Sunday, October 10, 2010


I love when numbers are symmetrical or sequential or whatever. Today’s is kind of a jackpot among such numbers, because ten is everywhere.

Humans ordinarily have ten finger and ten toes, and maybe because of that we base our numbers on ten—it’s easy to count. Most world money is based on ten and so, for most of the world, are weights and measures.

There are ten years in a decade, ten decades in a century and ten centuries in a millennium. Clocks aren’t base ten, but we tend to pay attention to units of five and ten minutes.

In religion, there are the ten commandments (aka the Decalogue). Some people tithe—giving ten percent of their income to their church. Rosh Hashanah marks ten days of repentance for Jews, leading up to Yom Kippur.

In cricket, the winning side must capture ten wickets. In American football, there are ten yards to a first down. Baseball usually has ten players on the field. In many card games, the Jack, Queen and King are all worth ten points.

A scale of one to ten is often used to rank things, with “Perfect Ten” being the best. If we reduce by 1/10th, we decimate something (and I bet fewer than one in ten know that’s the correct usage of the word…).

Ten is the atomic number of neon. Ten is the smallest noncototient, a number that cannot be expressed as the difference between any integer and the total number of coprimes below it. (I have no idea what any of that means but it sounded impressive). The Roman numeral for ten is X.

Virginia was the tenth state admitted to the United States. The Tenth Amendment to the US Constitution is one of the most contentious in US politics, probably because it’s so poorly understood by the right wing. The tenth US Vice President was John Tyler who, ironically, also became the tenth US President on April 6, 1841 following the death of President William Henry Harrison, who died a month after taking office—the first US president to die in office. Tyler later sided with the Confederacy, winning election to the Confederate Congress, but he died before assuming office. Because of those circumstances, he’s sometimes said to be the only US President who did not die in the United States.

Clearly ten pops up all over the place, from the sacred to the profane and everywhere in between. I tend to especially notice times and dates with fives or tens in them, so I suppose I have some sort of affinity for them—especially when they have as neat a pattern as 101010.

And there you have my post for 101010—in ten paragraphs, of course. I guess that means it’s a 10-24 from me.


Roger Owen Green said...

Any post that can namecheck John Tyler twice is all right in my book. I always loved the Whigs: 4 Presidents, only 8 total years in office.

Arthur Schenck said...

Right? How often does one get to mention John Tyler? I think we should have a "Forgotten Presidents Day" for such a thing.