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April 27, 2012


Humanity discovered the number-line concept slowly over many centuries. Look how the Egyptians struggled with fractions (reciprocals) and Pythagoras with irrationals.
Even in the middle ages people had problems with the concept of negative numbers.
And imaginary numbers as a number-line at right angles to the real numbers is a fairly recent concept.

There was also a discussion about whether time is fractal (a series of Cantor-dust points) rather than the continuum which is convenient for Newtonian physics. I lost track of that though, following instead Sean's papers on the Arrow of Time (aka entropy).

Thanks for the heads-up :-)

Don't talk numbers to me. I was the class dunce in arithmetic and I avoid the subject even now. I blame my step-father who convinced me that girls were poor in math. I accepted his belief and didn't really try.

I am pleased that the experts are walking back the doomsday scenario on climate change, but I do think we need to be cautious.

Your yard photos in the previous post are spectacular. In my other house I had a Pyracantha hedge around my back fence and some years it was covered with white blossoms. The birds get the berries on my small one in my current yard, so I don't have the pretty red berries to look at.

Stu--I think I was fine with numbers and numerous theoretical dimensions until, in Kinetic Theory of Gases, I came up against negative probability densities. It took a day or two for me to wrap my mind around that! (BTW: Lagrangian mechanics rule!)

Darlene--It's too bad that your step-father held that belief, and worse that you were led to accept it. I feel for you! However, it is hard for me to accept you as any kind of dunce.

It will be interesting (if you and I last long enough) to see what becomes of the climate change debate.

The comment stream on Bogie's posting of her beautiful plant went as follows (I hope she doesn't sue me for stealing from her):

Bogie--Beautiful bush! Ours did well in producing berries this year, too - only because, each time we watered the grass during drought conditions, the bushes got watered.

BTW: You did plant the bush to provide berries to the birds, did you not?!!!!
Posted by: Cop Car at Sep 25, 2011 4:45:56 PM

I planted the shrub because I thought it was cool looking - and it was a bonus that it produced berries that birds eat.
Posted by: bogie at Sep 26, 2011 4:31:04 AM

Great choice of plant, bogie!
Posted by: buffy at Sep 30, 2011 11:40:06 PM

Imagine if the UCSD cognitive scientists/anthropologists had missed one tiny detail in their number-line paper :
The primitive natives were placing numbers on the line on a logarithmic scale, because that is how they multiplied (aka slide rule).
Or even more subtle : placed the numbers (on a 0-100% of c scale) relativistically ;-)

Wouldn't that be mind-blowing! Hey, there's an idea for an SF short story right there!!

Well, Stu, take it and run with it. I'll look forward to your short story. I am particularly taken with measuring relativistically. Go, guy, go!

I'm not particularly suprised about the number thing. As one who struggles with anything over basic math (i.e. statistics or calc - which is still pretty basic stuff), I am pretty confident I never thought that any of this was inate knowledge.

I always liked math and don't recall ever hearing girls shouldn't. Maybe that was because my high school algebra teacher was a woman. I still enjoy working with numbers.

Joared--My high school algebras and plane geometry teachers were male; but, my trigonometry and solid geometry teacher was female. After that, it was a long dry spell until I met another mathematics teacher who was female - it took the death of our male teacher of vector analysis for me to be taught mathematics by another woman. And she was the last - so far, at least! It amazed me how simple vector analysis became for me once the woman took over our class. I attributed it to the "fact" (in my own mind it's a fact) that each sex communicates better among its own members. Thought: Are people who are androgynous universal communicators?

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