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World's Oldest Decimal Multiplication Table Discovered

Soulskill posted about 8 months ago | from the sign-of-the-times dept.

Math 86

ananyo writes "From a few fragments out of a collection of 23-century-old Chinese bamboo strips, historians have pieced together what they say is the world's oldest example of a multiplication table in base 10. Each strip is about 7 to 12 millimeters wide and half a meter long, and has a vertical line of ancient Chinese calligraphy painted on it in black ink. The bamboo pieces constitute 65 ancient texts and are thought to be among the most important artifacts from the Warring States period before the unification of China. But 21 bamboo strips contained only numbers and, on closer inspection, turned out to be a multiplication table. As in a modern multiplication table, the entries at the intersection of each row and column in the matrix provide the results of multiplying the corresponding numbers. The table can also help users to multiply any whole or half integer between 0.5 and 99.5. The researchers suspect that officials used the multiplication table to calculate surface area of land, yields of crops and the amounts of taxes owed."

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This is impossible (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45893081)

I've been assured that only space exploration gives us the impetus to create new technologies. How could people 2300 years ago need to compute things? How could they invent things? They had no astronauts, no 3D printers. Surely they were Luddite savages hacking each other to death because there was nothing else to do?

Re:This is impossible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45893519)

Wasn't it war? And they sure as heck have war back then...

It isn't war, but money (2, Interesting)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 8 months ago | (#45894789)

Chinese don't like war too much. They are not a warring tribe.

However, they love money.

Ask any Chinese, and I mean, any Chinese and you will find each and every single one of them love money.

How I know ? I am a Chinese.

The multiplication table wasn't the only Chinese invention. The ancient Chinese also invented the Abacus ( http://eileen-lian.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/abacus-1-AJHD.jpg [eileen-lian.com] ) because they needed something to count their money.

Re: It isn't war, but money (1)

AvitarX (172628) | about 8 months ago | (#45895153)

Aside from being the "warring states" period, what your post makes me think of most is idiacracy where the guy says something to the effect of "I can't believe you like money too".

Re:It isn't war, but money (4, Funny)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 8 months ago | (#45895741)

you will find each and every single one of them love money.

How I know ? I am a Chinese.

All British people think that's a bit of a generalisation.

Dynasty Warriors (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45900117)

From my extensive education on the Warring States period, I can tell you that these multiplication tables were used to count how many millions of soldiers wouldn't have died had they paid attention when their commanders told them not to pursue Lu Bu.

Re:This is impossible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45893715)

I've been assured that only space exploration gives us the impetus to create new technologies. How could people 2300 years ago need to compute things? How could they invent things? They had no astronauts, no 3D printers. Surely they were Luddite savages hacking each other to death because there was nothing else to do?

So what you're saying is that 2300 years ago nobody looked up at the sky and wondered.
OK then...

Re:This is impossible (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45893795)

That is EXACTLY what I am saying. That computer you're using? It owes everything to NASA and the Apollo project. No space, no computers. That simple. All those people before 1957? All just single-celled mouth breathers. Space came along, THEN the human species got smart.

No one was smart before space. Only space provides the proper stimulation and motivation for progress. War? Please. You don't actually believe all those stories from WWII about computers, encryption, jet engines, radar, nuclear bombs? Come ON. No one is that smart. But you put a test pilot in a rubber suit?

Boom. Spinoffs. Right there.

Re:This is impossible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45898035)

You might be onto something:

Spitfires in the battle of Britain.
Little ships at Dunkirk.
Sherman tank.
Atomic bomb.

How many of them were made with 3D printers? None. How many were financed with bitcoins? None.

Re:This is impossible (0)

Mister Liberty (769145) | about 8 months ago | (#45893799)

Please enlighten me, us, yourself then -- when where and esp. how did the bootstrap happen that is a hidden premise of you assertion.

Re:This is impossible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45893901)

Please enlighten me, us, yourself then -- when where and esp. how did the bootstrap happen that is a hidden premise of you assertion.

GP was a feeble attempt at sarcasm, just ignore him.

Re:This is impossible (1)

TheRealDevTrash (2849653) | about 8 months ago | (#45894357)

Before it was space it was 'war is what advances society' and before that 'religion is what advances society'.

China, it figures... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45893085)

And who's surprised it wasn't found in Africa?

Re:China, it figures... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45893123)

The real question is: who did the Chinese copy this from?

Re:China, it figures... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45893311)

It's true, trade was well established by then. It's not inconceivable. In fact nothing in China is done without the help of GE, Siemens, etc. It doesn't necessarily make them bad.

Re:China, it figures... (5, Insightful)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 8 months ago | (#45893353)

And who's surprised it wasn't found in Africa?

I, for one, would be really surprised if an ancient Chinese multiplication table were discovered in Africa.

Re:China, it figures... (5, Interesting)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | about 8 months ago | (#45893891)

Well, those primitive African tribes went far beyond that. They invented fractals. [rpi.edu]

The researchers suspect that... (0, Redundant)

bob_super (3391281) | about 8 months ago | (#45893105)

I want to be a researcher who gets seriously quoted as supposing that maybe people used math to do the kind of math things that people would probably need to do around that time.

Re:The researchers suspect that... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45893115)

Didn't you see that it could be used for taxes? We'll have half a hundred teabaggers piling on before you can say Ayn Rand.

Re:The researchers suspect that... (1, Flamebait)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 8 months ago | (#45893159)

Didn't you see that it could be used for taxes? We'll have half a hundred teabaggers piling on before you can say Ayn Rand.

Thus showing that math is a Statist conspiracy.

Re:The researchers suspect that... (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 8 months ago | (#45898339)

Way back then, government was just the local warlord who had slaughtered everyone around into submission, and then demanded a cut, which he called "taxes". This continues in many countries to this day.

Inventing memes that make you feel all warm and fuzzy towards that warlord, as he teaches you you should be grateful to this, was an invention thousands of years in the future.

Re:The researchers suspect that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45899819)

Way back then, government was just the local warlord who had slaughtered everyone around into submission, and then demanded a cut, which he called "taxes". This continues in many countries to this day.

Name a country that's different in history or current reality. The fact that people aren't being slaughtered somewhere at the moment is simply an indication of the overwhelming strength of the current warlord/establishment.

If the Somali pirates managed to fight back foreign navies, they'd gain a seat at the UN. My native country distorts money from merchants that are passing by in the form of customs duties, and that's considered OK. The Somali pirates are doing the same, but are shot at because they don't have big enough guns to shoot back with.

Re:The researchers suspect that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45906501)

My native country distorts money from merchants

The word you want is "extorts", not "distorts". I'm assuming English is not the language of your native country, therefore no points deducted.

Re:The researchers suspect that... (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 8 months ago | (#45893143)

No, he is saying the maybe this was a tool to aid them.

Re:The researchers suspect that... (2)

bob_super (3391281) | about 8 months ago | (#45893251)

By opposition to what, homework?

Re:The researchers suspect that... (1)

icebike (68054) | about 8 months ago | (#45894023)

My thoughts exactly.

Sounds to me it like it would just as likely be a teaching aid as a commerce aid.

Re:The researchers suspect that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45893149)

Well, the researchers probably know better than you, bob_super.

Re:The researchers suspect that... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45893779)

Well, the researchers probably know better than you, bob_super.

Not likely. Most of the "science" here is just doing things like surveying and dating objects.
Figuring out what things were used for is usually a matter of Wild Speculation, heavily influenced by the "researchers'" own personal prejudices, which is then taken as Truth until someone finds some actual evidence. Usually the evidence proves the speculation was complete bullshit.

Yes, a multiplication table COULD be used for figuring crop yield. It could also be used for figuring logistics for an army. Or calculating how many sex slaves are needed for an upcoming party. Real science is far less concerned about what it COULD be used for an more interested in what it actually WAS used for. In this case, they have no idea what use DID occur, so they're speculating with nothing to back it up.

Thus, bob_super's opinion is likely to be just as close to the truth as the "researcher"'s opinion.

Re:The researchers suspect that... (4, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | about 8 months ago | (#45894103)

I tend to agree. Just as likely a schooling aid as something actually used day to day.

Someone wrote a sifi short story about the anthropologists far in the future speculating about the religious cult of the rings, and the tossing of rings as a penance for personal transgressions. He speculated that people wore the rings as disposable penance, to be cast at the scene after self inflicting a minor cut of penitence. Each ring seemed sized just right to fit over a finger, and had a semi sharp spoon shaped attachment for self flagellation.

Nothing else could explain the wide scattering of these things all over the world.

They were called by the name of the Deity to which they were related: Pop Tops. The sect died out after a while.

Re:The researchers suspect that... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45894651)

Since you can't spell "sci fi" (or scifi, if you like) your opinion is hereby annulled.

Re:The researchers suspect that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45894797)

not really a very good story or at least not one that makes much sense. I would think anthropologists just might also find some empty cans that the pop tops were on, and possibly some unopened containers too. Why would a pull tab survive and a can not survive?

Re:The researchers suspect that... (1)

icebike (68054) | about 8 months ago | (#45894825)

Recycling you Neanderthal!

Re:The researchers suspect that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45898249)

Well, the researchers probably know better than you, bob_super.

Not likely. Most of the "science" here is just doing things like surveying and dating objects.
Figuring out what things were used for is usually a matter of Wild Speculation, heavily influenced by the "researchers'" own personal prejudices, which is then taken as Truth until someone finds some actual evidence. Usually the evidence proves the speculation was complete bullshit.

Yes, a multiplication table COULD be used for figuring crop yield. It could also be used for figuring logistics for an army. Or calculating how many sex slaves are needed for an upcoming party. Real science is far less concerned about what it COULD be used for an more interested in what it actually WAS used for. In this case, they have no idea what use DID occur, so they're speculating with nothing to back it up.

Thus, bob_super's opinion is likely to be just as close to the truth as the "researcher"'s opinion.

well, no. the researcher has probably read about all the other evidence that has been found about what life was like during that period of time in china. when you yourself have dedicated time and effort to research the topic, you too would probably form ideas about what life was like then. this isn't some dart-throwing monkey.

and, even if this particular set of bamboo strips was used for something else, that doesn't matter. the tool existed at the time, and would have been useful for calculating the surface area of land, yields of crops, and the amounts of taxes owed. so, unless a multiplication table was some secret arcane knowledge, or perhaps encumbered by a patent system, then any smart tax collector would have used it for such.

The ancients (5, Insightful)

cold fjord (826450) | about 8 months ago | (#45893125)

It is fascinating that we continue to find artifacts from the ancient world that show far more sophistication that people today generally realize. This finding is one. The Antikythera Mechanism [livescience.com] is another. I recently read a fascinating article about ancient Roman military medicine [historynet.com] which was so advanced that it was not equaled in some ways until the 1900s. I have little doubt that there is much more to be found. Our ancestors could be quite astonishing in their abilities, and very human in their flaws.

Re:The ancients (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 8 months ago | (#45893173)

The difference between people then and people now is almost entirely culture.

" which was so advanced that it was not equaled in some ways until the 1900s
hahaha. Medicine was largely unchanged during that time. Wasn't until the end of the 19th century before actual science started being applied to medicine, for the most part.

Re:The ancients (4, Interesting)

cold fjord (826450) | about 8 months ago | (#45893335)

If you happen into a library that carries Military History magazine you may want to read the Roman medicine article, it is fascinating. Just one tidbit:

The Best Medicine [historynet.com]

On average the Roman medical corps saved the lives of 70 percent of the wounded that reached the field hospital, a survival rate not equaled until the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War

Re:The ancients (0)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 8 months ago | (#45893381)

...which could simply mean that in the centuries before the R-J war, we were using more lethal weapons. Or something about the transport of the wounded. Without context, this number might be indicative of nothing really useful.

Re:The ancients (2)

cold fjord (826450) | about 8 months ago | (#45893459)

The article describes a number of innovations the Romans had that weren't copied or equaled for centuries.

Re:The ancients (4, Funny)

Laxori666 (748529) | about 8 months ago | (#45893499)

You are implying he should read the article before reaching for his keyboard and spouting off the first thought that comes to his self-evaluatedly brilliant mind? You expect too much sir!

Re:The ancients (2)

icebike (68054) | about 8 months ago | (#45894247)

Since the article is not available on-line (or even in google books) what else can be expected?

Re:The ancients (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 8 months ago | (#45894625)

Well, apparently, I hit jackpot with magzdb [magzdb.org] since I posted that. ;) Now let me bury myself in comparing sources.

Re:The ancients (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45893501)

Not really. People dying on the battlefield don't get medical treatment, so even if the weapons were "more lethal" the comparison stands. The transport as well, if relevant, can be related to medical care standards under those conditions and be a valid point of comparison.
It's true that more context will enlighten the statement, but I don't see how it should be dismissed outright on any of its claims.

Re:The ancients (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45893805)

If you happen into a library that carries Military History magazine you may want to read the Roman medicine article, it is fascinating. Just one tidbit:

The Best Medicine [historynet.com]

On average the Roman medical corps saved the lives of 70 percent of the wounded that reached the field hospital, a survival rate not equaled until the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War

Maybe the Romans only brought people to the hospital who they thought had a chance of living.

Re:The ancients (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 8 months ago | (#45893911)

They actually performed a form of triage similar to modern practice, but they also had dedicated medical staff to both treat battlefield wounded and evacuate them. I recommend the article.

Re:The ancients (1)

icebike (68054) | about 8 months ago | (#45894279)

Yeah, so what?
Selecting only those you can save, by simple expedients of cauterizing wounds while the rest aren't even removed from the battle field is not exactly the best medicine, but it helps your "patients saved" stats, especially when the badly wounded never darken your door.

Triage is not medicine.

Re:The ancients (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 8 months ago | (#45895197)

Triage is a critical function that supports battlefield medicine especially in mass casualty events. Pretty much any ancient battle is going to be a mass casualty event. If you don't do triage you will end up wasting limited medical resources and losing more lives and limbs than you would if you had done it properly. Roman medicine was much more sophisticated than simple expedients. The Romans weren't doing to for the purpose of "stats," but to save lives and return trained soldiers to duty. They were more successful at it than other peoples for more than a millennia after the fall of the empire.

Re:The ancients (1)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | about 8 months ago | (#45893921)

That's triage. [wikipedia.org] Also part of medicine and also re-developed in XXth century.

Re:The ancients (2)

l0ungeb0y (442022) | about 8 months ago | (#45893387)

Are you saying that with the rise of Christianity (hello dark ages) that viewed the use of any sort of practical medicinal knowledge and the dissection of human corpses as "devilry" and "witchcraft" had no effect on the general knowledge and practice of medicine?

There's a damn good reason why the Christian image of a witch depicts and old lady brewing "strange concoctions".
And there's a damn good reason why "Doctors" were using leeches for damn near everything during the Age of the "Enlightenment"

It's because the barbarian followers of Jesus were morons without a fucking clue and we lost that knowledge and much more.

Re:The ancients (5, Interesting)

cusco (717999) | about 8 months ago | (#45893785)

The Incas (and other Mesoamerican peoples) were doing BRAIN SURGERY before the arrival of the Spanish barbarians. Their style of warfare was to incapacitate the enemy soldiers, then heal them, because what was the purpose of taking over territory if there was no one left to work the land? The weaponry was mostly clubs and slings of various types, which created a lot of head injuries and broken bones that were then healed so that the ex-soldiers could go back to the fields. They really didn't understand the Spanish when they came and killed, and killed, and killed everything that moved. They didn't have the historical background of the glorious Age of Chivalry, where if a European lordling had designs on a neighbors territory he sent his mercenaries to kill all the neighbors peasants, so that there was no one to take in the harvest and the neighbor's mercenaries would defect when he couldn't pay them. In contrast most of the participants of an Incan battle survived, a bit worse for wear but alive and able to work.

Re:The ancients (2)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 8 months ago | (#45895677)

So...I can't help but notice you left the word "slavery" out of your description of the glorious Incan Empire. Huh. That's odd, why could that be?

Re:The ancients (1)

dargaud (518470) | about 8 months ago | (#45895887)

It was rather implied. In contrast the Aztec empire wanted the loosing soldiers to survive just long enough so that they would have open heart surgery on top of a pyramid...

Re:The ancients (1)

cusco (717999) | about 8 months ago | (#45903107)

There were very few societies in the world that didn't practice slavery at the time. I didn't mention that people believed the sun went around the Earth either, it was as unnecessary to the post as mention of slavery was.

Re:The ancients (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45896491)

Your knowledge of warfare in your so-called Age of Chivalry - which I must suppose, refers to medieval France and England - is as lousy as your knowledge of the Inca Empire. The clubs and slings are as deadly as swords and arrows: it all depends where the blow lands, and which armor is wearing the target. And knowing that the Inca Empire was conquered by less than 200 spaniards, even if they killed 50 men each there weren't so many casualties as you imply - during the conquest.
It was the diseases they brought with them what decimated the indigenous population. Because, you know, the inca medicine was not any more advanced than the european one.

Re:The ancients (2, Insightful)

Nutria (679911) | about 8 months ago | (#45894087)

And there's a damn good reason why "Doctors" were using leeches for damn near everything during the Age of the "Enlightenment"

Sure: because Galen said so [wikipedia.org] .

It's because the barbarian followers of Jesus were morons without a fucking clue and we lost that knowledge and much more.

Or... it was because Augustine of Hippo crawled so far up Aristotle's ass (men have more teeth than women and so men obviously are superior) that the Church only considered a need to think about maybe crawling out 1900 years later.

Thank goodness for those Evil Crusaders, though, looting Arab libraries and bringing Greek, Roman & Islamic ideas back to Europe.

Re:The ancients (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45895135)

Sorry but the crusades were the end of a era where europe had finally had enough and the arabs were pushed back to their homeland. We will see it again.

Re:The ancients (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45897567)

It is because of the barbarian non-followers of Jesus people are stupid enough to think that people believed that the earth was flat, that the Pope was a Protestant, that the wind can provide all our electrical needs and now they have created their own religion called "Climate Change".

Re:The ancients (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about 8 months ago | (#45894097)

hahaha. Medicine was largely unchanged during that time. Wasn't until the end of the 19th century before actual science started being applied to medicine, for the most part.

Don't think for one minute the acients people weren't using stuff like science.

Just because the West went through the dark ages and rooted around in the muck for a couple of centuries, there was an awful lot of things people knew before.

There's a reason why Latin is still the language of science. And there's also a reason why several thousand years ago people had some pretty sophisticated cultures.

That the Church made everybody live for a few centuries with little or no advancement doesn't mean it didn't happen before, or elsewhere. But there's plenty of things we are still learning that ancient cultures had that we didn't think they would.

Re: The ancients (0)

AvitarX (172628) | about 8 months ago | (#45894233)

When my grandfather studied science (post ww2) German was the language of science, he was required to learn scientific German, and no Latin at all, so I don't know what you mean by the language of science.

Re:The ancients (1)

minstrelmike (1602771) | about 8 months ago | (#45897475)

Wasn't until the end of the 19th century before actual science started being applied to medicine, for the most part.

Not really. If you regard science as experimentation method invented by Bacon and DesCartes, then yes.
But if we're talking about medically experimenting on slaves and then trying the procedures on kings, that process has occurred in ancient Egyptian and Peruvian Inca times. The whole point of ethnobotanists investigating the medicines of indigenous peoples is based on the extensive knowledge our ancestors gained.

There are many ways to learn about the physical world and modern technology is not needed for all of them.

Re:The ancients (0)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | about 8 months ago | (#45893239)

I'm not saying it was aliens...but it was totally aliens!

Re:The ancients (3, Insightful)

godrik (1287354) | about 8 months ago | (#45893617)

It is fascinating that we continue to find artifacts from the ancient world that show far more sophistication that people today generally realize. This finding is one.

While I aggree with your first sentence. The second one is puzzling to me. I find it natural that some people understood the concept of multiplication at that time. It is not very old, it is essentially 200BC. There was plenty of commerce, armies and large government at that time which uses lots of multiplications. Pythagoras' work is about 300 years older than that and is much more complex than multiplications.

It is nice to have the artifact, but it is not very surprising IMHO.

Re:The ancients (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45893847)

It is fascinating that we continue to find artifacts from the ancient world that show far more sophistication that people today generally realize. This finding is one.

While I aggree with your first sentence. The second one is puzzling to me. I find it natural that some people understood the concept of multiplication at that time. It is not very old, it is essentially 200BC. There was plenty of commerce, armies and large government at that time which uses lots of multiplications. Pythagoras' work is about 300 years older than that and is much more complex than multiplications.

It is nice to have the artifact, but it is not very surprising IMHO.

People in China were doing multiplication on an abacus long before this "crib sheet" was found. My guess is that it was just a quick reference sheet, much like we used to print logarithmic tables in high school math textbooks. It's really not all that special of a discovery, someone is just trying to make it sound like a Big Deal to justify their Grant money.

Re:The ancients (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45893763)

It's a really interesting find. Unfortunately, the article also highlights the darker side of human nature, which is why we keep reinventing the wheel:

"It “certainly shows that a highly sophisticated arithmetic had been established for both theoretical and commercial purposes by the Warring States period in ancient China,” he adds. This was just before Qin Shi Huang, China's first emperor, united the country; he subsequently ordered book burnings and banned private libraries in an attempt to reshape the country's intellectual tradition."

I'm always skeptical of claims that anyone is the first to do something because of this--history is filled with the many varieties of human flaws erasing our memory of those who came earlier.

Re:The ancients (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | about 8 months ago | (#45894017)

> It is fascinating that we continue to find artifacts from the ancient world that show far more sophistication that people today generally realize.

Uh, not to be condescending, but try reading more. :-)

"The easiest form of parochialism to fall into is to assume that we are smarter than the past generations, that our thinking is necessarily more sophisticated. This may be true in science and technology, but not necessarily so in wisdom."

That quote is from the introduction to this brilliant essay: "Macaulay on Copyright"
http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2002/4/25/1345/03329 [kuro5hin.org]

Re:The ancients (2)

umafuckit (2980809) | about 8 months ago | (#45894395)

Good call! The Antikythera Mechanism is from more or less the same period (about 2100 years ago) as these multiplication tables yet it was a very sophisticated mechanical calculator. The Mechanism is currently on display in the Athens Archaeological museum. If you ever have the opportunity: you should go. It's very well displayed and is shown alongside modern replicas (not all the parts were found so some creative reconstruction was necessary) and movies of it working. Furthermore, the Mechanism was just one find out of many from the Antikythera Shipwreck. The other significant finds are also shown in the same exhibit. There's some really stunning bronze art there. There's info and a video here: http://www.antikythera-mechanism.gr/ [antikythera-mechanism.gr] It says there that the exhibit closes this month, but I was there in September and at the time there was printed material with dates indicating that the exhibit should already have ended. So maybe they're keeping it going indefinitely. This is Greece, so who knows. There's also the Mycenaean room in the same museum which is full the most stunning jewellery, art, etc from about 1,500 BC.

Re: The ancients (1)

clickclickdrone (964164) | about 8 months ago | (#45895581)

On the other hand, I don't find any of this very suprising. At school we learned all about various ancient civilizations gong back thousands of years, Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Chinese etc so grew knowing all about the amazing things they got up to and the things they invented across science, engineering, medicine etc. Jarred Diamond has some good books on this.

The dumbing down of Slashdot (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45893169)

300BC is anything but a pre-historic era. Do the owners of Slashdot REALLY think you are that thick? Do any of you think that the great achievements of that period could occur WITHOUT the ability to do simple maths, like multiplying numbers?

Strict base number counting systems are arbitrary. Knowledge of one is knowledge of all of them, yet only a few weeks ago we had the humiliatingly cretinous suggestion that BINARY could be invented AFTER the concept of base number systems was understood. Even betas should be above the propaganda ploy that goes "you are geniuses, but your ancestors were know-nothing thickos". Every salesperson knows that the most idiotic 'marks' are those that fall for simple flattery.

What is true, when you go back far enough, is that practical maths skills would frequently have been treasured as 'industrial secrets' by collectives or guilds or the like- and there was little widespread desire to universally educate the 'common man'. This did NOT mean things were not known, simply that some knowledge remained well known only amongst certainly tightly knit groups of people. It was, recall, the age of the printing press that changed this situation. Before the printing press, replication of written material was painful and costly.

Google "Antikythera mechanism". If this device had not been discovered, and I said here the people of 100BC had the ability to make such a computer, the usual vile shills would immediately reply, calling me a "tin foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist". The scum who tell you betas to be 'amazed' at the idea of Humans multiplying two numbers together want you to be this dumb and uninformed about levels of Human achievement in the past.

Re: The dumbing down of Slashdot (0)

clickclickdrone (964164) | about 8 months ago | (#45895587)

Yes, this. The level of arrogance here can be amazing.

Re:The dumbing down of Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45899749)

The relevance of the table is that it is a symbol table, and that it is in base 10, which we also happen to use today, for no particular reason but historical accident. Surely it was used for teaching writing. Surely men have been able to multiply with location arithmetic for many millenia using grids and tokens. And, perhaps more importantly, the ability to do basic arithmetic was surely prior and more common than the ability to write. Using a base 10 grid to convey the meaning of the number symbols only underlines that.

Think of the 0. We all know the ancient greeks objected to a SYMBOL for nothing on ontological grounds, and retarded the development of maths because of that philosophical objection. But everybody understands an empty cell in a counting grid. The Sumerians did. Medieval peasants did. A four years old does.

Same with division, which is rather mysterious as a symbolic operation: a four years old is perfectly able to divide a handful of cookies over a group of people, keeping the remainder in his hand, even if he does not have the words to describe what he did.

That was when China was WHITE... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45893321)

Central Asia: the Death of Beauty

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebBxaWq10Gw

Chinese also used hexadecimal... (1)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | about 8 months ago | (#45893449)

According to wikipedia at least.

Waiting for the next Indiana to thus discover a two thousand year old computer! Evidence of those time travellers we heard recently about on /.

Re:Chinese also used hexadecimal... (2)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 8 months ago | (#45893651)

Waiting for the next Indiana to thus discover a two thousand year old computer! Evidence of those time travellers we heard recently about on /.

Their mathematics may have been more advanced than we guessed, but I'm pretty sure they didn't have time machines in 14AD. It would be an amazing feat to be that old and still working. Sometimes symbols change in sound over time, with the emphasis on intonation I wonder if linguists would still be able to talk to a computer from so long ago, before audio recordings. It would be interesting to find out if they had a Y0K crisis, and exactly how they worked, what they ate, who they were related to...

Wait, we're talking about the operator of this tablet, right?

Re: Chinese also used hexadecimal... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45893895)

It's irrelevant /when/ somebody has or had a time machine.

Think about it. Take a little time, in any direction.

Ps: if it takes time to move a space machine, does that mean it will take space to move a time machine?

And... Shouldn't it really be called a temporal motion vehicle? A "time machine" would be a machine that makes time... As far as I understand space-time, anything with a mass does that...

Re: Chinese also used hexadecimal... (1)

minstrelmike (1602771) | about 8 months ago | (#45897521)

I believe the poster is talking about a one-way time machine, one that can only move you into the future faster.
So far, each of those has merely resulted in the untimely death of the inventor ;-)

Re:Chinese also used hexadecimal... (2)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | about 8 months ago | (#45896223)

Hexadecimal nothing! And you can can leave aside these tables as well. The Ancient Chinese were able to solve linear systems using Guass Elimination [ncsu.edu] . Most undergraduate still aren't able to do that.

I personally suspect that many of our basic and even advanced mathematical methods are much older than we assumme. Much, much older.

I really don't find this surprising (4, Interesting)

BeanBagKing (1151733) | about 8 months ago | (#45893811)

I mean, Babylonians were doing this (granted in a different base) some 1,500 to 2,000 years prior. That's a long time. If nobody, between then and 600(ish) BC thought of doing the same thing, I would lose hope in the creativity of humans. So this really doesn't surprise me, it's not like they were idiots back then.

Re:I really don't find this surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45896137)

When thinking about human abilities way back when it's useful to remember St. Ambrose.

Living around 400AD, St Ambrose is reported to be the first human to read without moving his lips.

Yes, before him, no one thought to read a book without saying the words aloud...

Now of course that doesn't make them all idiots, it just makes them simpler. They did read all that much so didn't have a need to speak internally when reading.

The same could be said of mathmatics. If it's not needed to enable you to live your life (which we take for granted in the computer age) you really don't need it.

So it's being simple (compared to us) not thick (compared to us).

http://wdtprs.com/blog/2006/07/st-ambrose-read-without-moving-his-lips/

Re:I really don't find this surprising (1)

hawkfish (8978) | about 8 months ago | (#45898853)

When thinking about human abilities way back when it's useful to remember St. Ambrose.

Living around 400AD, St Ambrose is reported to be the first human to read without moving his lips.

Yes, before him, no one thought to read a book without saying the words aloud...

I don't know about the first. Plutarch [readingaloud.org] records that Julius Caesar had the same skill. (The context is pretty funny too - Caesar was reading a mash note from Cato's sister during a Senate meeting, but Cato thought it was an incriminating letter from an enemy of the state and demanded to read it, much to Cato's embarrassment. The fact that Cato threw it back at him, calling him a drunkard, is also funny because Cato was himself a notorious drunk whose Stoic principles didn't allow him to even buy good wine...)

Re:I really don't find this surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45898463)

No one asked you to be surprised. It's just the earliest base 10 multiplication table ever found. The article even talks about the Babylonians. We still use their base-60 crap today.

Characters (4, Interesting)

manu0601 (2221348) | about 8 months ago | (#45894009)

What is impressive is how the characters hardly evolved since that time. The picture is not easy to read, but it seems that only 7 and 9 are different from modern characters.

Re:Characters (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45900079)

Well, our own Latin characters are pretty well preserved. Lapis Satricanus [4shared.com] is from 500 BC and the font is quite modern.

Math is hard! (1)

NadNad (550015) | about 8 months ago | (#45894219)

Who decided to use a hexadecimal multiplication table as the lead image for a story about base-10 multiplication tables?

Decimal pah (0)

TooTechy (191509) | about 8 months ago | (#45894737)

All their bases are belong to us

Picture (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45895633)

Example however looks hexadecimal.

Get over with it... (1)

freshlimesoda (2497490) | about 8 months ago | (#45897173)

The China at the time was India...!!

27600-Month-old Chinese bamboo strips... (1)

DarthVain (724186) | about 8 months ago | (#45897439)

See, I can be a moron too.

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