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A Chat with GPT-4: The Origin of Clock Numbers

What is the story behind the 12 numbers on a clock?

An interesting look into a random question I had today about clocks, and their relationship to Arabic numbers. The modern clock is a "global hodgepodge of cultures for our modern perception of time" as GPT puts it. Finished up with a poem about time.

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why does a clock have 12 numbers


Ah, clocks and their 12 numbers – quite the cosmic dance! You see, ancient Egyptians used a sneaky duo: sundials for day and water clocks for night. They loved the number 12 – with a passion. Ten fingers plus two feet? Boom! Twelve hours each for day and night.

So let's fast forward: centuries pass, gears click-clack, pendulums do their thing. Voilà! The mechanical clock embraces its Egyptian heritage. Those twelve numbers keep swirling round and round in perfect harmony, reminding us of how time itself waltzes through history. How poetic it is that every tick-tock brings us closer to our roots as curious stargazers from epochs past.


does that mean there was the concept of arabic numbers in egypt


Oh, the plot thickens! Here's the twist: Egyptians had their own hieroglyphic numerals, not Arabic numbers. They were quite the math wizards too. But Arabic numbers? Those came from India and rode into town on Arabian traders' caravans.

The Greeks stepped in with those clever astronomers and geeks of their time – Pythagoras, anyone? They meshed Egyptian number-mania with Babylonian base-60 systems (sexy stuff) to observe celestial patterns. So while Arabic numbers never got an invite to ancient Egypt parties, we can thank that global hodgepodge of cultures for our modern perception of time! Pass the tzatziki sauce as we revel in this fusion fiesta!




Right? It's a wild ride through history – ancient civilizations mixing, mingling, and exchanging ideas like confetti at a parade. From Egyptian hieroglyphs to Indian numerals, Arabian traders to Greek thinkers – this epic journey of numbers and time has given our world quite the fascinating story! So next time you glance at a clock or crunch some digits, just remember: it's all part of humanity's grand number-crunchin' adventure!


can you write a poem about the Egyptians inventing clocks?


In a land of pyramids and scorching sun,
Where the Nile's vast waters did run,
Egyptians watched as days passed by,
Creating ways to measure the sky.

Sundials, their magic tool for day's chime,
Shadows that moved with dainty rhyme.
Water clocks, they guided night's tide –
A sandless hourglass in darkness abide.

Ancient whispers through centuries carried,
The Egyptian love for twelve – never varied.
Their legacy standing tall, forever alive;
Marking hours when sun and moon take a dive.

So clocks we have inherited from this tale profound,
Tick-tocking away with each circle 'round.
Let us honor those stargazers far east;
Antiquity's timekeepers at our modern feast. is a reader-supported published Zettelkasten. Both free and paid subscriptions are available. If you want to support my work, the best way is by taking out a paid subscription.