Monday, April 1, 2013

Numbers Games

Numbers are cool.  You know, those things we use to quantify stuff, to record how many, how big, how far, etc.  Numbers can change our mood by simply being different from what we expected.  Step on a scale and feel the elation of a number smaller than you thought, or the funk at a larger number.  If your bank account contains more than you thought, happiness abounds, if less ... well you get the idea.  Numbers affect our lives.

Numbers had to be invented as soon as things needed to be counted.  Obviously the first number was '1' or a hashmark that represented it at least.  The earliest artifact that indicated something was being counted dates back around 20000 years. The Ishango Bone clearly indicates a tally of something, though 'what' is a mystery.  When it came to measurements, the Egyptians get a prize for the Cubit, the length of a man's arm from elbow to the end of the middle finger, which measurement they used to build the pyramids, not too shabby.

This whole post started when I was playing a numbers game called KENKEN® (you can look up the game if you're interested,)  in which some of the answers involve the factors (numbers multiplied to get the number in question) of a number.  Looking at the number 6, I noticed that the set of factors - 1,2,3 - when ADDed together rather than multiplied, also yield 6.  By now, if you're actually still reading this, you are probably shrugging your shoulders and saying, "So what?"  Well 6 is the only number where that is true.  It is unique in the infinite world of numbers.

I have a notion to go on about numbers and how cool they are, but the imminent danger of losing what little audience I have gives me pause in that notion.  But pause has never meant stop.  I will however just add how numbers can fool us to this jaunt through number coolness before I leave it.

Enter the realm of marketing.  Look at the  price of goods, automobiles for example.  Someone looking at a car with a price tag of $24995.00 will be thinking $24000 rather than $25000.   If it's not true than why do we always see tags like 24.99, or 3.99 instead of 25.00 or 4.00?  There is something in our brain that allows us to ignore the .99's.

Okay I've got to stop this or I'll begin dipping into the most important number in the history of the invention of numbers - 0.  We couldn't have the civilization that exists today without it.