Saturday, 28 March 2009

Empire of the senseless

The metric system is a great invention; not because it makes precise measurement possible (it doesn't, it's the equipment that matters, not the units) but because it makes precise communication of that measurement so easy. However, some of its basic units are not adapted to everyday life.

"Bonjour madame, 363 grammes de ce fromage-la, s'il vous plait."

 An elementary request; if I wanted 364 grammes, or 362, I'd ask for 364 grammes, or 362.

"Quoi, pile?" [Luckily I knew that "pile" here means "exactly".]

"Oui, pourquoi pas?"

"Sortez, sortez maintenant!"

A communication failure. In particular, I've not conveyed the fear and confusion that flickered across Madame's face just before she threw me out. That made the encounter a win.


Mrs Pouncer said...

Inky, you are brainy, so you must be familiar with the story of Diderot (Encyclopaedist, materialist, intellectual - you know, THAT Diderot) and Euler meeting at the Russian court (Donc Dieu existe - repondez!) Diderot did not know his algebra but it was later explained to him that it is a language which describes the sizes of things. That is the French all over, in my view. Easily offended and schlepping back to Besancon before you can say knife. No offence.
When Euler's aphorism was translated (I paraphrase, but it was summat like A number x can be got by first adding a number a to a number b multiplied by itself a certain number of times, and then dividing the whole by the number of bs multiplied together, therefore God exists) he just replied Duh whatever, minger.
Like many of us, Diderot panicked when confronted by a sentence in the language of size. I know I do.

Kevin Musgrove said...

Some of us (no names, no pack drill) are old enough to remember when snuff was sold in scruples and crisps in drams.

Metric units, pfagh!

Dr Maroon said...

Clarissa you dumfound me. synchronicity or what?
I am a moral Pygmy. Nothing non PC about that: Pygmies are short and their morals are a fucking disgrace. No, my moral downfall began when I recognised mathematics as a language. Now it could have been drugs that triggered it, but what happened was that while some look at formulae and recognise form, trends, structure, the surface of the thing, I saw blobs. Undulating encapsulating blobs of totality. I understand the idiom. I can be funny in the language. I am fluent. The shock of this buggered me up for years.

Sorry Inky. What about those base sixty bastards who gave us sixty minutes, and British Summer Time? Fuckheads.

inkspot said...

The way I heard the story, Mrs P, the point was that Euler said something, not intimidating, but totally meaningless, then "Donc, etc." Another excellent example, btw, of sarcasm rather than arrogance.

Oh, if the language of size is off-putting, then buy your clothes in Chicago rather than New York. A midwestern size 6 is about 14 lbs heavier than an East Coast one.

Kevin, again the only answer to you is "Quite." The metric system is so brutally insensitive to context.

Dr Maroon said...

Im glad Euler never buckled under the challange.

fnar fnar

inkspot said...

Dr M, we crossed. The best formulae describe transformations, like in chemistry: 2NI_3 = N_2 + 3I_2. And they have their own beautiful purple smoke.

Those Babylonians. Worse than Zoroastrians.

"Euler never buckled under the challenge"? I fear this is an engineer's joke.

Mrs Pouncer said...

Inky, what are you saying, you git? I have the silhouette of Yvonne Romain in her prime. Tell him, Maroon.
The French language is especially suitable for the exercise of irony. The prolixity of German diction can be used to befuddle sensible people into believing that Hegel's dialectic makes sense. So different kinds of analysis which go by names such as infinitesimal calculus, vector notation and matrix algebra can be used severally. Shall I expand, or do you want to get pissed and see if Scarlet's up?

Dr Maroon said...

challange I say

Dr Maroon said...

I thought you were off to wash your hair?

scarlet-blue said...

I bet everyone's gone to bed now.
Don't forget the clocks go forward tonight. I think that this is what Inky means.

Anonymous said...

"Ce qui caractérise le philosophe et le distingue du vulgaire, c’est qu’il n’admet rien sans preuve..."[Denis Diderot] !???

Quel rapport avec "Euler" et le volume d'une glace à la vanille ou au chocolat ,si vous préférez ??? Une unité de longueur étant choisie, on considère un cône C de rayon 13 et de hauteur 9.

Calculez le volume V du cône C...Bla!Bla!Bla!
Il étudia même l'élasticité !?

Anonymous said...

Pour continuer à jouer dans la cour( voir la coure) de l'absurde !
« Une ode à l'univers. J'ai tenté de rendre hommage à sa splendeur et son intelligibilité, d'exprimer à la fois sa créativité, son inventivité, sa beauté et sa richesse. J'ai voulu donner à contempler et à comprendre. »Dit un certain "Hubert Reeves ".
Il a reconnu les mathématiques et la physique comme une langue intelligible !?
J'entends bien !!! Mais est-ce que c'est parlant ???????

Nous avions neuf planètes d'une masse de ...On s'en fou ! Une de moins pluton ne faisait pas le poids !

inkspot said...

Un cône de rayon 13 et de hauteur 9? C'est un cône d'une élasticité assez extraordinaire, voire imaginaire.

Oui, on a perdu le Pluton. C'est surprenant? Le système solaire n'est pas clos, alors il est instable, selon Poincaré. Demandez au celèbre Dr Maroon; il vous l'en assura.

Gadjo Dilo said...

The decimal system is really very stupid - you can divide 10 only by 5 and 2 for heaven's sake. The Laws of Evolution dictate that hexadactyls - people born with 6 fingers on each hand - (12 is divisable by 2,3,4 and 6) will become the master race. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

Putain, quelle bande de branleurs...

inkspot said...

Good lord Daphne, I didn't know you knew that word. At least the diplomatic service teaches something.

Mrs Pouncer said...

Daphne, really! I haven't heard that word since I was incarcerated in that wretched thalassotherapie in Pornic. The boy who belaboured the hammam punters with a bunch of twigs used it quite freely.

BEAST said...

Duh ,

Mrs Pouncer said...

Beast! Look at you, quoting Diderot! There is more to you than meets the eye - or have you been boning up?

BEAST said...

I was actually qouting the late lamented Ms Goody !
It is easy to see where the confusion arose .
Diderot / Jade....seperated at birth surely

Lulu LaBonne said...

Have I wandered into another spine-tingler Mrs Pouncer?

Anonymous said...

Wahouuu !Daphné ,

"Putain" j'sais c'que ça veut dire,c'est une exclamation marquant la surprise !? Souvant utilisé dans le midi ou le sud-ouest de la France " putain qu'elle est belle ta tire !!".
Mais " bande de branleurs" est un pléonasme , une figure de style désignant une secte d'hommes pubères !
j'en ai traduit : " Oh !la !la ! un groupe de jeunes scouts en culottes courtes "