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Dear all My 5 year old son asked me why there are 60...

<< Back to: [sci.astro,sci.astro.seti] Contents (Astronomy Frequently Asked Questions) (0/9)

Question by Peter Kearney
Submitted on 10/13/2003
Related FAQ: [sci.astro,sci.astro.seti] Contents (Astronomy Frequently Asked Questions) (0/9)
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Dear all

My 5 year old son asked me why there are 60 seconds in a minute, not 100 and I don't have an answer for him.

My guess is that it has something to do with early beliefs around the significance of 12 and 30 in the lunar and solar cycles, but how did we get to 60?

Had there been 30 seconds in a minute and 30 minutes in an hour, it would have been easy to see how we took the 12 and 30 applied them to break up the days. But I can find no explanation for why we chose to multiply the 12 by 2 to get 24 hours in a day and the 30 by 2 to get the two 60's I mentioned.


Answer by Chip
Submitted on 10/16/2003
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old babylonian culture had a calendar and number system based on "60".   Versus our roman-based system of numbers based on "10".


Answer by Peter Kearney
Submitted on 10/30/2003
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Hi Chip

Thanks for your answer, but why did they choose 60?

I can understand why we chose 10: We have 10 fingers and it makes it easy to learn arithmetic.

There must have been some reason for attributing special values to the numbers 12, 24, 30 and 60.

As I said in my first question - I can see where they would probably have got 12 and 30 from, but 24 and 60 are a mystery.



Answer by Grifter
Submitted on 11/9/2003
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Just tell him you don't know!


Answer by himanshu
Submitted on 5/6/2004
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The importance of 60 comes from the Babylonians used a base 60 number system as compared to our base 10 system. 60 and 6x60 = 360 were very natural numbers for them to work with. They used a 360 (6X60) day calendar as opposed to our 365 day calendar. The ancient astronomers would have noticed that it takes 365 days for the sun to move (about our fixed Earth) past the stars that appeared to be fixed to an external heavenly sphere, and return to where they started. The choice of 360 days for a year may have been a compromise between a 365 day solar year and a 354 day lunar year, (consisting of 12 months of 29.5 days each).


Answer by trac
Submitted on 1/12/2006
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no one know but go to a scinec and askthen they might the quetion that yuor child has ask u


Answer by yogurt
Submitted on 3/14/2006
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u smell its just 69


Answer by LiZzYB!@#
Submitted on 4/28/2007
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No one knows why the babylonians chose a base of 60. They adopted it from the sumerians and we cannot figure out why. All i know  is that they used that for their time and we adopted it.


Answer by hello
Submitted on 5/24/2007
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If you count the segments (phalanges) of each finger with your thumb on one hand you get twelve. Times that by the five fingers on your other hand = 60 .


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