Tag Archives: math literacy\numeracy

Year 1

“Our Western dating system–BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini–Year of Our Lord)–was conceived in the sixth century by a Romanian monk called Dionysius Exiguus, and came into widespread scholarly use after its adoption by the Anglo-Saxon historian the Venerable Bede. Prior to that, European historians dated years according to the Roman consul who held office in a given year.

Working in Rome, Dionysius declared that the current year was 525 AD, based on the birth of Christ taking place in the year 1 (there being not Western concept at the time of zero). Gospel historians later decided that Jesus was actually born a few years earlier, between 6 and 4 BC. Dionysius, it seems, may have wanted to disprove the idea that the end of the world would take place 500 years after the Birth of Jesus. That would have made it 6000 years after the creation, which was believed to have taken place 5500 years before Christ. Dionysius himself estimated, based on cosmological readings, that the end of the world would take place in 2000.

The CE/BCE (Common Era) designations, increasingly used to secularize history, are widely regarded as modern, politically correct innovations but were in fact introduced by Jewish historians in the mid-nineteenth century. But for those who might want an alternative, there are plenty of other dating systems. The Jews start their calendar in 3761 BC; the Mayans, in 3114 BC; the Chinese, with the start of the Yellow Emperor’s reign in 2696 BC; the Japanese in 680 BC; the Muslims, with the emigration of the Prophet Muhammad to Medina from Mecca in 622 AD; the Copts, with the Year of the Martyrs in 284 AD, while the Ethiopian Church starts the clock back in 5493 BC.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

Satan’s 13 Peers of Hell

“Beelzebub * Moloch * Chemos * Peor * Baalem * Ashtoreth/Astarte * Thammuz/Adonis * Dagon * Rimmon * Osiris * Isis * Horus * Belial

In Book One of Milton’s Paradise Lost, Satan, having been expelled from Heaven, falls ‘nine times the space that measures day and night’ into Hell’s cavern. In this ‘dismal situation waste and wild, a dungeon horrible on all sides round as one great furnace flamed’ he rears up from a pool of liquid fire to offer words of comfort to the fallen cherubs. One by one, Milton identifies and to a certain extent creates the thirteen chief captains of Hell, from his own selective reading of the mythology of the ancient Near East, who follow ‘their great Emperor’s call’ in order to stand beside him. These Peers of Hell are a bad lot–‘besmeared with blood,’ fomentors of ‘lustful orgies’ and ‘wanton passions of the sacred porch’–and summon myriad other fallen angels to arms with a shout that ‘frighted the reign of Chaos and old Night.'”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

League of 12 Cities–Dodecapolis

“Arezzo * Cerveteri * Chiusi * Cortona * Perugia * Populonia * Veii * Tarquinia-Corneto * Vetulonia * Volterra * Bolsena * Volci

The Aeolian Greeks, Ionian Greeks, and Etruscans all preserved ancient memories of how their ancestors were linked together in leagues of twelve that jointly honored a sacred place. No definitive list survives, however. The cities above are the most widely accepted modern Italian cities that have an Etruscan foundation, though there may have been three separate Etruscan leagues, each composed of twelve cities.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

Zero

“The mathematical sages of India conceived of this concept, and started on the path of the creation of zero back in the ninth century BC. The root of the word is in the Sanskrit Shoonya, meaning ‘it is a void’, which got passed on to the Arabs, who knew the symbol as ‘Safira.’

The Western world came to the concept extraordinarily late, when Venetian merchants stumbled across it and brought it back to their homeland, where it was known as ‘zefiro‘–later corrupted to ‘zero.’ The concept gradually spread through Europe, reading such far-flung outposts as the British Isles in the late sixteenth century.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

Left Brain/ Right Brain, Yin and Yang

“Left Brain/Right Brain is the innate conflict within our own minds. It is also the creative balance between that part of our mind which rationalizes, orders, creates processes and is logical, analytical and objective (the left brain) and that which is intuitive, thoughtful and subjective (the right brain). The creativity of an artist, a writer, or an entrepreneur is a right brain concept, which requires a daring, free-spirited, imaginative, uninhibited, unpredictable and revolutionary mindset. The critical thinking required by an academic or an administrator needs the strengths of the left brain: reductive, logical, focused, conservative, practical, and feasible. For anything to work well, there needs to be not only a balance but a fusion,

The most successful universal image of this is the T’ai Chi diagram: an egg composed of equal quantities of opposites: yolk and white, Yin and Yang. Yin is female, dark, earth-associated, passive, receptive, and lunar. Yant is associated with male energies: light, Heaven, sun and the active principle in nature. Together, they hatch mankind.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

 

Eightfold Path of the Buddha

“Right View * Right Intention * Right Speech * Right Action * Right Livelihood * Right Effort* Right Mindfulness * Right Concentration

This is not a sequential course of study that is to be ticked off with examinations and advancements to the next state of the path, but a path to be engaged with all of your life. It must begin with a clear view of the Four Noble Truths.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

8 Immortals

“Chung-Li Chuan * Ho Hsien-ku * Chang Kuo * Lu Tung-pin * Han Hsiang-tzu * Ts’ao Kuo-chiu * Li T’ieh-kuai * Lan Ts’ai-ho

This Taoist pantheon of gods, heroes, and historical individuals had by the thirteenth century become a sort of national pantheon of Chinese saints. Painted on silk, depicted on vases, sculpted and used as a central motif in story telling, they are a ubiquitous element in art. They are also known as the Eight Immortal Scholars of the Han.

Chung-li Ch’uan is usually depicted as a bearded sage with fan; Ho Hsien-ku, as a young girl holding a lotus; Chang Kuo is a comical bearded figure mounted back to front on a white mule with a bamboo drum; Lu Tung-pin, the bearded patron of barbers, is equipped with a fly whisk and word slung across his back; Han Hsiang-tzu is a youthful flute player and the patron saint of musicians; Ts’ao Kuo-chiu is an elderly bearded figure (the patron of actors) usually seen playing castanets; Li T’ieh-kuai is a beggar with a gourd bowl and iron crutch; while Lan Ts’ai-ho is a woman holding a basket of flowers, who is (naturally) the patron saint of florists.

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.