Did Polynesians invent the binary system centuries ago?
|December 17, 2013||Posted by News under Mathematics, News|
Or more? It’s possible:
Each system has subtle advantages depending on what sort of counting and calculations are needed. The decimal system is handy considering that people have 10 fingers. But when it comes to division, other systems are better. Because 10 has only two prime factors (2 and 5), dividing by thirds results in an annoyingly infinite approximation (0.3333 … ) whereas the base-12 counting system produces a nice finite solution. (Indeed, some mathematicians have advocated for a worldwide switch to base-12.) Binary, meanwhile, has a leg up on decimal when it comes to calculation, as Leibniz discovered 300 years ago. For example, although numbers in binary become much longer, multiplying them is easier because the only basic facts one must remember are 1 x 1 = 1 and 0 x 0= 1 x 0 = 0 x 1 = 0.
But Leibniz may have been scooped centuries earlier by the people of Mangareva, a tiny island in French Polynesia about 5000 kilometers south of Hawaii. While studying their language and culture, Andrea Bender and Sieghard Beller, anthropologists at the University of Bergen in Norway, were astonished to find a mathematical system that seems to mix base-10 and base-2. “I was so thrilled that I couldn’t sleep that night,” Bender says. It could be not only the first new indigenous arithmetic system discovered in decades, but also the first known example of binary arithmetic developed outside Eurasia. – Science
Also: Did you know that some mathematicians advocate a switch to base-12 counting?