© 2004 Robert Krten, all rights reserved
Octavia was in her favourite chair, doing her math homework, when the thought struck her. What if people had two extra fingers? Would it change their lives? How?
So she went over to her father, and asked, "Daddy, what would happen if people had one more finger? One more on each hand, I mean?"
"Well," he scratched himself, and cautiously replied, "they'd have 12 fingers." He knew something was up. "Why do you ask?"
"Just thinking," was all she said. She wasn't really happy with the answer. Of course they'd have 12 fingers, but what would the world be like? Would it be any different?
She looked around, and tried to imagine such a world. Piano players would certainly be able to play more complicated pieces. Guitar players too, and people using keyboards. Maybe it would even help doctors doing complicated surgery.
Or, she though, maybe the extra fingers might just get in the way.
But would it change her life?
She tried to imagine a "freakishly" bigger hand. That extra finger just didn't fit. It wouldn't go beside the thumb; the thumb's special. So it would have to go after the pinky. Another pinky?
And then she thought some more. Of course! People would count differently! The numbers they used every day would be different. They'd have to add two more numbers! Telephones would have two extra numbers; all keyboards in fact. Prices for things would certainly look different.
The next day on her way to school, she stopped at the local Joe Huit's and bought her usual $1.77 hot chocolate and the $0.77 muffin that always accompanied it, and handed the clerk three dollar bills. "Keep the pennies," she said in response to the change the clerk was about to hand her.
She didn't think of her question at all that day, until they got to math class.
"PI is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter," the teacher was saying. "So if you have a circle that's one metre in diameter, how many metres is it in circumference, that is, all the way around the circle?"
Octavia knew that one — she had always had a keen interest in math. She put up her hand and said, "Approximately 3.110375524 metres!" And then, remembering yesterday's thoughts, she pulled out her calculator, and added, "and if we had one more finger on each hand, it would be 3.1415B26535AB metres."