Sine of the Times

Genesis 6:15-16
“And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it.”

Mostly, I liked math (or maths, as we called it) when I was at high school. But one aspect of math was tedious. This was when special numbers had to be looked up in boring books called log tables. These books contained not only logarithms but also the trigonometric functions – sines, cosines and tangents. Today’s students simply press a button on their scientific calculators, but we had to look with painstaking concentration through page after page of figures until we had worked out the value required. 

A clay tablet, called Plimpton 322, was discovered in the early 1900s in the area where Babylon must have been. This mysterious tablet, with four columns and 15 rows of numbers, has remained an enigma until recently. Researchers at the University of New South Wales have discovered that the numbers are in base 60 rather than the base 10 that we use. In addition, they are trigonometric tables like those sine, cosine and tangent tables that I remember from my youth. It has been known for a very long time that the Babylonians used base 60. This is the source of our idea that an hour contains 60 minutes, and a minute 60 seconds. 

Ancient civilizations were far from primitive. It is likely that the earliest post-Flood civilizations, such as Babylon, retained some of the pre-Flood knowledge passed down through the generations. No wonder their inhabitants wanted to keep central control of such knowledge, before God scattered the people across the face of the Earth. 

Prayer: Thank You, Lord, that You are in control of all the sciences, even mathematics. Thank You for the wonder of creation that we even see through historic math documents. Amen. 

Author: Paul F. Taylor 

Ref: University of New South Wales. (2017, August 24). Mathematical mystery of ancient Babylonian clay tablet solved. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 24, 2017 from 

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