I'm happy that it did. Though billed as an exploration of mathematics, he veers off a bit into scientific measurements, but I'll still count this toward my goal of reading one interesting book on math each summer, and this one does it without spinning out of control with endless, overly-complicated and overly-ridiculous equations.
Asimov goes into the history of measurements and how certain units came about and how the different units relate to one another. Not only did lengths like palms and feet have to be standardized from person to person and town to town, but also in relation to each so that they could be divided more evenly among people without formal education but who could count and compute the basic operations.
Asimov pushes for the metric system often throughout the book, as it's used a lot in science (where he was quite at home), not to mention in most of the non-English-speaking world. (He doesn't actually mention the measure of the English-speaking world using British units.)
The biggest problem with his arguments is that he presented the beauty of American/British system in its origins. If you were a wordsmith, you might be interested in the etymology of words, where they came from and how they came to be. You wouldn't stand for simplified spellings that are attempted from time to time. (Benjamin Franklin had a serious plan to change the language and simplify spelling, for instance.) When you read the origin of who's foot we use and who's armlength, and why a furlong is 1/8 of a mile, there is a wonder to it that goes beyond, "You see, there's this stick, and it has these two marks in it...."
Further, the system of divisions make sense. Think of the times. Think of the people and how they lived. If they split things, they likely halved them. If they had to quarter something, they halved it again. How often did someone come along with nine of his friends and need things sorted out evenly among them. And for all those divisions, 10 isn't a great number to work with: you can only divide it by 2 and 5, but not 3 nor 4. Dividing 12 by 2, 3, 4 and 6 proved more convenient, if it you lose 5. Moreover, metric conversion is easy in that you can switch units simply by moving the decimal point, but first you had to invent the decimal point! And that didn't happen to, what, the sixteenth century?
Oddly enough, I can sit here and argue that the time for the metric system has passed. We're living in a computer age, ruled by binary and hexidecimal. The number 10 really doesn't fit well into that scheme. And once you get passed 11th year math, base 10 goes out the window in favor of natural logs and e.
Not that any of this took away from my enjoyment of his book, which I heartily recommend to all with the proviso, "Don't try to read it in bed when you're really tired."
And I'll close by considering how close NYC came to allowing 16-ounce soft drinks while banning 500 milliliters. Metric: not even once.
Apparently, this is the first Asimov book I've reviewed, as his name was not one of the tags, which is odd because I have read some of his books since I started this blog, or at least since I kept track of the books in my paper journal. The most recent Asimov book I read which comes to mind was The Currents of Space. It's an Empire book and I remember wondering when the Robots would show up because I had Caves of Steel on my mind.