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    Jason Lisle



     In 1324, Edward II decreed that the inch was the length of 3 barley corns placed end-to-end. 

    A light year is the distance that light travels in a year. The nearest stars are a few light years away. A foot is approximately a light nanosecond! (A nanosecond is a billionth of a second, or 1/1,000,000,000 secs.) 

    An Anglo-Saxon unit of length was the barleycorn. After 1066, 1 inch was equal to 3 barleycorn, which continued to be its legal definition for several centuries, with the barleycorn being the base unit.[2] One of the earliest such definitions is that of 1324, where the legal definition of the inch was set out in a statute of Edward II of England, defining it as "three grains of barley, dry and round, placed end to end, lengthwise".[2]

    Similar definitions are recorded in both English and Welsh mediæval law tracts.[3] One, dating from the first half of the 10th century, is contained in the Laws of Hywel Dda (see Hywel Dda) which superseded those of Dyvnwal, an even earlier definition of the inch in Wales. Both definitions, as recorded in Ancient Laws and Institutes of Wales (vol i., pp. 184,187,189), are that "three lengths of a barleycorn is the inch".[4]

    Charles Butler, a mathematics teacher at Cheam School, in 1814 recorded the old legal definition of the inch to be "three grains of sound ripe barley being taken out the middle of the ear, well dried, and laid end to end in a row", and placed the barleycorn, not the inch, as the base unit of the English Long Measure system, from which all other units were derived.[5] John Bouvier similarly recorded in his 1843 law dictionary that the barleycorn was the fundamental measure.[6]





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