I have a question to ask, and I have no idea where it is appropriate to put it.. ,

If a scientifically minded person from a modern society were lost in a remote wilderness and had knowledge of the metric system, but no rulers or weights or measures with them, is there some way to at least somewhat accurately derive these units from the natural world?

Some of the standards that I know can be naturally derived:

  • A straightedge can be made by shaving down 3 pieces of wood with stones, and comparing them with each other for flatness.
  • A moderately accurate protractor can be derived from the compass and straightedge.
  • A sundial and directional compass can be constructed with knowledge of the star Polaris, then sketching out the 90-degree points with the straightedge and compass, and the hours indicated with 15 degree marks.
  • Timekeeping by the hour through the night can be established with a large dripping water clock.
  • Over many years, one could eventually work up to constructing a mechanical clock using a pendulum and weight, and eventually approximate the measure of time called a second.
  • Since the metric Celsius scale is built around the freezing and boiling point of water, it would eventually be possible to reconstruct this measurement scale, if some simple method of measuring temperature can be found.

However I have no idea how one would go about accurately re-establishing the weights and measures of the metric system.

Is there any way to naturally derive the gram, the meter, and the liter without any modern reference standards?

  • 5
    If you ask that question in a context of an imaginary world maybe worldbuilding.se is a fit but do check their chat and meta before going there. – rene Jan 6 at 17:36
  • 2
    ? Why would a "where to ask a question" question be downvoted? Mysterious. – Dale Mahalko Jan 6 at 17:39
  • 4
    @DaleMahalko Because originally it looked you want to ask that question here. – πάντα ῥεῖ Jan 6 at 17:41
  • 3
    If you haven't shown any research yourself, not even mentioned a site you considered, it is hard to see this as a well researched question. The lack of research is still a down vote reason. See also the tag wiki: meta.stackexchange.com/tags/site-recommendation/info – rene Jan 6 at 17:48
  • Half those examples might be explained on Outdoors.SE. Others possibly answered on our history sites. – Rob Jan 6 at 18:19
  • 1
    @Rob I believe that's more on-topic for Physics or Worldbuilding. Who actually needs exact metrics at an hypothetical outdoor adventure? Also regarding History, what should these help? – πάντα ῥεῖ Jan 6 at 18:50
  • @DaleMahalko I wonder how our ancestors survived without exact metrics. – πάντα ῥεῖ Jan 6 at 19:11
  • There are related questions on Physics/metrology, but I think you'd need to ask a more focused question (just ask about a single unit) or your question would be likely to be closed. And of course you need to browse the existing questions so that your question doesn't get closed as a duplicate. – PM 2Ring Jan 8 at 3:44

I am not so sure that there's really an appropriate, unambiguous site you can ask such broad question.

You are constructing a hypothetical situation, which could well fit as a question at SE Worldbuilding.

On the other hand you're asking about certain SI units, which tends more to be answered at SE Physics.

However I have no idea how one would go about accurately re-establishing the weights and measures of the metric system.

That's merely asking if the whole process why and how the mainstream science came to the agreement of SI units, and how it was developped from research and building measurement tools.

I believe there are numerous shelves filled with books about this topic.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .