The Honking Goose

something to honk about

ten fingers, ten toes

I have read that our base 10 counting system arises from the fact that we have ten fingers on our hands. But what if we had eight fingers or twelve? In that case, instead of adding a decimal place after nine, we would add one after seven, or eleven. I have to do some real mental calisthenics to understand how that would work. The base ten system is so ingrained in me.

felt numbers one through ten

I woke up at 3:30 am last night for this. Clearly, my brain really wanted to be awake to think about different based numerical systems, because that is what was going through my mind.

Let’s say we had four fingers on each hand and it was a base 8 system. Then counting would be like 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,10 and then 11,12,13,14,15,16,17,20. So when you got to 100, it would be equal to what we now know as 64. It would be 62, 63, 100. 63 seems like a strange number at which to stop and add a digit. But so would 99 seem if we were used to a base 8.

road sign speed limit ten

What’s more, not everyone in the world uses a base 10 numerical set. I’ve also read that cultures where the temperatures are warmer and they don’t wear shoes are more likely to use a base 20 set. Ten fingers plus ten toes equals twenty. This cool article from Mental Floss explains twelve alternative counting systems from around the world.

When you are awake in the middle of the night what do you ponder?

Advertisements

43 comments on “ten fingers, ten toes

  1. Pingback: Why does two plus two equal four? | From DandelionEnd

  2. christianliving2014
    October 25, 2014

    Never thought about it like this. Great write!

    Like

  3. Swarn Gill
    October 25, 2014

    The base 10 counting system is not the only one to have been used in civilization. The Babylonians used a base 60 counting system (Hexigesimal) which is why actually there are 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in an hour. We measure time not according to base 10 at all actually and many people think we measure time is as natural as the base 10 counting system.

    Like

    • thehonkinggoose
      October 25, 2014

      It is all very fascinating I think. Maybe we would have even come up with different ideas and different technologies if we commonly used a different counting system.

      Like

      • Swarn Gill
        October 25, 2014

        I think there is something to that. I actually teach a course on the history of time, and one of the hypothesis I posit is that the way we measure time is linear, and yet we perceive time in a very non-linear way and thus it runs counter to our thinking. Which is why in countries that are very clock conscious, people are often more-stressed (although usually more economically successful as whole). Counting time in a linear fashion has it’s value and place no question, but for day to day human life it might not be as useful.

        The French, invented the metric system, also tried to apply it to the clock, but the way we measure time was already to ingrained into European thinking that it was resisted. I wonder Einstein had already shown the connection between space and time if we wouldn’t also have a decimal based clock as well.

        Like

        • thehonkinggoose
          October 25, 2014

          Yes, I’ve often thought about the wide gulf between the way we measure time and the way we experience time. It is a part of our society and modern life that I often feel discord with. Your class sounds very interesting.

          Like

  4. Kimberly
    October 25, 2014

    I’m not a numbers person. I don’t typically think about numbers. When I wake up in the middle of the night it’s cuz I need to use the toilet. I drink a lot of water. I can barely make it to the bathroom and back to bed, let alone thinking of anything else. LOL Interesting topic though. I love Mental Floss. I share their stuff on occasion too.

    Like

  5. rachealizations
    October 25, 2014

    Wow, that is impressive! Usually when I wake up in the middle of the night, it’s because I’m hungry again. It doesn’t get much more complicated or interesting for me. Great post!

    Like

  6. Jim woods
    October 25, 2014

    This post is why I like reading your blog. You come up with some ideas that would never enter my head. If I wake up i the middle of the night the only numbers I think about are the number of sheep I have to count before I get back to sleep.

    Like

  7. blueinsomniak
    October 25, 2014

    It isn’t numbers I ponder, that’s for sure. Although I would prefer that instead of the crap that goes through this mind.

    Like

  8. Norbert Haupt
    October 24, 2014

    I happen to be a computer programmer, and I started my career working for 10 years using “machine language.” I was able to do octal (base 8) and hexadecimal (base 16) arithmetic and counting fluently. The octal system is much more intuitive and consistent than the decimal system. Most people never get to experience that mental switch – but believe me, once you do, it becomes easy.

    Like

  9. Gordon Flanders
    October 24, 2014

    Wow super cool. I don’t know why I haven’t thought of this before.

    Like

  10. theanimekpopblogger270
    October 24, 2014

    I like this explanation of numbers 😉 why is everything based off ten? Is it just because we have ten fingers? How about the ppl who have more or less fingers?

    Like

    • thehonkinggoose
      October 24, 2014

      They are at a disadvantage with counting, I would suppose. I wonder if anyone has ever studied that?

      Liked by 1 person

  11. annj49
    October 24, 2014

    I ponder the “stuff” of life, whatever it might be at the time….and I usually have to write it down because the thoughts are important enough and I will have lost them by morning 😉

    Like

    • thehonkinggoose
      October 24, 2014

      If I write it down, I will remember without reading it, but if I don’t write it down, it will be lost. Such is the nature of memory.

      Like

  12. Your Moderate Mama
    October 24, 2014

    If we had 8 or 12 fingers we’d look like a Dr. Seuss character!

    Wacky Wednesday would be every day!!

    Like

    • thehonkinggoose
      October 24, 2014

      But from the standpoint of having eight or twelve fingers, we DO look like a funny character with our ten. It’s those thoughts that really twist me up sometimes.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Underdaddy
    October 24, 2014

    I wonder if Adam instituted a base eleven system before he left the garden of Eden… That’s not what I think of at night btw. I think of the exact number of minutes and seconds before my alarm will go off and how many times I can hit snooze. It has created a base nine number system for me since international snooze is nine minutes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jollof
      October 24, 2014

      lol…I can relate totally

      Like

    • thehonkinggoose
      October 24, 2014

      Or 21, because he wouldn’t have had shoes either…

      Like

    • sirgb
      October 25, 2014

      Adam had no time for that as he was given the choice to stay there but with some other Eve or to leave with one who jumped on apple…

      Like

  14. spartacus2030
    October 24, 2014

    Our computers work with a binary system and our much faster at completing calculations than we are. Food for middle of the night thought. LOL! I’m so evil! I contemplate not contemplating, so I can get back to sleep. I’m older, so I usually just wake up for a tinkle. Then I contemplate: ‘Should I flush? Or not?’

    Like

    • thehonkinggoose
      October 24, 2014

      My mind just loves to think on and on when I wake up at night. Sometimes I have to use relaxation techniques to shut it down. And I don’t flush at night. 🙂

      Like

      • spartacus2030
        October 24, 2014

        No crime in thinking… Good call on the toilet thingy! It saves on water (as long as it’s just a tinkle) and avoids awaking others. A double plus! I love those :O)

        Like

    • tPenguinLTG
      October 24, 2014

      Finger binary!

      Like

  15. Yoshiko
    October 24, 2014

    Most of the times, the right words of poetry are echoing in my mind when I am awake in the middle of the night.

    Like

  16. Very Bangled
    October 24, 2014

    Did you know that 6 fingers is dominant trait? So the 12 counting system isn’t that unrealistic.

    Like

    • thehonkinggoose
      October 24, 2014

      Some mathematicians seem to believe it would be more efficient as 12 is divisible by more numbers. And there is 2x 12 hours in a day.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. NotAPunkRocker
    October 24, 2014

    I ponder what I am going to blog about.

    I am a numbers nerd, so I did find this kind of cool. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

Honk at me:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Information

This entry was posted on October 24, 2014 by in Culture, Nerd Corner and tagged , , , , , .
%d bloggers like this: