Binary Birthday

Binary Birthday

I am this many.

Have you ever heard of the unary number system, i.e., base-1 numerals? That’s the formal designation of tally marks– a means of representing a number symbolically by using symbols, where the number represented is equal to the number of symbols. While easy to grasp, it’s also a rather inefficient system, so we don’t find too many uses of them in modern life. One of the places that we do (almost) always use the unary system is on birthday cakes, where a birthday cake has one candle per year. This is fine for small numbers, but positioning, lighting and blowing out candles becomes impractical past a certain point.

Here’s a better way: A binary birthday candle. It consists of a single candle with seven wicks, where the wicks that are lit represent the birthday individual’s age in binary. This single candle design works flawlessly to represent any age from 1 to 127, never requiring anyone below the age of 127 to blow out more than a mere six candles at a time.
Continue reading