by H. PeterAleff |

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1.4.2. Polygonal-number "pyramids" Now take these useful arrangements of the natural numbers and unwrap the bent gnomons into straight layers; then write out the dot- represented entries as numbers, and you obtain what I will call polygonal- number "pyramids". That name is technically inaccurate because the resulting arrays are triangles, as, for instance, in the well-known and thoroughly misattributed Pascal’s Triangle".However, I refer to them as "pyramids" instead, partly to avoid confusion with the In the hypothetical scenario I propose, some early number investigator was curious about the distribution of primes in successive segments of the number line. S/he reasoned that when one cleaves said line to look at this distribution, the lengths between the cuts need to be neither arbitrary nor equal. To the contrary, the ancients’ emphasis on ratios and proportions, rather than on absolute values as in modern times, would probably have prevented our ancient sage from slashing that line into the Procrustean same- length slabs from which Eratosthenes would later assemble his square. Our scribe lived in a culture, such as Old Kingdom Egypt, that valued skilled craftsmanship and thoughtful respect for the properties of a material. The appropriate thing to do may therefore have been to observe and take advantage of the natural grain in the material to be worked on, whether it was wood or stone, or even non-material numbers. To our scribe who looked for patterns in the divisibility of numbers, two of the textures among numbers might have appeared as the natural and most obvious guides along which to order their line into successive stretches that keep growing together with them. This is simply because division is the reversal of multiplication, and multiplication, in turn, is repeated addition. 1.4.3. The triangular- number "pyramid" The first of these textures is thus formed by the successive sums of the natural numbers, the inherent benchmarks of their accumulation from putting them together. Each interval between two such consecutive sums includes one more entry than the preceding one. The numbers in that interval form therefore a naturally defined set that differs by only one increment from its neighbors. They can therefore be systematically compared, with the same common- sense approach of changing one parameter at a time that we now call scientific. To make the comparing easier, our postulated scribe stacked these so obtained number line segments to view them side by side instead of end- to- end. Accordingly, s/he wrote the numbers, beginning with one entry at the top, two below, the next three numbers in the third row, and so on, one more in each next layer so that each n The last entry in each layer, the trailing- edge "cornerstone" of the pyramid "masonry" that completes a new triangle in the array, was and is the same as the quantity of pebbles it took to construct the corresponding dot-figure, so it is a triangular number. Each of these is the sum of all the preceding lengths, or (n Some scribes may well have arranged those layers in the form of a one-sided stairway to fit all entries into the same simple grid, as shown in
Our scribe, however, centered the line segments to better view the strings through the even- numbered layers separately from those through the odd- numbered ones, and maybe also because s/he preferred the quasi- symmetrical look that was a hallmark of ancient Egyptian art. The result was the array in
Because the layer lengths alternate between odd and even numbers, the individual entries in each next layer are offset by half a number width from those in the preceding layer. This yields the picture of a steep pyramid, built from overlapping blocks, in which every other pair of neighboring columns through the alternating layers contains only even numbers, and then the next pair only odd ones. | ||||||||||||||||||

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