Thursday, April 17, 2008

I dreamt in Sixes

I had a wacky dream last night. It was about bees and their math. I dreamt that the reason that bees create combs with six sided hexagon shapes is because, as insects, they have six legs and hence count to the base six.

Computers count in binary, 1's and 0's. That's because each of place in memory can be either on or off. Humans count in decimal because we have 10 digits, 8 of which we call fingers and 2 thumbs.

It's obvious then that bees should use base 6 to count and that should make it equally obvious why the cells in honeycomb are hexagonal.


danesparza said...

You just blew my mind.

Guy Ellis said...

Well that's okay because tomorrow's Friday - give your mind the day off.

Rob said...

I'll buy the 'humans count in tens' theory when someone can prove that the Ancient Babylonians had 60 fingers!

Guy Ellis said...

They probably did Rob. Remember that the English had 12 fingers and hence 12 inches in a foot and it was only recent genetic inbreeding that caused those extra 2 fingers to disappear.

Anonymous said...

this is a good hypothesis.
however humans have 20 digits not ten; we also have ten toes.

and as for the theory of having had twelve fingers hence 12 inches in a foot, surely it would make more sense if they had had 12 toes to make up the foot; otherwise they would have called a foot a hand. horses are measured in hands, how big is a hand?

Guy Ellis said...

Mike, if you have a big enough beer gut then you can't see your toes so they don't count. So we're back to ten.

The reason that horses are measured in hands is a missunderstaning in the 12th century. There was a German called Hans who used to do all the horse measurement. When the Germans introduced horse measurement to the English the said "it was measured by Hans" and the transaltor at the time (not a very good one) said "it was measured in hands." Mystery solved.