Saturday, 28 May 2011 INDEX

There is something terribly wrong with the decimal system. Suppose you've swum 29 lengths (you get time to meditate about things like this in a pool) how many more lengths do you need to swim to get to 35? Since 29 should be the last number in the twenties and 35 is clearly the fifth in the thirties the answer is clearly five! But it isn't, it's six!

Thirty five, it turns out, is the sixth unit in the fourth group of ten (yes the thirties are the fourth set of ten numbers: teens second; twenties, third and thirties, fourth! I told you there was something wrong with the decimal system).

In any logical system of numbers 31 would be the first of the thirties and the set would end with 39 then 30. Of course, 30 should be 39 plus one and 30 should be followed by 41.

To fix the system, nought should be assigned a value (ten) and should follow nine rather than hanging about uselessly at the beginning of the number set. The system could then be called the Noughties rather than Decimal or Denary.

There'd still be the problem of the groups of ten being out of sync. One solution might be to abolish the numbers nought to nine and start with eleven. But the difficulty with this idea is that 100 would consist of only 90!

The obvious answer is to put nought to nine after 90. So the system would go 98, 99, 90, 1, 2 etc. Of course the problem then is that nought (now representing 99 units) would go immediately before 100.

But there's got to be an argument for putting 100 after 199. Then the progression would be 8, 9, 0, 101. Much clearer I think!

Like the concept of replacing the decimal system with my noughties system, or not, you have to admit that there are severe problems with decimals.

Posted by Jonathan Brind at 03:24
Saturday, 28 May 2011 INDEX