There was a time-out on the field, and the Jones family sat down for a brief rest. Sam asked, “How do babies decide when it’s time to be born?”
“Well, son, it has to do with numbers. You see,” Uncle Will explained, “the baby spends his first month thinking about the number one.”
“That’s not much to think about,” Sam said. “But I suppose he can’t handle much at that age.”
The Wonder of Numbers
Alex shook her head. “One is an interesting number,” she said. “It’s one of only two numbers that are their own square root, and it’s the only number that you can multiply by without changing your answer.”
“The second month, the baby contemplates the number two. . .”
“The only even prime,” Leon said.
“And so on,” Uncle Will continued, “until he gets to the number nine. Then the baby gets so excited about the magic powers of nine, that he just can’t sit still any longer.”
“What magic powers of nine?” Sam asked.
“You can’t get rid of it,” Leon said. “No matter what you multiply nine times, if you add up the digits, it comes back to nine.”
“And for any number,” Alex said, “if you want to divide by nine, you can know right away what your remainder is. Like, 125÷9 will have a remainder of 8, since 1+2+5=8.”
Uncle Will nodded. “That’s called casting out nines, and it’s a useful trick. Maybe I’ll explain it to you sometime. . .”
[For more interesting facts about numbers, visit What’s Special About This Number?]
[Photo by peasap (Paul Sapiano).]
Meet Little Renée
After the game, Uncle Will drove Alex and Leon to the hospital, where they finally met their new baby sister, Renée Bonita Jones.
Readers may remember Alex wondering whether the baby would share a mathematician’s birthday. After all, there were many famous mathematicians born in December. Well, it turns out that Renée was born in November — and she still managed to hit a mathematician’s birthday.
November 20 is the birthday of Benoit Mandelbrot, who discovered the Mandelbrot set and coined the term fractal. Watch for more about him in our next issue, which will be devoted to fractals and chaos theory.
To Be Continued…
Read all the posts from the November/December 1999 issue of my Mathematical Adventures of Alexandria Jones newsletter.