Base 10 Is Not a Good Base

February 17, 2024

I thought of another reason I don’t really like the metric system: Base 10 is not a good base. You want your base to either be a power of 2 so that you can keep dividing by two (like a gallon has 128 fluid ounces) or have a bunch of useful factors (like a foot has 12 inches, so you can easily get ⅓ or ¼; and a minute has 60 seconds). Base 10’s factors are not great; you rarely want to divide anything by 5.

Some alien race has eight fingers, and when they visit here they understand why we use base 10, but it must be striking to them how bad of a base it is. Like you have 100 grams and you can divide it by 2 twice and after that you can only divide it by 5. Who needs to divide by 5? Especially in cooking.

It’d be like if we found an alien species that used base 14 for everything. One unit, then 14, then 196?! If you have 196 grams, you can divide it by 2 twice and then you can only divide it by 7? Bad base! Use 12 or 8 or something.

Metric’s entire foundation is a bad base.