Huyen's Reviews > The Number Sense: How the Mind Creates Mathematics

The Number Sense by Stanislas Dehaene
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's review
Aug 25, 09

bookshelves: biology-brain, science-math-phys
Read in July, 2009

One day, a group of friends of mine and I somehow randomly came up with this random question: how universal are numbers and mathematics? Why is it that all cultures seem to have some concept of numbers? So we came up with this game, we would agree not to use any number for a day to find out how hard it was. And holy crap, it is ten thousands times harder than we could ever imagine, not only because we were a bunch of physicists, but even simplest things like: what time is it? where’s your house? became unbearably difficult to express. So we tried to figure out a way to express our ideas using other concepts. For example, if you want to say it’s 10 a.m, you say the sun is at that or that position. Or you want to say your house is 15 min away, you say follow this road, turn right at this tree, stop at that white house with a cactus in the garden. If you have 10 sheep, maybe you can name all of them, and when one is missing, you can go: hah! Bob has gone missing today. But having 100 sheep will really cause you a headache. We gave up after a few hours.
So i was thinking about this problem for a very long time. How universal are numbers? Do we have an innate sense of numbers? How would life be without them? would it even be possible? I never knew if anyone had come up with the same question but i randomly found this book, which i thought would be very interesting. And it is.
(to be cont.)
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message 1: by Rob (new)

Rob holy crap you and your friends might actually be as weird as my college friends and i were. i looked at the index and didn't see the Piraha people listed. they seem to have gotten by with almost no numbers.

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