Sunday, December 19, 2010

SOAK IT IN SUNDAYS I

Ten cycles of the moon the Roman year comprised:
This number then was held in high esteem,
Because, perhaps, on fingers we are wont to count,
Or that a woman in twice five months brings forth,
Or else that numbers wax till ten they reach
And then from one begin their rhythm anew.
-Ovid, Fasti, III.

Found in chapter titled Fingerprints of the most wonderful book Numbers by Tobias Dantzig.  I am not yet finished with this gem which Albert Einstein called, "the most interesting book on the evolution of mathematics which has ever fallen into my hands" (obvis this sold me on it the moment I read the back cover).  High praise indeed and duly deserved, I have never learned so much on the history of number theory + more.  

I loved this quote highlighting a time in human history when a base for the numeral system was just being created and agreed by historians that it came down to man counting on his ten fingers.  The great mathematician Lagrange argued that a prime base would be much more advantageous since then every systematic fraction would be irreducible and would therefore represent the number in a unique way (unlike 36/100 = 18/50 = 9/25 and the like).   Much more to come on this book in later posts I'm sure seeing as I'm currently obsessed with number history.  Aaahhhhhhhhhhh thinking about numerals.

 I hope you enjoyed the first Soak it in Sunday (SS) !

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