Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Nobody Writes Jokes in Base 13 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comA rumpled, Ted Kazinski type wearing an extremely form fitting Weezer shirt - a rather puzzling fashion choice for a man in his fifties - approached the reference desk and began talking about Base 13. I know nothing about mathematics; in fact, I consider it a form of professional malpractice when I help any child at the library above the 5th grade with his or her math homework, so I could not explain Base 13 to you, even with a gun to my head. Here is the Wikipedia entry. The patron continued touting Base 13's efficiency and explaining how advantageous it would be for society if we operated under this system. According to the patron, in a Base 13 world, peace and harmony would reign and love would rule the stars. He then brought up the red flag word, the CIA, as telltale a symptom of schizophrenia as Kaposi's Sarcoma is to AIDS.

“When my father was in the CIA years ago, the agency looked into switching the U.S. into a Base 13 system, and I wish that they had gone ahead and done it, because a lot of the violence and upheaval we’ve experienced could have been avoided. It would have changed all of human consciousness! If only we would just switch to from a Base 10 to a Base 13 model! I want to show you what a superior system it is – take a look at some of my calculations.”

He then began pulling out stacks of John Nash style script and formulas, but thankfully a line began to form and my colleague told him that she had to help with other patrons.

A little math humor from the Wikipedia entry:

In the end of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams, a possible question to have the answer "forty-two" is presented: "What do you get if you multiply six by nine?" Of course, the answer is deliberately wrong, creating a humorous effect – if the calculation is carried out in base 10. People who were trying to find a deeper meaning in the passage soon noticed that in base 13, 6 × 9 is actually 42 (as 4 × 13 + 2 = 54). When confronted with this, the author stated that it was a mere coincidence, and that "Nobody writes jokes in base 13 [...] I may be a pretty sad person, but I don't make jokes in base 13."

Base 13? No way. But I've seen a base 16 joke. And of course the ubiquitous binary joke (there are only 10 kinds of people in the world - those that know binary and those that don't).
Base 2 is so much more efficient than 13. You can count to 1023 before needing a third hand. Here's a little primer.
Here's my one-degree of Ted Kazynski separation story: my friend lived way out in Montana for a while. Many years later, the FBI called her and questioned her for HOURS about her neighbor, you know, the one who used to come over for dinner and bring as presents needlessly complex handmade toys for the kids?

After the FBI interview was done, she asked her hubby "So what was that all about?" and he said "I'll bet our old neighbor was the Unibomber." Sure enough, a couple months later it comes out...good ol crazy neighbor Ted was the guy...
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