Archive for the 'History' Category

Paper Update

Just a quick update, the paper I mentioned in my last post has been accepted for publication! I am incredibly excited as I’ve never had anything published before. The working title of the article is “The Mayan Number System and Calendar” and will be published in Mathematics Teacher this December (basically to coincide with the whole 2012 end of the world nonsense. Still it’s some sort of link) Of course, once it is published I will reveal the actual answer and everything.

Incredibly Awesome News

I’m probably going to have a paper published! On Mayan numeral systems of all things!

This past quarter, I took a class called “History of Mathematics”. It seemed interesting, there was nothing else to fill my schedule, and, as it turns out, it will could towards my elective credit for my degree. During the class we had a homework problem which asked to find a simple way of multiplying a Mayan number by 20. Nobody could solve it, and the teacher (Dr. Shirley Gray) stated that in all her years of teaching the class, no student of hers had ever solved the problem. She had even written the textbook’s authors and they didn’t have a solution either. Well, I solved it.

It seems like a simple problem. But to understand it, we must understand how Mayan numbers work. Mayan numbers are, essentially, a base-20 positional system. It is like ours, except that each successive digit it twenty times greater than the previous one (in ours, of course, each digit is only ten times greater).

Based on this, it should be trivial to multiply by 20: just add a zero on the end (like multiplying by 10 in our system). However, there is a slight problem. For some reason, the third digit in a Mayan number is only 18 times the previous digit (meaning that 1-0-0 in their system is equal to 360, not 400). Adding a zero on the end won’t result in a number twenty times greater.

So, how do you do it? Well, I can’t write the answer here because I don’t want to inadvertently mess up getting the paper published. Dr. Gray did grill me on whether I found the solution online (which I didn’t, of course. Plagiarism is a very serious academic offense and if I had found it online, I would have stated so in the first place. I understand her caution completely). What I will say, though, is that the solution is simple, quick, and you don’t even have to convert the Mayan number into our own system to do it (they didn’t use Hindu-Arabic numbers, naturally. It was system of lines and dots written vertically, with a strange shell shape for the number zero. See here).

Where the paper comes in is that Dr. Gray was already writing a paper on Mayan numbers and wants to include my finding in it. So it’s not really my paper, but it’s still a mention in some official publication. Which is more than I’ve ever done so far.

So, when the paper is published, I will announce it here, as well as the actual solution with the proof I developed. It will interesting to put on my resumé, right below ‘recording “Hollaback Girl” with Gwen Stefani’ (true story! Also, sorry…)

History Explained

I recently found an interesting site called History Explained. It essentially distills the entire sweep of world history into a single coherent theory. Basically, the world is currently undergoing a massive revolution from an oligarchic society (where power is concentrated in the hands of a relative few people) to a true democratic market system, where freedom and economic opportunity will be available to everyone.

I think I mostly agree with the conclusions and reasoning presented there. A large section of site is dedicated to current problems, in particular the Middle East. The main problem, the site states, is mostly the transition from oligarchic to democratic society, but is compounded by American interference. Americans only want to help the people there, but this transition can only be done on its own, and the transition is necessarily often a violent one (the American Revolution was another such example). By getting ourselves involved, America only makes itself a target of violence and hate.

What I’m curious about is how to fit my own concept of future history into this explanation. I suppose I don’t dwell too much on future historical trends, and the future robotic and virtual revolutions will just be expressions of a greater free society. After all, how much more free can you be when you–and everyone else–essentially has the powers of a god?

Anyway, I recommend the site, it’s very well worth a read.