# 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?

Binary here.

### 5 Responses to *Did Polynesians invent the binary system centuries ago?*

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It does not surprise me. Centuries ago, Polynesians perfected a system that allowed them to navigate thousands of miles between island specks in the pacific without a compass. They did it mostly by observing the waves in the ocean. And, of course, there’s the mystery of Easter Island.

Mapou,

I agree. I think there is a lot we don’t know about ancient polynesia.

I’ve always thought that base 12 would make an ideal monetary system because it’s so rich in divisors for its magnitude. Dozens would also facilitate trade in commodities.

Thumbs count as 2 each. 😉

-Q

Ethiopians have also long used the same mathematical approach to multiplications as computers do these days by using powers of two and divisions.

a few related notes:

This man ‘sees’ pi as a landscape that he walked through to over 20,000 digits

The man also ‘sees’ pi and other numbers, and equations, as well;

Along that line;

Indeed , a Wigner put it, ‘a miracle confronts us’:

Alexander Vilenkin commenting on Euler’s Identity, e^ipi+1=0 , states:

Dr. Craig weighs in here

Here is a humorous reaction to a mathematical problem in physics:

I don’t know about Feynman, but as for myself, being a Christian Theist, I find it rather comforting to know that it takes an ‘infinite amount of logic to figure out what one stinky tiny bit of space-time is going to do’:

of note: ‘the Word’ in John1:1 is translated from ‘Logos’ in Greek. Logos is the root word from which we derive our modern word logic

http://etymonline.com/?term=logic

Music: