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Journal of No. 118

January 23rd, 2009

Thinking Logarithmically @ 03:38 pm

When children are asked to imagine a 'number line,' evidently they intuitively produce something with a logarithmic scale, i.e. 10 is halfway between 1 and 100. This is in accordance with Weber's Law. As they become 'educated,' their numberlines become linear. This shift takes place between 1st and 4th grades, "depending on experience and the range of numbers teseted."

Dehaene, Izard, Spelke, and Pica carried out experiments with an indigenous Amazonian tribe, and discovered that Mundurucu adults retain their logarithmic number line intuitions:

This indicates that the mapping of numbers onto space is a universal intuition and that this initial intuition of number is logarithmic. The concept of a linear number line appears to be a cultural invention that fails to develop in the absence of formal education.

Mundurucu numbers are also pretty interesting. They have a limited and approximate number vocabulary, so that:
"xep xep" = 2
"pug pogbi" = "one handful" = 5-ish
"pug pogbi xep xep bodi" = "one handful and two on the side" = 7-ish
"xep xep pogbi" = two handfuls = 10-ish

Hmm, the same issue of Science has a note about "Culture, Gender, and Math, which presents data showing that the 'gender gap' in math disappears in countries that have greater gender equality. Also, the girls increase their humongous lead in reading. Bitches.
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Date:January 24th, 2009 05:31 am (UTC)
Another fascinating inquiry in linguistics and human perception is color names in languages, which I'd link you to something except I'm lazy. But trust me, it's interesting.
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Date:January 24th, 2009 05:37 am (UTC)
Yes, it's remarkably rigid.

If a language has two words for color it has black and white
If three, black white and red.

And so on.

Journal of No. 118