Why human societies still use arms, feet, and other body parts to measure things

Thursday, June 1, 2023 - 13:13 in Earth & Climate

If you had to estimate the dimensions of a room without the benefit of a tape measure, you might walk its perimeter heel to toe, counting your steps. To estimate the height of a wall, you might count hand spans from floor to ceiling. In doing so, you’d join a long human tradition. Most human societies around the word—perhaps all—have employed similar body-based measurement strategies , according to a first-of-its-kind study published today in Science . And these informal body-based systems can persist for centuries after a culture has introduced standardized units of measure because, the authors argue, they often lead to more ergonomic designs of tools, clothing, and other personalized items. “Nobody has ever done...

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