Little Bits of History

Evens and Odds

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 28, 2011


August 28, 888: This the last date which can be expressed in all even numbers for over a thousand years. The date is 8-28-888 and the next date that can be expressed in only even numbers is 2-2-2000. A “number” can be natural, rational, or imaginary. Numbers can be real, complex, or computable. A number can be an integer, but the terms are not synonymous. An integer is a whole number, either negative or positive. It comes from the Latin and means literally “untouched” and the set of integers is composed of natural numbers, including zero. It is a subset of real numbers. Hence, 8 and -94 are integers but 5.25 and ½ are not.

Even numbers are those evenly divisible by 2. An odd number, regardless of how strange it is, is considered odd only if it is not evenly divisible by 2. There is a formula for this. It is n = 2k for even numbers and n = 2k+1 for odd numbers. In this formula, n is a number and k must always be an integer. Fractions and decimals cannot be odd or even as this concept is only used for integers or whole numbers. A prime number is a number divisible only by 1 and itself. Therefore, since every other even number is, by definition, divisible by 2, the integer 2 is the only even prime number.

The first use of numbers was probably tally marks. Bones and other artifacts have been found with these marks which seem to be counting the passage of time, either in lunar cycles or number of days passed. There was  no value system known to coincide with tally marks. They were  merely a one-to-one correspondence for what one was keeping track of. The first numbering system with a place value was found in Mesopotamia and was a base 60 system. The first base 10 system, the system we use, has been dated to ancient Egypt and 3100 BC.

The ancient Greeks argued over the concept of zero. Philosophical debate took place on “how nothing can be something” and led to the Paradoxes of Zeno of Elea. The Greeks weren’t even sure 1 was a number, lonely or not. The late Olmec people of Mexico used a true zero as early as the 4th century BC but certainly by 40 BC. Another difficult concept was the idea of negative numbers. If the ancient Greeks had issue with nothing being something, how much more difficult to comprehend negative numbers. The ancient Chinese did recognize these numbers as early as 100-50 BC.

“A mathematical truth is neither simple nor complicated in itself, it is.” – Emile Lemoine

“God made the Integers, all the rest is the work of man.” – Leopold Kronecker

“Mathematics is the handwriting on the human consciousness of the very Spirit of Life itself.” – Claude Bragdon

“Yes, yes, I know that, Sydney … Everybody knows that! … But look: Four wrongs squared, minus two wrongs to the fourth power, divided by this formula, do make a right.” – Gary Larson

Also on this day:
First Tornado Photograph – In 1884, the first tornado photograph is made.
Sci Am – In 1845, Scientific American began publication.

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