ancient world Mathematics Societies

Why We Use A Decimal System

Most cultures around the world independently arrive at a decimal system for counting things?
Why is this?

Because that’s the number of fingers on our hands. Childish and simple, but the truth. Look at a synonym for a number in our language: a ‘digit.’

Thus, can we say a decimal metric system is necessarily more ‘rational’ than a standard system largely based around numbers like 12 and 16?

Ancient Mesopotamian cultures based their numeral system around the number 60, evenly divisible by 12.

Computers are set up to do many things in hexadecimal, base 16, rather than the base 10 preferred by its ten-fingered users.

It makes best mathematical sense to use numbers most easily divided and factored as a base.
Thus a race of aliens with 13 fingers might also create computers that use base 16.

If we were to suppose the divine is reflected in the nature of the universe, Would humans in the image of the divine have had 12 or 16 fingers instead of 10?

By Giovanni Dannato

In 1547 I was burnt at the stake in Rome for my pernicious pamphlet proclaiming that the heavens were not filled with a profusion of aether, but rather an extensive vacuum.
Now, the phlogiston that composed my being has re-manifested centuries in the future so that I may continue the task that was inconveniently disrupted so long ago.
Now, I live in Rome on the very street where I (and others) were publicly burnt. To this day, the street is known as what I would translate as 'Heretic's Way'. My charming residence is number 6 on this old road. Please, do come inside and pay me a visit; I should be delighted to spew out endless pedagoguery to one and all...

2 replies on “Why We Use A Decimal System”

I’m aware computers are fundamentally binary in function, but octal and hex are suitable when you need more possible states to cover the total amount of possible outputs. Thus hex is a convenient way to represent ascii characters, for example.
What better base than an easily factorable perfect square?
My point: an alien race on the other side of the galaxy could within reason arrive at the same conclusions when designing machines and machine languages whatever their physiology might happen to be.
Thus in a way, a decimal system is arbitrary happenstance while binary, octal, hex, could be considered to be part of a universal ‘language.’

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