Thursday, June 25, 2009

it's the final countdown

To understand the units of time we need to investigate the number systems of ancient civilizations. How did the Sumerians count to 12 on one hand and to 60 on two? What advances did the Babylonians make and how did they use this number system for measurement? And what refinements did the Egyptians make to time measurement to give us the system we still use today?

Scienceray | Why are there 60 minutes in an hour? 

In today's world, the most widely used numeral system is decimal (base 10), a system that probably originated because it made it easy for humans to count using their fingers. The civilizations that first divided the day into smaller parts, however, used different numeral systems, specifically duodecimal (base 12) and sexagesimal (base 60). [...]
Although it is unknown why 60 was chosen, it is notably convenient for expressing fractions, since 60 is the smallest number divisible by the first six counting numbers as well as by 10, 12, 15, 20 and 30.

Scientific American | Why is a minute divided into 60 seconds, an hour into 60 minutes, yet there are only 24 hours in a day?

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