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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/753

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THE METRIC SYSTEM.

and consider the memory and labor demanded to convert the former to eagles, cents, or mills, or the latter to pounds, shillings, pence, or farthings. Our eagles, half eagles, quarter eagles, half dollars, quarters, dimes, five-cent, three-cent, two-cent, and one-cent pieces come and go as public convenience demands, and they do not give us the slightest inconvenience in calculation or account; for their units are decimally related to each other and they are invariably mentally referred to the one money unit, the dollar.

Among the several irrelevant and long-exploded arguments urged by Mr. Spencer, none is "more so" than his Socratic attempt to "array Nature" against the metric system, and it might well be passed over on account of its suicidal character. It may be worth while to remark, however, that the use of the decimal system in dividing the arc of a circle is not in the slightest degree "against Nature," that it is even now being strongly advocated by many eminent European geodesists and astronomers, and that it would be a very decided advance, if brought about, as, in the opinion of many, it some time will be. But it has nothing whatever to do with the metric system of weights and measures. Also, that whenever the English Parliament or the American Congress shall have under consideration an act providing that the year shall consist of ten months, the week of ten days, etc., it is likely that Mr. Spencer will have little difficulty in finding people ready to discuss the merits of such a measure. But these things have no place in the metrological reform under consideration, and their being brought into the discussion occasions no little surprise among those who are accustomed to expect from so eminent a scientific man as Mr. Spencer something like a fair and logical presentation of at least one side of a question.

There appears, however, one inference in reference to the division of a compass dial that is worthy of attention; it is that so inherent is the habit of halving and rehalving that the thirty-two-point division is fixed beyond all hope of change. On the contrary, the practice of ignoring this division is constantly growing, and to such an extent that now a large number of sailing charts and many compasses show circles divided into degrees instead, and many a man at the wheel has told me that he prefers to have the course laid in that way.

But the most astonishing part of Mr. Spencer's argument is yet to come. As he proceeds with his entertaining but somewhat one-sided dialogue, hints of something mysterious begin to appear. The objections to universal decimalization (which nobody has proposed) are put in evidence one by one until the man on the wrong side is led to exclaim in dismay: "You astonish me! What else is possible?" In answer he is asked to join in the contem-