A SMAC in the Face #56:  The Power of One

Apart from the Boks stealing the knockout matches from under the noses of their opposition, remarkable was the winning scoreline in three matches in a row by a margin of ONE.  SMAC pays tribute to this number and elevates it to godlike status.

The mathematician Kronecker, once wrote that “God made the integers; all else is the work of man”.  Of those, one of the most important is ONE.

Speaking of God, man used to worship a multitude of gods until the Abrahamic religions came along and reduced things to their essence – a single God.  This simplified the accounting of the gods and made it much simpler as to who to call upon when desiring victory or a new set of hot chariot wheels.  Strangely, although the Abrahamic religions, who worshipped the same one God, became the dominant religions in the world, and should have promoted goodwill and peace on earth etc, they did just the opposite.  But we’ll leave that for now.

So, we all know that ONE is an integer and that is reflected in nature all around us.  After all, you don’t get a half an elephant which would make it easier to design rooms for them.  However, you do get a half-brother/sister and Monty Python wrote a song, Eric the Half a Bee[1], in which they ruminated whether

“Half a bee, philosophically
  Must, ipso facto, half not be.”

Of course, they were just messing around with Shakespeare’s, “To be, or not to be,” which anticipated quantum physics, the Uncertainty Principle, the Boolean algebraic functions OR and NOT, and the digital computer world of 1s and 0s by a few centuries. 

While there is no known largest prime number, there is only one smallest one, namely ONE.  Also, the cool thing about ONE is that you can multiply it by itself as many times as you want and it doesn’t misbehave. It just remains ONE which makes the one times table a doddle even to half an idiot.  Try that with any other number and it just explodes and goes off on a power trip.

ONE ruled the roost until its world came crashing down around 8th century when along came nothing, nada, ziltch – ZERO.  This number had been lurking around since the days when the Middle East was relatively peaceful and called Mesopotamia.  However, the Babylonians didn’t consider it a number yet, but used it as a placeholder in their base 60 counting system as we use 0 in, say, 24000 in decimal systems.  In the 600s, an Indian, Brahmagupta considered it to actually be a number in its own right.  An Arab, one Mohammed ibn-Musa al-Khowarizmi, immediately saw the usefulness of this concept in the early 800s (times were slow back then) and showed how ZERO functioned in the system of formulas he called al-jabr (algebra) and hasn’t he got a lot to answer for.  The backward bunch in Europe were too busy with the Crusades and disputing whose version of the one God was greater to take any notice of this dramatic upheaval of the integer number system until Fibonacci saw the light at the end of the Dark Ages in 1202 and things spiralled out of control.

ONE was no longer numero uno, and today is not even in the centre of the universe of integers, but one place to the right.  The reduced circumstances of ONE remained until the Springboks trounced their three knockout opponents by ONE point consecutively in a righteous mugging and re-established the primacy of ONE in the pantheon of things.  Screeds have been written about it and the amaBokke have attained godlike status among 62 million South Africans, minus Julius Malema of course, and his supporters who doth protest too much.  The new Church of ONE has arisen and it is headed by Webb Ellis.

[1] Of course South Africa SOE’s messed around with the concept of whole or ONE further by demanding that a contracting entity be at least 51% BEE.

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