From: Iain Strachan \(asa\) (email@example.com)
Date: Fri Mar 28 2003 - 14:51:14 EST
"American Home Loans" wrote:
> And only by sheer coincidence does it happen to equate to the fingers on
... and I suppose you therefore believe that the ancient Sumerians and
Babylonians had 60 fingers on their hands? And the Mayan Indians had 20? I
notice that "The Simpsons" have a finger missing, so I suppose they must do
arithmetic in base 8?
Seriously, according to my History of Maths expert (Prof. I.
Grattann-Guinness), there is actually little evidence to suggest that 10
fingers is the reason for base 10 being predominant. It is more likely that
it is because 10 is a divisor of 60, used since the earliest times, and of
which we still see residual evidence today (60 seconds in a minute, 60
minutes in an hour etc). Babylonian mathematicians, who were very
sophisticated in what they knew, used the sexagesimal system, and wrote
numerals representing 1-59 in cuneiform. It also may well be the case that
another reason for 10 coming to the fore was the reverence the ancient
mathematicians had for the Tetratkys (the triangle of 10).
I note that Vernon's web page here discusses in detail the numbers 6 and 10;
I had this information from an entirely different, secular source, who is
well respected in his field (history of mathematics), and thus I think
Vernon's observations are worthy of more that a one-liner smart-aleck
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