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Why are numbers important?

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Quick Answer

Numbers are important scientifically, socially and economically. The effective manipulation of numbers opens the door to a detailed understanding of nature, smooth political action and a well-functioning distribution network for maintaining a high standard of living.

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In science, the habit of either proving a general concept or of quantifying an observed phenomenon requires a sophisticated use of numbers. Making sense of the data available to astronomers, chemists and biologists among others would be impossible without a system of assigning values and weighing variables. Many scientific ideas, such as the speed of light or the gravitational constant, are impossible to comprehend without the concept of numbers.

Numbers play a role in shaping human societies. Very few national governments are entirely without means of tracking the behavior and opinions of their citizens, and numbers such as social security numbers, resident alien ID numbers and the results of opinion polls are closely watched as an aid to social control and central planning.

Economically, numbers are central to most human activities. An hourly wage is expressed as a number. Units of measurement and quantities of goods are also necessarily expressed as numbers. Speeds and dosages are most efficiently expressed with a discreet numerical value, and it is difficult to picture a commodities market, stock market or futures exchange operating without price data.

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