Measuring Up

So this is a bit of one-off worldbuilding. In the spirit of NANOWRIMO, I’m just going to throw this together superfast and let the chips fall wherever they land.

So, I was reading this on the Zompist bulletin board, when I was struck by an idea of one way in which to develop a set of measurement standards for an imaginary world.

I started by grabbing,”StarGen,” a variation on the old Accrete program from the website. It may not have all of the variety of a more modern planet generation program, but the results should be plausible, or at least not altogether risible. I had it generate 3,000 systems, only returning the ones that contained at least one “habitable” planet. I then examined the systems generated. I settled on this one, a system whose fourth planet was terrestrial and just different enough from Earth to seem interesting to me. There are better ways, programmatic and otherwise, to generate interesting planets, but this way does have the virtue of being fast.

The star is pretty similar to the Sun with 0.92 of its mass, 0.67 of its luminosity and an age of 5.21 billion years(leaving 8.472 billion years remaining on the main sequence). Let’s call it Holman

The fourth planet in this system(cleverly named Holman IV by the United Planets Astronomical Survey Service – UPASS) has a mass 0.603 that of Earth, a surface gravity of 8.224 m/s2 and an equatorial radius of 5,406 km. Its “average” surface temperature is a balmy 11.4ºC under about 400 millibars of atmosphere and with a hydrospheric coverage of 64.7%(probably more significant figures than will be reflected by the mapping process, figure in the range of 60%≤hydrosphere<70%). The most important parts which I came here for being it’s day of 23.79 hours(85,644s, disappointingly similar to Earth’s own day length of 86,400), and its year length of 270.85 Earth days(23,401,440s or 273.24 local days).

Traditionally, the local sophonts, lets call them,”Gwaps,” use a base 12 numbering system. They divide their day into 12 equal segments(6 of daylight and 6 of night at the equinox), each 7,137s(118.95min) long. These could be considered equivalent to hours. In at least one of the local cultures a bell is rung in the social/religious/cultural center to mark these demarcations, thus their word for this timespan translates as,”bells.” Of course, the day is also divided into other, more ad hoc demarcations: daylight and night, of course, thirds and sixths, but these are less significant. More significant is the 144th part of the bell, referred to in translation as a,”grosseth bell,” or simply,”grosseth”. The grosseth is 49.5625s long(in theory, in practice, given the Gwaps roughly renaissance level of technological development, about 50 seconds is generally more precise than the actual measurement). A dozen grosseth, referred to simply as a dozenth, since it is by definition also 1/12th part of a bell(in practice about 10 minutes), is a frequently used, though somewhat casual measure of time. The smallest unit of time in any regular use by the Gwaps is the 1728th part of a bell or about 4 seconds.

Longer periods of time would be the,”twelveday,” roughly equivalent to a week. Like a week, each day of the twelveday cycle has a traditional name. If this program generated moons and if this planet had any, I’m sure they would throw a whole different monkey wrench into the system, but as it is the number of local days in a year don’t really fit with the base-12 motif. Nature does that. No respect for the holy perfection of mathematical systems.

Most Gwap cultures divide up the local year in one of two ways. Some divide it into 22 named twelvedays and a special holiday season that is 9 days long except every fourth year when it is 10 days long. Others divide it into 12,”months,” nine of them 23 days long and 3 of them 22 days long, with a special carnival day every fourth year.

Spacial measurement is a bit more complicated. For large distances the standard is the distance the most common local beast of burden(called the wog) can travel in a local day. They’re a bit slower moving than an Earth horse, but they can maintain a pace of about 8km/hr throughout the daylight period without needing rest, so a,”day’s travel,” comes to about 95km(say 92-98km in practice, local mapping practices aren’t up to more precision than that, anyway). A 1728th part of a day’s travel would be about 55m(a mazwa), and a 144th part of that would be about 38cm(called a minot). By coincidence, a particularly tall Gwap can be around 152cm in height, making it seem to be a good standard of comparison. In practice, the average Gwap is around 144cm in height, so the measure tends to come up a bit short, about 36cm. A typical Gwap can jump about 190cm in a single hop, which leads to a parallel unit of length measure used pretty much only in athletic competitions of the yawm(about 1.3cm).

Mass or weight measurement is surprisingly rationalized to the measures of time and length. It is based on the weight of water contained in a cylindrical barrel one minot(36cm) high by one minot in diameter(in practice, about 35-40kg or 288-330N, depending on the locally-preferred minot).

Areas of land are typically measured in square mazwa parcels(hagama, 3025m2 or 3/4 acre), while bolts of cloth are measured in square minots(ela minot, 1296cm2). Beyond that, there are few other common measurements.

For something that started out as a bit of idle thought while working on other things, and only fleshed out with the most basic of world information, this was rather a lot of detail. Now to learning more about the Gwaps, themselves and their world.

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