four or five; octal systems; polydactylism

Nils Lid Hjort nils at
Fri Jan 26 16:41:58 CET 2001

Kristian Pedersen, Kevin Clark and Francois Willot 
speculated & wondered about the four or five fingers 
question in the last digest. In my 
	"Mathematics in Duckburg"
lecture today I indeed gave some attention to this, 
since it is so basic to counting, which again is 
at the heart of mathematics. 

1. Since the inhabitants of the Duckburg universe seem
   to have four fingers per hand, one might speculate
   that their counting system is octal rather than 
   decimal in nature. -- I gave two examples; 
   . Donald's car registration number is "313",
     which however could mean "car number 203" 
     in our system.
   . Today is January 26. In Duckburg octal notation this
     would however be January 32.

2. There are examples where a person suddenly and for a
   short time develops an extraneous finger, typically 
   under stressful circumstances. This would be known as 
   "spontaneous polydactilism". I've spotted several examples.
   (This is also discussed in an article some years ago in
   the German "Der Donaldist".) 
   . Gyro Gearloose, in the "Firefly tracker" story, US 27/1959;
     check the "Hey!... That's it! Fireflies!" picture.
   . Donald, in the "Midget racers" story, WD 166/1954;
     check the "Oh, my stars! ..." picture. 
   . Donald, in the "Omelet" story, WD 146/1952;
     check the "Umteen tons of feed ..." picture.
   Again, there are many other instances, also for other
   inhabitants, in Barks stories. 

3. How many molecules are there on Planet Earth? Admiration
   and envy to the first on this list who can give a ballpark
   figure for this. Anyway, Donald estimates Scrooge's fortune
   as something like 0.5 * 10^78 + 0.16 dollars, a pretty 
   hefty amount. My curiosity is whether 10^78 is already 
   a bigger number than the number of molecules on Earth. 

Nils Lid Hjort 

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