Author : Beck Dacus
Hureaat “walked” into the library, tiptoeing on his fingers, three on each hand, carrying a stack of books on his stable, triangular platform of a head/body. He made his way over to my table and used three of his six arms to lift up the books, revealing his six eyes in detail, and place them down on said table. Then he opened with a very alien statement. Not to say that was surprising.
“These books,” his translation device said, “say that your race operates on a base ten system. But that isn’t at all the case.”
Great. “What? Of course we do.”
“No. You have ten fingers, and you add a digit to your number system for every power of ten, but that’s not your base number. Two is.”
“No, it’s not! That’s what base system means: you add a digit every power of your base number! A base two system would be terrible, and it’s a blessing we don’t have one.”
“Nevertheless, two is far more important to your mathematics. I suspect it has something to do with your bilateral symmetry, which also mystifies me.”
“Bilateral symmetry is good for swimming. Which is what everyone was doing a few hundred million years ago. On Earth at least.”
“Jellyfish are good at swimming,” he retorted. “And we have some good trilateral swimming species on–” his translator cut off for a second so he could say the proper noun himself– “DUMAI’IN.”
“But two’s still good. I mean, half of all numbers are even. Divisible by two.”
“‘Half.’ To get half, you divide by *two*. One third of all numbers are–” cutoff– “SESHALSEMAYN.”
“Divisible by three.”
“Oh. Well, dividing things in half is still extremely useful. It leaves two halves. Err, one midpoint.”
“Dividing things by three leaves one midsection. And dividing by three is just as useful.”
“What if you wanted to divide something up for two people?”
“What if you wanted to divide something between three?”
“Well, two is just above one. Two is the lowest number that you need to be able to divide anything at all! You don’t need to divide something ‘between one people.’”
“Yes. But two is not one. And, on that note, three is just above two, apparently an important number for you. The same logic applies then.”
I, a human, actually growled. “Well… two’s the only even prime number! Ha!”
“Yes,” Hureaat said stoically. “It is, because all even numbers after it are divisible by two.”
Got him, I thought.
“And all– SESHALSEMAYN– numbers after three aren’t prime, because they are all divisible by th–”
“Gah, come on!” I said, slamming my fists on the table. I could tell, even on that otherworldly face, that I had scared him. He hurriedly picked up his books and placed them back on his head.
“Hureaat, no. I’m sorry.”
“You have become defensive of the number two. I will go. Perhaps some other time.”
“Hureaat, I said I’m sorry! Does that translate to Dumai’ini? Hureaat?” He was already gone.
I really did get defensive, I thought. I gotta let go of “two.” Maybe it’s not all that important after all.