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A complete history of eighty-six
The art of precise grades

A complete history of eighty-six

By Davy van de Vusse

Invention and early history

The number eighty-six was first invented by an English nobleman/amateur scientist by the name of Lord James H. Pellbury IV. Since his early adolescent years Pellbury had been fascinated by the field of advanced counting and numerical sequentialism, and had noticed a distinct lack of numbers between the 85th and 87th decimal values - sometimes leading to erroneous mathematics and sheep herding.

In 1734, at age 23, Pellbury applied for a formal patent on a design for the number eighty-six, having designed it in his spare time, often working feverishly into the early hours of the morning. Due to his homemade equipment and lack of high-precision Swiss-made counting apparatuses, Pellbury's original design for eighty-six would have resulted in a value closer to 85.892 - rather than today's scientifically calculated value of eighty-six (which is 86.00 - rounded).

Despite his genius in creating the world's first value of eighty-six, Pellbury never managed to refine his design beyond an accuracy of 85.935, a flaw which eventually drove him to an early mathematical related death at age 34. None of his prototypes were ever discovered, making historians wonder if he ever created an actual value of eighty-six, or if his work was purely theoretical. Nonetheless, he is generally considered as the father of eighty-six.

Refinement and further progress (renaissance – pre-industrial eras)

Two major events during the beginning of the 19th century would prove essential for the refinement of eighty-six, which had by now remained unused for over 50 years. One was the mathematical concept of 'plussing', today known as addition, which was created by an unknown Norwegian farmer in 1803. The second, oddly enough, was the rediscovery of the common letterbox, the making of which had been lost by the Scottish up to two centuries earlier.

In early 1812, Mary Norrington, wife of the famous Edward Norrington, was tidying his work when she mentioned to him that perhaps he could combine the concepts of plussing, eighty-five and one, to create some "absurdly hilarious new number". Norrington (Edward), quickly realised that this could result in a mathematical breakthrough, and after preliminary calculations was elated to discover that this process could possibly result in the creation of an actual value of eighty-six, extending theory into the realm of the possible. Norrington is credited with the first recorded prototype, a value of 85.970 - a noticeable improvement on Pellbury's last recorded design (if it had been made).

Around the same time, a young French bricklayer called Andrè Sufí made a second breakthrough. Having no mathematical training whatsoever, Sufí was not capable of the advanced theoretical techniques of earlier researchers. When attaching iron numbers to a letterbox one day, he noticed that by taking the common value of 89, and turning the '9' upside-down, one obtained a strange new value. Sufí had unwittingly created the world's most accurate representation of eighty-six to date - an actual value of 85.992, the discrepancy with today's value being due to minor rust and a thick paint layer on the digits.

Military use and advancement (WWI and WWII)

With the invention of war, the demand for high-end numbers and sequential digits grew sharply. Throughout the years of 1914-18, worldwide numbers science funding grew by over 5000%, leading to the mass production of eighty-six and an increase of precision to 85.998. Throughout this period, several other (although significantly less useful) numbers were also invented, including one hundred and three, two hundred and thirty eight, and also the number twelve. It is believed, although unconfirmed, that the number eighty-six was used successfully over 8,000 times during WWI.

By the beginning or WWII, eighty-six had started to work its way into civilian life, often used while shopping or to describe large numbers of things. Military commanders on both sides were aware of the strategic use of eighty-six, and as such introduced numbers rationing early in the war to ensure there would be adequate supply for the war effort. The invention of basic computers towards the end of the war saw technology take a part in developing the number. It was now possible to create eighty-six by adding one together eighty-six times, something that previously would have taken a human mathematician many lifetimes could now be done in mere days. Since the number one had been used since Roman times, it was highly precise, and this process increased accuracy, resulting in a value of 86.0005.

Not many examples of the use of eighty-six during the war still exist, due to national security concerns, but some have been rediscovered recently, including these quotes: "...could you please order 85.998 loaves of bread for Alpha platoon...", and "...the enemy is reported to have 86.0005 tiger tanks...".

Modern use and development

Using highly theoretical concepts such as super-string theory and multi-addition, and with the aid of modern technology, scientists have created very precise values of eighty-six. The most precise of these reached a value of 86.0000000000001 for approximately 12 nanoseconds at a temperature of 1.8°K, by using liquid helium cooling and ice cubes. Today the number eighty-six is used everywhere, although not many people realise how pervasive and necessary it really is. It is estimated that a modern automobile contains over 100 instances of the number eighty-six, and that the average well-off person will unknowingly use it up to three times a week.

Currently there are 32 active groups and organisations involved in spreading the number eighty-six to impoverished people in third-world countries, along with food, water and medical supplies. Their aim is to teach the people how to manufacture their own eighty-sixes, as this would prove immeasurably useful to thousands. When asked to give an example of its use, World Numbers Foundation leader Kristov Avanushtski replied "I could give you hundreds. Currently, poor farmers are having to barter for either 85 or 87 cattle, while they have room for exactly eighty-six. Either one cow needs to die, or they run at a lower profit margin. Eighty-six would enable these people to live happier, wealthier lives". It is believed that only 24% of the world's population has ready access to eighty-six, while a further 42% are within one hours travel of their nearest access to eighty-six.

Future of eighty-six

Some believe that eighty-six has no more room to improve, while others believe human-kind has barely tapped its unknown potential. A few religious sects have prophesied that the year 2086 will reveal a new type of eighty-six, but this is generally dismissed as having no scientific backing, as only three numbers to date have been discovered to have a second type. Even so, this is an exciting speculation, as there are potentially limitless possibilities for someone with access to two different types of eighty-six.

Worldwide, use of the number has been increasing by 3% per year, with a projected household acceptance of 88% by the year 2012. At these rates, no one can really tell where the use of eighty-six will end. All we can hope is that this number will be used for the betterment of society as a whole.

The art of precise grades

By Davy van de Vusse

So often it is thought that 'A+' is the best mark attainable, while actually it has always been one of the easiest to get. All you need to do is try really, really hard and you'll get it. This may sound confusing at first, so let's use an analogy - throwing a rock.

You need to throw the rock a certain distance, say at least 10 metres. If you throw the rock more than 10 metres you will get an A+, anything less than this and you'll progressively lower marks. I say to you "Go get an A+ in rock throwing", you throw it as hard as you can and get 30 metres and an A+, well done! Now I say "Go get a B+ in rock throwing". How far do you throw it? Between 6.3 and 6.8 metres maybe? What if the ground is a bit bouncy? What if the rock rolls? To get a B+ you need a much more intimate knowledge of rock throwing than the retards who got an A+.

This applies to any subject. In order to achieve one of the lower grades with such fine accuracy, the student must have a very deep and precise knowledge of the subject. When writing the exam, these students can not afford to make mistakes, lest they accidentally get a lower grade by writing the wrong answers, or a higher grade by writing the correct ones. Usually the ratio of required correct to incorrect answers is worked out beforehand using advanced statistics to ensure the desired grade is achieved as accurately as possible. Using mark allocations the student then works out in the exam which questions should be answered correctly, and does this with a minimum of fuss.

There are many students out there who achieve straight A+ records at university - so what? Try maintaining an exact B- record, if you can do that you are truly the champion. Next time someone achieves a non-A+ grade you should be genuinely amazed because now you know how tricky it really is.