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When I was a kid, I was fascinated by roman numerals. I was also quite intrigued by the notion that our own number system was arbitrary in the sense that you could have other bases besides 10. (Yes, I know, what with ten fingers and ten toes, it's not exactly arbitrary.) Silly as it may sound, I would figure out what random numbers would be in base-8 or base-12 number systems. This may be one major reason why web design, with its hexadecimal numbering for the colors, appeals to me so much.

But this is an entry about roman numerals, prompted by two things, one which makes sense, and another which doesn't. The one that makes sense is that in class last Monday, someone stumbled a bit relating the roman numeralled page number to which she wanted to make reference. Later in the class, in making reference to a normally numbered page, I converted it to romans just for fun. For whatever reason, it happened to stick in my head. And when things get stuck there, I tend to just roll them around. So instead of remembering straight page numbers, for the books I'm in the middle of, I'll convert them to romans. (I'm on page LXXVI of the book sitting next to me, btw)

I'm also fascinated by the subtractive numerals--IV, IX, XL--the ones where the normally additive numeral system is reversed like we do with time when we say quarter til two instead of 1:45. The number 944 (CMXLIV) is obviously greatly appealing, the number 144 (CXLIV) only slightly less so.

I should note too that 144 is 100 in base-12, which makes it a big round C.

That's how my brain worked when I was a kid.

The mood for this post was inspired by a hilarious LJ entry by webcomicker John Campbell, titled "50 Answers," which of course my brain converted to LAnswers. Campbell invited commenters to ask him questions, to which he draws answers. Fifty of em. Here's one:

from John Campbell's 50 Answers

That is all.


Ohhh, the fascination of the possibility of other base-number systems. I began a SF novel that was to have at its premise a different system (base-8, maybe?). But, you know, I never got far. It's not like that's the most exciting plot device ever.

I like Roman Numerals too. I used to write long series of them in the margins of my notebook paper -- from one on up until I ran out of room or paper.

I learned, from the History channel believe it or not, that the subtractive system was a later addition, but that early on the numbers were just written out in all their glory.

The aliens in BATTLEFIELD EARTH work in base 11.

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This page contains a single entry by cgbrooke published on December 2, 2007 1:28 PM.

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