 10 toes. But those are really the extent when it comes to “10” on the human body. If I were to ask a kid to tell me about parts of the human body, their answer would probably be something like this:

  • 1 head
  • 2 eyes
  • 2 ears
  • 1 nose
  • 1 mouth
  • 2 arms
  • 2 hands
  • 5 fingers on each hand
  • 10 fingers
  • 2 legs
  • 2 feet
  • 5 toes on each foot
  • 10 toes

I don’t know about you, but I’m seeing a lot of 2 there, not a whole lot of 10. But let’s examine things a little closer. The metric users like to focus a lot on the 10 fingers. While we do have 10 fingers, if you discount the thumb we have 12 joints. A little kid could learn to count to twelve quite easily on their fingers if they counted the little ‘boxes’ on your fingers leading to the fingertip. Some societies may have not believed that the thumb was worth counting, leading to using Base-8 rather than Base-10 for fingers. Today we use Base-2 (binary) and Base-16 (hexadecimal) when working with computers.

Between you and me, I actually like Base-12 more than Base-10. I’ll tell you why too. Base-12 (in my view) is a lot more flexible than Base-10 because it has better factors within it. 10 is divisible into only 1, 2, 5, and 10. 12 is divisible by 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 12. You get 2 extra factors which can be convenient when you’re creating your ruler.

That said, the thing I find most astounding is while people are so quick to tout the superiority of Base-10 yet they seem hesitant to change the way we do time. I do think that if we mucked around with the way we think of time it would be disastrous but let’s go ahead and take a look at time.

There are 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour, and 60 seconds in a minute. I don’t see a whole lot of 10. Sure, it goes into 60 six times but… that’s kind of weird. And it doesn’t go into 24 evenly at all. What’s up with that?

The reason of course comes down to how people kept track of time in the past. They used sundials which split were divided into twelve. Why twelve? Well it just so happens that the Base-10 users got beat to the punch when it came to setting up time measurement in the west. Rather than using the ten fingers, it seems that the people of old favored the twelve joints of the hand (excluding the thumb). Probably because the number 12 has more factors.

“The numbers, Mason. What do they mean?”

Bear with me here because it might seem incredible but when you go from a meter to a kilometer you’re not changing the unit. You’re just stretching one unit out. This contrasts with the darned Imperial System with feet and inches and yards and yadda yadda. So what’s the deal with it. Why is it so wonky?

The problem is you guys are looking at the system like a ruler, and not as a series of proportions. Stop thinking of that silly stick you call a ruler and start thinking of this:

“To use the ruler, you must first become the ruler”

“OK but the numbers Mason. What do the numbers mean?” The numbers are the proportions of a human body part to another human body part. But you can probably guess how it goes. “4 fingers to a palm, 4 palms to a foot, 6 feet to a man.” Lots of fours. “But what if a man grows? If you build a house over a year while you’re still a teenager, your foot will grow and the proportions will be all wrong all over the house”. Luckily that’s not as big of a problem because the foot we’re using is actually previously defined by the Romans. They took the length of the foot of their Emperor, called it a foot, and based everything off of that. All they needed to do was cast the foot, make a statue, you now have your standard. And before you say that seems pretty silly, remember that the French used to use a platinum rod to define the meter which would also be subject to change. That’s why new standards are created. That’s why we use the distance light travels today and not a platinum or titanium rod from the past.

Everyday Use

I think food will be the simplest way to convey this one. When you go to the store, I want you to ask yourself: am I buying a can of soda or am I buying 356 mL of soda? Do you buy a bottle of beer or do you buy 650 mL of beer? Broadly speaking, most people aren’t concerned too much with the volume of something because they’re not thinking of it in divided volumes, rather the unit itself. When I buy cereal, I’m not buying 576g of cereal. I’m buying a box of cereal. Even in your day-to-day life you’re probably not consuming things thinking “I drank 300 mL of water, I need to drink 900 mL more before bedtime”. You’re probably thinking, “I drank a glass of water earlier today, I should drink 2 more glasses before bedtime”. You don’t eat “150g of cereal” you eat a bowl of cereal. If you’re having a dinner party and you’re trying to decide how much meat to give your guest, you’re giving them some arbitrary slice of meat, not 242g of meat.

In short, most people are using a “container” rather than the mass or volume measurements themselves.

Conclusion

I think the important thing to remember is that the measurement system you use itself isn’t terribly important. You can come up with whatever justifications you want to define units and convert units. What’s important is that everyone agrees to these definitions and knows how to communicate these units. Your measurement system is just as arbitrary as mine. We can compare standards and go back and forth between the two.

People think the metric system is so special but it wasn’t invented until the 18th century. Imagine the most famous monuments of the world. Pyramids? Metric system not necessary. Roman civilization? No metric system necessary. The Parthenon? No metric system necessary. Notre Dame? No metric system necessary. We’ve been building stuff for millennia so no matter how “difficult” you want to say other measurement systems are, it certainly didn’t stop humanity from building some of the most recognizable structures in the world.

Anyway, that’ll be it from me. Hopefully this will help people chill and stop giving the Americans and the Imperial System so much shit. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

The Metric System isn’t that special

How to Fix Sword Art Online

Alright, I got into a furious Facebook discussion on why SAO is terrible and it got me thinking, SAO is actually pretty easy to fix. So let’s take it from the top with a (relatively) short blog post.

What is Sword Art Online?

Sword Art Online is known to be a popular anime produced by A-1 studios based on the light novel of the same name by Reki Kawahara. Some people have read the light novel. I have not. So everything here will be based on the animation. And I’m doing this from memory so if some of the details are a little fuzzy, my mistake. Not going to go rewatch it. Make of that what you will.

So the animation features Kirigaya Kazuto. He is a gamer in high school. He is incredibly excited for the release of Sword Art Online (SAO). SAO is a fully virtual MMO where you really feel like you’re Batman Spiderman in the game. He is fortunate enough to receive 1 of only 10,000 copies sold. He logs in immediately like any normal person does. Meets his totally-not-homoerotic friend after which he is told by a Game Moderator that no one can log out and if you die in the game you die in real life. The only way to get the logout button back is to beat the game. Thus begins the struggle to beat the game without dying once.

What’s wrong with Sword Art Online?

Well, a lot, actually. Many people I talk to online say that things went down during the second arc (Alfheim). I disagree. I think it was wrong from the get-go. A lot of this next bit might sound familiar if you’ve literally seen any coverage of SAO but I have to put it in for completeness. Also I’m going to keep it to the Aincrad arc because I did say we’d have a relatively short one. If I do Aincrad + Alfheim you’ll be here all day reading this.

It has a pretty good starting premise and for 1-3 episodes it’s actually pretty good. However around episode 4-6 or so, it begins undercutting its premise by making Kirito (oh yeah, Kirigaya Kazuto’s IGN is Kirito) overpowered. He gets mobbed by like 10 guys and they can’t do enough damage to outpace his natural regen. What the $#@! And it only gets worse. Kirito goes through the motions of having a hard time but he always seems to come out ahead and it never feels satisfying. Feels like he got out easy most of the time. Even at the end of Aincrad he loses all of his HP and dies but somehow can break through the death and deal a killing blow to the final boss.

That’s not to say that overpowered characters are bad by design. We can take a look at Superman for a relatively overpowered character that is well done. Superman is effectively god. There’s really not a whole lot that can actually stop the guy barring Kryptonite (we’ll get back to that). So when your character is overpowered, nothing can kill them, how do you manufacture conflict? In the case of Superman, morality is used. Superman’s greatest foe is his own sense of morality and justice. His greatest enemy is his own naivete.

When your gimmick is “If you die in the game, you die in real life”, don’t make us follow a character that can’t die. Make us follow someone that actually struggles and fears for life.

 

Dying

“Hold up Artemis, there are at least 3 times he almost died and on the third time he did actually die,” I hear you say. Well, let’s actually look at those.

The first near-death for Kirito is against Gleam Eyes, or is it. No. It isn’t. This chump lets a ton of people die because he doesn’t want to show his two-handed skill for no reason. He could’ve won the fight at any time without incurring as large a loss of human life if he had not waited for everyone except tsundere-chan to die.

The second near-death for Kirito is when he’s paralyzed by poison and his assailant takes his sweet time killing him 1HP-by-1HP. Which buys Kirito enough time to pull a deus-ex-machina and have tsundere-chan arrive to save his ass. And then Kirito kills the guy even though it would have been more satisfying (from a writing perspective) to have tsundere-chan kill the creep.

The last near-death experience is at the end of Aincrad when he dies and somehow manages to magic his way through death when no one else can. It’s bullshit. Now you’ve done one step further. For 99% of this series there was no risk of death and when there actually is death, it doesn’t even matter?

Tsundere-chan

Let’s take a moment to talk about tsundere-chan. At the beginning of the series we’re introduced to tsundere-chan and she comes out strong like a total BAMF. She’s made to seem like someone who is naturally almost as good as Kirito. Bear in mind that Kirito had some 2 months or so to play the game in beta while this grill did not. So she’s been given a high initial rating. You see her 4 episodes later and she’s been totally domesticated. She’s cooking and stuff. Cowering behind Kirito from a creep she should easily be able to take out in seconds. Kawahara neutered this character. And he does it with every character. Any time you want a character to come out strong and define themselves they turn into harem bait. Even the guys. The guy from the beginning, his name is Klein. I just remembered it. I ain’t editing this after I finish writing it so if his name is still Klaus from paragraph 2 or something that’s what it’ll be when I hit publish. Anyway literally everyone becomes “X person”. “Blacksmith girl”. “Dragon girl”. “Black man shopkeeper”. “Best guy is a girl”. I think there was one more harem member but it might’ve come after the series. *Shrug*

The Writing Makes No Sense

I’d like to take this moment to point out that this game is definitely rated PG-13 at least. Probably rated whatever the highest rating is because you get naked and (probably) have sex. So now I gotta ask the question, why are there like over nine thousand 5 year-olds in it? Did Mom and Dad let drunk Uncle Rick watch the kids that day? Because after 2 years there’s still like a bajillion 5 year-olds and they’re all being watched by full-time starting town people.

Honestly Kawahara loses track of how many people are supposed to be alive in this game which also kinda takes away from the series.

About half-way through the series Kirito and girlfriend encounter a program (yes, a program) that looks like a little girl that they decide to ‘adopt’. Then, holy shit, she’s as broken as Kirito is. She can delete (yes, right click, delete) boss enemies and chooses to do so to save Kirito. Why, why does such a program exist. Why does it have that power either? It was designed as a psychology robot, being able to delete other programs should be well beyond the scope of its power. Then Kirito suddenly becomes expert hacker, familiar with the system intimately, and manages to save the program as an item. What? Where did all of that come from?

This guy has literally no struggles. The authors try to frame things as struggles but they can’t do it properly because the characters that they’re working with are broken. The source material has to be fundamentally broken by design. There’s no excuse for this.

How to Fix It

Alright, I could go on all day about how the series is bad. We see sub-plots that lead to absolutely nothing, yadda-yadda. But we’re already at 1300 words and I want to keep this relatively short.

Break things down as simply as we can, what is SAO? SAO is a shounen anime with no threat and side-stories that go nowhere. Without the struggle, there’s no point to making this a shounen series. The most enjoyable scenes of this anime were the slice-of-life scenes and the whodunnit episodes in the middle. So how do we fix SAO? Simple. We focus on what it does well and drop what it does poorly. If SAO was purely a slice-of-life anime it would actually be quite decent. The action scenes (while well-crafted) are pointless because we know Kirito will win. Every. Single. Time. Remove them. This life-or-death game isn’t life-or-death. It’s just life. And since it’s just life, just make a slice-of-life anime about a man and his waifu in a medieval world. The music is excellent. The stories are fun enough. At least this way, I’d be forced to give you a 6 for being meh rather than a 1 for being awful. Do something about your characters. We see some characters for all of one episode before they’re relegated to the harem and exist to be an extra voice in a later scene.

So yeah, that’s my fix. Make it full-on slice-of-life. Problem solved. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

 

How to Fix Sword Art Online

Rant: Sailor Moon Opening

Okay, this was not the blog post that I had planned to work on today but whatever. I gotta get this off my chest. Why the FUCK did (and I’m just gonna guess here, feel free to comment if I’m placing my blame incorrectly) Viz Media change the theme song so drastically for Sailor Moon? This is really important! Listen to the Japanese opening

I don’t know what feeling you get off of this, but I get this kind of romantic Swan Lake, rock/romantic fusion, Phantom of the Opera feeling from it. I don’t even need to understand Japanese to get the meaning. I don’t even need to have watched the anime to understand the feelings. It has this wistful touch to it, as if the romance is fleeting. Like, you only get one night to be with the one you love and after the night has passed you’re sat there just reminiscing about what was and imagining what could have been, what should have been. It’s painful. Now let’s listen to what Viz Media did to such a treasure

I don’t want to say that it’s bad. It’s not bad. Standalone, it’s fine. There’s not much wrong with it. They picked an okay singer. Tolerable. There’s a pretty cool guitar solo. But it feels like it lost something. It feels like it lost the emotion from the Japanese version. Maybe it’s because the singer is much younger, and has lost that ‘matured’ timbre that I associate with the Japanese version.

The lyrics also seem to have taken a very distinct change. The Japanese lyrics, again, maintain this wistful feeling.

I’m just about to cry — moonlight
I can’t call you, either — midnight
But I have a simple heart, so what can I do?
My heart is a kaleidoscope.

I want to, but I can’t. I can’t stop myself from feeling this way. My heart is a kaleidoscope what does it even mean? That’s the point! A youth not understanding her feelings, so she has to find other ways to describe her feelings. Contrast that with the sort of battle-focused lyrics of the English version. Why. Why did you change the song from a beautiful soliloquy into some generic ‘power of friendship’ song?

My hypothesis and I don’t have anything to back this up is that to my knowledge they both aired on Toonami (which is where I watched it) around the same time. It might have been changed to sort of be ‘DBZ for girls’. Which is a damn shame if you ask me, Sailor Moon is far superior to DBZ. I said it. Come at me. While we’re at it, Sailor Mercury best sailor scout. Fite me irl.

But I’ve never read the manga, I didn’t watch the entire series. It was a villain of the week series to my recollection, similar to InuYasha? Maybe I should go back and watch the 200 episodes? Maybe not. I just appreciate good music.

So that’s my piece. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Rant: Sailor Moon Opening

American Cultural Appropriation

This post isn’t getting much of a draft process so it won’t really be the same quality as the other posts that I’ve done but I do want to get my piece in here. I’m literally just stream of consciousness-ing this post.

Readers may know that I am a bit of a manga fan. I read a lot of trashy manga like Yuusha ga Shinda and Kumo desu ga, nani ka? Though that’s not to say I can’t appreciate a good Hajime no Ippo or Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures. No I have no read One Piece. No, I’m not going to read it any time soon. I’ll wait for the completion. It’s bad enough Miura is stringing me along with Berserk. At least Togashi has Hunter X Hunter moving along nicely =D

Anyway, there’s a manga that became very popular and has finally hit the west in the form of My Hero Academia. My Hero Academia is the story of how Midoriya Izuku becomes the greatest hero. They spoiled themselves in the first chapter or so, don’t cry to me. Izuku lives in a world filled with people that have superpowers. He was born without superpowers and he has an unfortunate fascination with heroes just like any of us. So he wants to be a superhero but alas, no superpowers. He does get to eventually enter hero school with a small loan of a million dollars the superpowers of the greatest hero in their universe.

When you think of superheroes, no matter where you are in the world, you probably think of Marvel superheroes like Iron Man and Spiderman. These movies are very common throughout the world. While manga do often have people with unusual powers, the ‘hero’ character is really an American thing. Rugged individualism is an American ideal. Many heroes in the series were easily inspired by American comics. The Symbol of Peace – All Might wears red, white, and blue. He names his attacks after states and his strongest attack is ‘The UNITED STATES OF SMASH”. The man is always optimistic and willing to face danger headlong because he is the embodiment of heroism. It’s so inspiring to see All Might, not only a great hero, but a likable hero. He’s not rude, he’s overly polite. He’s not unapproachable, he’s incredibly friendly. All Might gives hope to those around him.

I feel like Horikoshi really loves America and American culture. And his love of the United States can be found in My Hero Academia. I love this manga because (in my opinion) there isn’t a single bad character in it. I wish I saw more Tooru Hagakure (pun intended) but overall, very well done.

We live in an era where certain individuals will vilify a person for borrowing from culture outside their own. They say this is offensive to the cultures, and that everyone should just stay in their own culture boxes and leave well enough alone. But I disagree. I have never connected so strongly to a manga (Berserk may have come close) as I have to My Hero Academia. I’ve never been so invested in so many characters in a manga. And I believe it’s not only because Horikoshi has written a good manga, but because I can feel the appreciation for American culture in this manga. This man (probably) loves America, and loves American media. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I celebrate this! I wish we had more mangas about different aspects of American culture! This is wonderful!

This is why I don’t understand how ‘cultural appropriation’ is a thing. Really, I’m so very pleased by this cultural appropriation. I would welcome Horikoshi into my home. There was a video that went somewhat viral, maybe a year ago of a black girl harassing a white boy because he had dreads. It seems she interpreted it as some kind of insult. But I don’t understand why. If she has cultural ties to dreads, shouldn’t she be happy that people from outside her perceived ingroup can appreciate dreads as well? There was a story a while ago about a young girl that loved tea ceremony and I believe she posted images in traditional wear. She received many hateful comments for this, saying that she was ‘appropriating Japanese culture’, and that it was offensive to Japanese people. These people weren’t Japanese though. When the Japanese people finally made a response, they were very thankful that the girl appreciated their culture so much. The girl did the research and actually invested herself in tea ceremony. She was celebrating their culture, not mocking it.

I wish that all of these people that think of cultural appropriation as a thing would see it for what it is – flattery. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. There’s no reason we should not be able to appreciate another person’s culture. Appreciating their culture is what makes the world great. These people claim to support multiculturalism, but everyone has to stick their own culture? That seems contradictory. It elevates tokenism to being the standard, rather than something we would openly find distasteful.

So long story short, I want to give another ‘Thank you’ to Horikoshi. You’re doing a wonderful job mate. Every chapter keeps me on my toes and all of your characters are wonderful. I love it. And thank you for loving American culture, loving my culture as much as I love my culture.

Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

American Cultural Appropriation