50: Episode 101 (Bases)
Numbering was originally done with tally marks: the number of tally marks indicated the number of items being counted, and they were grouped together by fives. A little later, people wrote numbers down by chunking the number in a similar way into larger numbers: there were symbols for ten, ten times that, and so forth, for example, in ancient Egypt; and we are all familiar with the Is, Vs, Xs, Ls, Cs, and Ds, at least, of Roman numerals. However, over time, several peoples, including the Inuit, Indians, Sumerians, and Mayans, had figured out how to chunk numbers indefinitely, and make numbers to count seemingly uncountable quantities using the mind, and write them down in a few easily mastered motions. These are known as place-value systems, and the study of bases has its root in them: talking about bases helps us talk about what is happening when we use these magical symbols.
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