Skip to comments.Counting On Progress: Roman numerals were fine for adding and subtracting. Fibonacci saw that...
Posted on 07/07/2011 9:17:30 PM PDT by SunkenCiv
For popular historians, there is a constant tension between patching up a holey narrative and honoring a commitment to the facts, as rickety as these often are. Perhaps authors of historical fiction have an easier time of it; they use facts as the yeast to grow fully formed characters, convincing dialogue and a credible story line. We are eager partners in these literary deceptions, for the opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder with Renault's Alexander or Graves's Claudius. Nonfiction historians are hogtied; no amount of speculative verbiage can truly fill an absence of facts. Such is the case with Fibonacci and countless others, reduced to ciphers by the passage of time. Civilization advances through their incremental contributions to science, technology and the arts. And as Mr. Devlin reminds us, even something as prosaic as a sequence of 10 numbers can remake an entire world.
(Excerpt) Read more at online.wsj.com ...
The Man of Numbers:
Fibonacci's Arithmetic Revolution
by Keith Devlin
Yeah, but try long division with Roman numerals.
As nifty as Roman numerals look, they take up way too much room.
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I would, but I'm scheduled to run, naked and drunk, down the street with sharp pencils taped to my eyelids and holding a pair of sissors in my teeth by the blade. Later, I have a proctologist/dentist appointment (he gives a discount).
Especially on a mini-calculator. : )
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I can't even come close to doing that, and I took two years of Latin in high school.
BTW, what's the square root of XIX?
If the Romans defined numbers smaller than "I" (One), which they didn't, and therefore understood the decimal point in a non-duodecimal base10 numeric system, which they didn't, we can express the square root of the Roman number 29 in the following anachronistic way:
XXIX or IXXX = 29
XIX = 19
the answer would be IV and change...
oh rats. How did I miss that.
Sorry to hear about Falafal’s defeat. If only his staunch friend and strong right arm, Joxer The Mighty, hadn’t been delayed by a nasty blister on his heel...
Good post to question why IV is substituted with IIII on numeral clocks. I’ve heard theories. They all end with pompous displays and/or material saving.
So what sort of numerals did the Greeks use at about the time Romans were using roman numerals?
Wiki has a good page on Greek numerals:
Looks like prior to 400 BC they used an unwieldy alphabet-related system which was the precursor to the Roman numeral system. After 400 BC they used a different but still unwieldy alphabetic system. I’m guessing this lasted until around the Middle Ages when Europe adopted Arabic numerals.
Wiki also has a good page on Arabic numberals:
I didn’t realize that Arabic numerals were called “Hindu numerals” by the Arabs. They were purely an Indian invention. The only reason we know them as Arabic numerals is that it was the Arabs who passed them along to Europe.
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