When Numeracy Superseded Literacy—and Created the Modern World

The Renaissance's Embrace of Numbers Revolutionized Commerce, Science, and Art

In 1025, two learned monks, Radolph of Liége and Ragimbold of Cologne, exchanged several letters on mathematical topics they had encountered while reading a manuscript of the sixth-century Roman philosopher, Boethius, whose writings supplied one of the few mathematics sources in the Middle Ages. These monks were not mathematicians, but they were inquisitive and keen to further their learning. They pondered Boethius’ words. They struggled. In particular, they puzzled over the theorem that the interior angles of a triangle were equal to two right angles. “Interior angles” of a triangle? …

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How Societies Are Defined by the Segmentation of Time

While There's an Astronomical Basis for Years and Days, Most Temporal Units Are the Product of Language and Culture

Why does an hour last 60 minutes? Why does a minute last 60 seconds? What are “minutes” and “seconds,” really? A minute is just the duration you arrive at if …