Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A base quote

Many children grow superstitious, and think that you cannot carry except in tens; or that it is wrong to carry in anything but tens. The use of algebra is to free them from bondage to all this superstitious nonsense, and help them to see that the numbers would come just as right if we carried in eights or twelves or twenties. It is a little difficult to do this at first, because we are not accustomed to it; but algebra helps to get over our stiffness and set habits and to do numeration on any basis that suits the matter we are dealing with.

Mary Everest Boole
Philosophy And Fun Of Algebra,
London: C. W. Daniel, LTD, 1909

Addition in different bases was evil, but I think that I have got the hang of it now. (I.e. another base post is in store later tonight; or should it be early tomorrow morning!) I hope that today is going to be a good day. :)


egm said...

I remember when I first had to learn how to add in binary, then later in hexadecimal, it took some getting used to. Having used the decimal system all my life, learning something new was rather challenging at first. But once I figured it out, it was plain sailing.

beans said...

I have an embarrassing confession to make about binary, but will leave it to the intended post!!

Different bases are tricky, but once you start looking at every number in terms of that formula, it becomes nicer. (That's what I do now, even for base 10 numbers if I want to annoy people!)

Can I ask why you had to learn it? Although I had heard the term 'different bases', I would never have known about it had it not been for that book. (It is kinda fun as well)!

egm said...

I did Electrical Engineering in school, and one of the classes I took was on microprocessor design. Since them animals work in 1s and 0s, we had to learn binary arithmetic in order to understand what goes on. Hexadecimal followed, since that is easier for us humans to read than a bunch of 1s and 0s. The binary digits are grouped into hexadecimal digits making it easy for us. Thus my foray into that stuff.

beans said...

It's weird how I had come across hexadecimal and binary, without actually realising exactly what they were and how they operate! For the past few days I have been bugging one person with the binary joke, and then begging to be allowed to explain it. :D

It would be cool if this was taught at school; at least then we'll be aware that everything isn't just in tens.