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Q & A: number bases

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Most recent answer: 10/22/2007
Q:
eeh...hello...my question is about mathematics...a simple one...ook...here it goes......in our number system, which is base 10...is it universal?...i mean...if aliens add a 14 to a 6, do they know to round numbers of base 10, so the answer is 20?......if the base 10 is not universal...what is?
- Anonymous
A:
No, the base ten (decimal) system is not universal. Inside computers, for instance, numbers are usually represented in the base 2 (binary) system. Occasionally it's convenient to use other bases, like base sixteen, to write numbers out. Although the ancient Babylonians did not use quite our place system, they seemed to be closer to a base twelve system than to a decimal system.

We havenít met any aliens, but it would be a big surprise if aliens used base ten. We only use it because of the accident of (usually) having ten fingers. The general idea of having places and some sort of base system, however, is so convenient that it seems to be likely to be universal, in case there are other number-users in the universe.

Mike W.

(published on 10/22/2007)

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