I was recently reminded of a schoolhouse rock episode about a base 12 numbering system. It wasn’t an episode that caught on, but it made a mark on me throughout my school years. Specifically with respect to how arbitrary any base numbering system was. Of course, this doesn’t mean that our use of base 10 is arbitrary – but that our having five fingers and five toes on each limb is arbitrary. And if we had more or less, that our numbering system would reflect it.
What made me think of schoolhouse rock was a short discussion of base-12 numbering (a dozenal, or duodecimal system) by James Grimes. (I apologize for including a video with such restless camerawork that you may need a Dramamine to watch. However, Dr. Grimes does an excellent job explaining what can be a confusing topic.)
The video from my childhood that this reminded me of is ‘Little 12 Toes.’
The music accompanying this video holds up extraordinarily well and adds something trippy to the lesson.
Another appeal for a base 12 system comes from ParchitaFM, who apparently is mostly into music – and base 12…? That’s interesting.
Lastly, check out the Dozenal Society of America to see more from people who would like to adopt this system universally. I would remind the DSA that people have been trying to promote adoption of the metric system in the USA for at least 40 years. A change to the metric system faces far fewer barriers to acceptance than a base 12 system would, yet we remain (along with what, Somalia and Burma?), as one of the last countries clinging to the unwieldy imperial system.
No – I just looked it up. Somalia is metric – Liberia is not. Burma, I was right about.