4 Hilarious Attempts to Fix Things That Weren't Broken
The world is bullshit. Our government doesn't work. There are rocks everywhere. Almost nothing hovers.
All of these were supposed to be hovering by now, dammit.
People have been noticing the bullshittedness of the world for a long time now, and history is littered with examples of people who have tried to do something about it. And failed miserably, because, as previously discussed, the world is bullshit. Here are the stories of their failure.
The 13-Month Calendar
The calendar we use is kind of nuts. August has 31 days. September has 30. February has 28, except when it doesn't, except when it does. Our weeks are seven days long, which isn't divisible by anything, nor does it go evenly into any of the months, except when it does, except when it doesn't. Basically nothing about our calendar makes sense, and indeed, the only reason we use it is because one of the popes made us.
"Also, God said to name it after me."
OK, strictly speaking, the problem has more to do with the Earth and the sun not being able to get their shit together and create a year that's composed of a nice round number of days: 365.25 doesn't divide evenly by anything, no matter what the pope says.
"God's working on changing what integers are, right now."
Still, that hasn't stopped people from trying. And 365.25 is kind of close to 364, which is 28 times 13. That means we could have nice, even 28-day months, except we'll have 13 of them, which is basically the unevenest number there is. And we'd still have a spare day each year, which we'd have to do something with. It probably couldn't be a regular day. These guys who invented a 13-month calendar want to call it the "day out of time." The guys who invented this 13-month calendar call the spare day "Year Day," which sounds less dumb until you think about it, at which point it sounds much, much dumber. And it wasn't even just kooks promoting these alternative calendars. After World War II, the United Nations was seriously considering a "World Calendar" that featured 12 months (phew) but still had those insane "blank days," which are so confusing.
None of these proposals have gone anywhere, although unlike some of the other items on this list, it's not just because people were lazy. No, it turns out that the idea of a blank day is really hard for most religions to wrap their heads around. If you're supposed to dedicate every Sunday to worshiping God and you spend the day after Saturday drinking beer in a park because that's the blank day for the year, is God going to be cool with your accounting?
The Earth is spherical because of ... uh... I think seasons? And its ballingness makes it very difficult to depict a map of its surface on something flat. There are ways to do this, of course, called projections, but no matter what projection you use, you will always distort the shape, size, or proportions of the surface you're depicting. For example, the familiar Mercator projection ...
... shows things in the Northern Hemisphere as being much larger than things around the equator. Notably, Greenland looks like a massive continent, larger than Africa, when in reality it's quite a bit smaller than India.
And just a smidge less populated.
OK, so what? It's not like we ever need to roughly estimate how large continents are, like when we're sizing tarps or something. But some people argue that by making countries in the Northern Hemisphere appear larger, it makes them seem more important than they are, and it makes it easier for us wealthy Northern Hemispherites to ignore the concerns of people around the equator.
Thanks for the spicy food, though, guys.
To counteract this subtle psychological effect, different projections have been proposed that more accurately portray the relative sizes of the continents. Like this Gall-Peters projection ...
... which makes the Northern Hemisphere look like it got stepped on.
In the 1970s, the (re-)inventor of the Gall-Peters projection, Arno Peters, began lobbying the map users of the world to use his projection instead of the Mercator for the above reasons. This slightly noble pursuit wasn't helped by the fact that, by most accounts, Peters was a colossal ass about the whole thing. Notably, the argument he was making wasn't new; cartographers had long known and pointed out the problems with the Mercator and advocated the use of more reasonable projections, like the Robinson. Also, the Gall-Peters map isn't "less" distorting than the Mercator; it's just differently distorting. And finally, the reason we call it the Gall-Peters projection is because it was first invented by some dude called Gall a hundred-odd years earlier, which Peters never really acknowledged.
"I didn't think anyone but me could create something so ugly."
Although a few users switched to the Gall-Peters projection, a lot didn't, and the argument kind of faded away. The only lasting impact the whole debate made was that most people realized that guys who talk about maps are really boring.
The metric system is the system of measures that most of the world uses for measuring things. All of its fundamental units can be increased or decreased by powers of 10 to arrive at different units, making calculations and conversions straightforward, with minimal need for memorization. Really, the whole thing works swimmingly well. So long as you use it.
You see where I'm going with this.
The United States does not use the metric system, and instead still uses a system of measures based on the size of various parts of their anatomy. Although most of the world switched to the metric system in the 19th century, the English-speaking world managed to hold off until the 1970s, when they eventually acknowledged the benefits of the metric system and caved in. Only the United States refused.
All 11 trillion hogshead/feet of it.
Obviously, there are some serious complications in switching your country's system of measurement. All your old signs are now useless. Any data you gathered in the old units have to be converted before they can be reused, which is a big problem for things like engineering or surveying. And all of your old recipes and calculations and empirical formulas have to be redone. Converting to a new system of measurement basically consigns your country to a muddled few years where everyone has to scratch their heads and be capable of converting between the two.
"I'll have a six-pack, please."
*sigh* "I'll have 0.6 decabeers, please."
Consequently, when the United States sort of tried to implement the metric system, it did so only on a voluntary basis, with no mandate to force the private sector to use it, which the private sector, taking one look at all the hassle, promptly didn't do. The metric system was adopted in weird sorts of half measures. It's essentially universal in the sciences, but much less so in engineering, and almost nonexistent in construction. In consumer goods, there's an odd mishmash of units, where most items are sold in ounces or hogs or whatever, with a few odd exceptions, like 2-liter bottles of Coke, or 2 grams of coke, or 9 mm ammunition.
Which could come in handy for either your Coke or your coke-dealing business, I'm not sure which.
It's really the worst of all possible worlds, the metric system having penetrated enough that if you're in any field where you have to measure things, you have to be capable of working with both systems, and if you make any mistakes, oh whoops, you've lost a $125 million spaceship. Instead of a few years of confused conversions, the United States has backed itself into a few decades of confused conversions instead.
I've talked a bit about how messed up English spelling is before, but in summary, the English language was assembled without any thought, planning, or shred of common sense whatsoever, mainly by mashing different languages into a blender. The spelling, needless to say, suffers for it. There are essentially no useful rules to learn English spelling other than practice and rote memorization. The alphabetic principle (words should be spelled the way they sound) only occasionally works, and every shorthand "I before E" rule we learn has so many exceptions that by the time we learn all those exceptions, we've just done rote memorization again. If you need a specific example, consider how the sequence of letters "ough" has between six and 10 pronunciations, depending on where you live in the English-speaking world.
"Coughing is rough, though," I thought, ploughing through a contrived example.
A number of different people have proposed spelling reform over the years, with varying degrees of success. Noah Webster, for example, managed to turn "publick" into "public," but couldn't quite pull off some of his other proposals, like turning "soup" into "soop" or "women" into "wimmen."
"I ran my tung over the wimmen in turn, looking for the one that tasted most like soop."
The main problem with spelling reform is that there's no one in charge of the English language. The guys who write our dictionaries are the closest, and even then you can see the limits of Webster's power. Even if you run the dictionary factory, to truly make a spelling change take hold, you first must convince basically every English speaker to listen to you, and who the fuck do you think you are? Countries with officials in charge of their language (most of them, actually) are capable of pulling this off; in the 1990s, Germany did something with all those extra F's and S's in their words. Added more of them, I think. But for us unregulated English speakers? We'll just have to laugh and stomach the fact that we'll never be able to "laff" and "stumuk" it.
Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and may be partially responsible for the world being bullshit. Join him on Facebook or Twitter to express your dismay.