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Number 10: Antarctica and tetratcys of the decad

Welcome to 2023! I know it's been a while since we geeked out, but it’s been a big few months, including an incredible trip to Antarctica which I rate 10/10!

Recently, I had the life-changing joy of leading a cruise to the great southern continent. My wife Leah and I were invited to Antarctica by Chimu Adventures and Intrepid Travel, who specialise in matching citizen science and on-ice experiences with minimal environmental impact. Kayaking around icebergs, hiking glaciers and an active volcano, getting up close and personal to penguins (their poop really packs a fragrant punch!) and even braving the Polar Plunge. The trip was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. So, what’s this got to do with the number 10? Well, just when we thought the holiday could not get any better, we arrived in Buenos Aires for the World Cup final, watching the great Lionel Messi in jersey #10 steer Argentina to victory. (Following in the footsteps of Maradona in 1986!) Beautiful Bedlam. Complete Chaos. Forza Argentina!

From tetratcys of the decad to decimate

You might have heard of Pythagoras, the Greek maths and philosophy whiz who around 500 BC gave us a beautiful theorem about right-angle triangles. Py-dog and his crew thought 10 to be the most sacred number of all, and today it’s the base of all counting. And Pythagoreans around the world worship the “tetratcys of the decad”, namely 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10 (which also makes a great neck tatt!). At the other end of the worship spectrum is decimate, which typically means to “completely obliterate” something. Well, the “dec” in decimate is connected to the number ten, as in “decade”. How? The word decimate comes from Roman times where the army was notoriously strict. In cases of cowardice, mutiny and insubordination, a cohort of 480 soldiers was broken into groups of 10 to draw straws. The soldier drawing the shortest straw was then stoned or clubbed to death … by his fellow comrades! So if a group was “decimated”, they weren’t entirely wiped out – 90% of them survived. Don’t get me wrong, that’s still a tough punishment, but the current meaning of “completely obliterate” goes well beyond the original meaning, at least mathematically.

Did you know?​ Enjoy these fascinating numerical facts about 10!

10 million metres More than 200 years ago, the French Academy of Sciences reframed the basic units in terms of 10. This included defining the length of a metre and kilometre to measure exactly 10,000,000 metres from the equator to the North Pole!

10 vowel alphabet During the 15th century, King Sejong the Great invented Korea's hangeul alphabet to help the uneducated become literate. It has 10 pure vowels, 11 compound vowels, 14 basic consonants and 5 double consonants. That’s a lot of vowels!

Slip me a Sawbuck The first American $10 bills had two Xs for the Roman numeral for ten. However, the design looked like a sawhorse/ sawbuck and this nickname stuck. These days, the phrase is still used in foreign exchange dealings for a trade of $10,000,000.

INSPIRATIONAL THINKERS & DOERS - The kolossal crew in Antarctica

One of the joys of the Chimu/Intrepid trip to Antarctica was the citizen science program that was deeply embedded into the journey. Bird watching, ocean analysis and tracking the migration of whales – the whole shebang. And one of the highlights was teaming with who launched their world’s best photographic equipment with which they one day hope to capture a happy snap of the colossal squid. Despite weighing in at 500 kgs, up to 14 metres long and glowing in the dark, only a handful of the world’s largest invertebrate have ever been found. Well Matt, Jared, Eugenie and Jennifer want to change that and shed light on this beast of the deep. Interviewing them was one of the highlights of our time aboard. To read more about these amazing oceanographers and the search for the animal with the biggest eye on all earth (!!!) click here

Another one for the real maths nerds (and books to be won)

Try squaring each of the numbers 32,043 and 99,066. Go on, by hand! Long multiplication – cast your minds back to year 5!!! What particular quality do both answers show? Hint: it’s got something unique to do with the number 10! Send your answers to by 23/2/23 and I’ll randomly draw three winners to receive one of my books. Yours in numbers, Adam


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