Friday, April 25, 2008

If we had 12 fingers on our hands then Obama would be the nominee

dits have said the following (paraphrased):
Hillary needs to win the PA primary by double-digit to get back in this race. (She ended up with something like a 9.2 or 9.4 advantage depending on who you ask. She rounds up to 10, he rounds down to 9.)
What if we had 12 fingers on our hands? Then we would use a base 12 system and she would not be close to the magical ``double-digit lead.'' Would she drop out? No, but the win could not be spinned as dramatically.

Pundits and others do not realize that base 10 is arbitrary and is not connected to anything interesting mathematically or politically.

Hippies used to say Don't trust anyone over 30 without realizing that they had given in to the establishments insistence that base 10 rules us.

Its been said 50 is the new 40. Why 50 and 40? Should be 49 is the new 36 since squares are ind of base. (Is 100 is the new 81?)

The Beatles had it right with their song When I'm 64.

A while back this blog noted its 1000th entry. Mistake- we should have noted its 1024th entry.


  1. Mathematically it may be insignificant, but I'm not sure you can say politically. I would be surprised if there weren't some tie between the perceived significance of the results and the number of digits. If not, why do so many items cost 9.95 and 99.95?

  2. Except if we worked in base 12, then we wouldn't reckon percentages out of 100, but rather out of 144. So Clinton would need to lead by more than 1/12 in order to feel that she should stay in the race.

    However, if we had eight fingers, then a "double-digit" lead would be a lead of more than what we call 12.5%.

  3. base 10 is much more natural than anything mentioned here.. at least for humans.. and its not because we are used to it, its just easier to manipulate

  4. A double digit lead could also be like a self-fulfilling prophecy where you know that there are people out there who will somehow behave differently because of this, which is why you may postulate there's a bigger difference between 9.4 and 10.2 than numerically implied. The problem then reduces to why those people think that way, ab infinitum.

  5. >base 10 is much more natural than >anything mentioned here.. at >least for humans.. and its not >because we are used to it, its >just easier to manipulate

    We are used to be humans.

  6. .092(base 10) ~= .112(base 12) so if we had 12 fingers, Clinton would have won by 11.2%, much more than the 2 digits she needed!

  7. This sort of deviates from the Clinton vs Obama debate, but this discussion reminds me that pre-Christian Germanic cultures used to use a base 12 system. That is the reason why we have the numbers eleven and twelve rather than oneteen and twoteen. However, their number system had one hundred being 12x10. Historical records around 1000 AD are ambiguous when they say something like "the king sailed with a hundred ships", because both number systems were in use at that time so it is unclear if 100 is meant or 120.

  8. Ease depends on the application. I remember reading that ancient Babylonian book keepers did everything in base 60 because it had so many prime divisors and allowed a lot of calculation tricks.

    Then again, I've read that the fall of the Roman empire can be partly attributed to their nonsensical counting system.

  9. @anon 5: care to explain why your remark is funny?