Category Archives: Time

A Note On Timelines and Measures

Different cultures have different ways of expressing common concepts. One of the most interesting aspects of this cultural relativism arises when it comes to notions of number, small sets, plurals, and so on.

Prague Astronomical Clock

Prague Astronomical Clock

For example, in English, we have the concepts of singular and plural. If there is one of something, it is singular; any more, and it is plural.

One stone; two stones.

Russian, on the other hand, includes a concept of “twoness” before moving on to the more generic plural. It is as if we had a construct like…

One stone; two stonae; three stones.

One finds other differences, especially when cultures are viewed historically: how the concept of number and measure has changed over time. As is well known, it took a long while for the concepts of zero and infinity to be invented.; Roman numerals are particularly difficult to use to do math; the mathematical community needed many years to come to grips with the notion that the square root of a negative number could in fact be a pretty useful concept (if you didn’t let its inherent weirdness bother you too much).

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