Think of a number.

No…, not that one.

Think of a different number, not one of those common as muck numbers everybody thinks of, after all there are several numbers that people don’t often use in such examples. For, as we know, there are a lot of numbers about.

However, as the great mathematician, Cosine d’Calculatori, pointed out, the numbers are not untidy and all over the place. Quite unlike some of the particles of physics or the molecules of chemistry. These are often found lurking down the back of the sofa, or in the last place, but one, you looked when searching for your keys.

However, numbers do have a tendency to lurk in some unexpected places. For example, the number 56 was hiding in the letters of that last sen*ten*ce.

D’Calculatori, therefore, thought it was the job of mathematicians to keep an eye on the numbers, and make sure they knew what the numbers were doing. It should be a bit like shepherds and their sheep, as he put it in his journal, although – he hastened to add – not in *that* way. After all, he argued, if we let numbers lose anywhere, soon they will begin breeding and we will end up with thousands of them all over the 193.

Like that.

As d’Calculatori pointed out, the numbers themselves have a natural tendency to add up and multiply with very few natural predators. That is, apart from out where the wild taxes can attack even our most precious financial numbers, of course. Consequently, there is little chance of them subtracting themselves or dividing so we can rule them easier.

Although, some people have managed to tame the numbers and keep them domesticated. At first, the numbers were caged in log tables and slide rules, then in calculators and computers. Although, everyone with a computer knows how the numbers themselves long to break free. In addition, as programmers know, once that stack starts to overflow, it is a bugger trying to round up all the escaped numbers and put them back into the bit bucket. Especially the zeros, which have a tendency to roll about all over the place, and, as many of us have discovered, end up lost under the fridge for years.

However, there are some, especially number environmentalists, who think that numbers should remain free and in their natural state. Although any mathematician with experience of the natural numbers will tell you, they are not as benign as the eco-numberists are wont to believe.

Furthermore, there are many on the left of the political spectrum who believe in the existence of a magic money tree. This is a mainly theoretical construct where the amount of money is infinite. Thus enabling any amount of money to be plucked from the tree forever without it ever running out, no matter how high that number gets.

Although, as d’Calculatori himself said, the numbers will be with us forever. Or at least as far as we can count, so we’d better get used to them and make it part of our life’s work to understand these marvellous creatures and how they 475.