Here’s another excellent documentary from Terry Jones; this time recounting the history of the world’s oldest and simplest number.
It’s interesting to note that it took almost half a millennium for Indian numbers (commonly but mistakenly called “Arabic”) to finally supplant Roman numerals in the West and the reason they finally did so — or so this particular version of events suggests — was perhaps because the renowned Florentine mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci showed Christian merchants how useful Indian numerals could be, for instance, for calculating profits.
Speaking of Fibonacci, here’s a curious bit of trivia…
Each term in the Fibonacci sequence is derived by adding the two preceding terms; i.e., 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, and so on. Remarkably, you can use successive terms in this sequence to convert miles to kilometers. For example: 8 miles ≈ 13 kilometers, 13 miles ≈ 21 kilometers, etc. It turns out the reason this nifty little trick works is because the two units stand in φ (to within 0.5 percent of 1.6180339887, the felicitous number also known as the “golden ratio”).
Who says math is boring?