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The Language of the Universe


Timekeeping motivated the world’s oldest mathematical devices. In ancient cultures, the need to predict the phases of the moon made a lunar calendar especially useful for the hunters of antiquity. Anthropologists have discovered bones up to 37,000 years old, with 29 notches cut into them to represent the days of the month.

The first fully developed mathematical systems were created in Babylon, Egypt and Greece. Babylonian maths is based on a base 60 system, giving us 60 seconds in a minute, and 60 minutes in an hour. The mathematicians of Babylon also demonstrated that they must have been aware of Pythagoras’s theorem – at least 1,000 years before Pythagoras was born.

Ancient Egypt used an unusual method of multiplication and division – one based on repeated doubling and halving. To multiply any numbers together, all that’s required is knowledge of simple addition and the two times table.

Greek civilisation gave us one of the giants of Greek mathematics: Pythagoras. He treated numbers not as abstract qualities, but as comparable with physical objects – one of the most vital conceptual moves in the history of mathematics.

(Episode one of the four-part series "The Story of Maths")

Sendetermine: The Language of the Universe

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Mo. 24.09.2018, 7:20h



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