Guinevere

Glyphs as a Number System?

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Reading Alloy of Law, I noticed the glyphs at the beginning of each chapter correspond with the first 16 metals listed in the Ars Arcanum. I only thought it was interesting when I got to 17 and there were two glyphs: the one for the 16th metal paired with the one for the 1st metal. I also noticed that there were glyphs on the broadsheet indicating which edition it was.

This got me thinking that the glyphs may actually form a base-16 number system.

However, three symbols didn't add up: two within the edition number, and the glyph for the epilogue. This could be explained by the fact that neither atium or lerasium are part of the AoL AA, and that entirely new alloys are created from combining these two metals with the other sixteen; meaning there could potentially be 50 symbols for all the different alloys (ie 16 base metals; 16 atium alloys; 16 lerasium alloys; 2 God metals).

Does anyone know more about the glyphs that could enlighten me?

P.S. My really really mean husband stole and hid all my Brandon Sanderson books so I can't properly theorize until I'm done writing my NaNoWriMo novel. ...because he's mean.

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No way did we two just post the same topic at the same time. That's freaky :unsure:

Edit: In the interest of consolidation, here is the topic I posted about this, at the same time as Guinevere:

Something in the broadsheet caught my eye. Centered below the title are six metal symbols that look like they're supposed to be read as a number. This, combined with the symbols at the head of each chapter, led me to think that there is a numbering system that uses the metal symbols as numerals.

The only clue I've found as to the meaning of the numerals are the chapter headings themselves. If we assume the chapters are numbered both in our numerals and in metal numerals, it's easy to see which symbols represent which numbers.

The trouble comes in deciphering numbers higher than 16. At first I thought it would be a base-16 system, which would make a great deal of sense considering the importance of the number 16 as well as there being 16 symbols. But it doesn't appear to be a positional notation at all, being more analogous to Roman numerals.

Chapters higher than 16 are numbered with two symbols. 17 is numbered as "16 1", 18 is "16 2", and so on up to 20, which is the highest chapter number in the book. But this isn't enough to decipher the system, especially since the prologue and epilogue use symbols that aren't assigned to any metal, and the six numerals at the top of the broadsheet also use two symbols that don't belong to any metal.

The broadsheet number is: "* 15 * 6 16 10" (using *'s in place of symbols whose value is unknown).

Now, I'm at a dead end. I don't think there's enough information in the book to decipher the whole system. We know how to count to 20, sure, but beyond that I'm stumped. Has anyone seen any clues I'm missing, or have any further insights?

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This is too, too weird! Anyway, did you get the thing about possibly 50 symbols? That would explain the ones that aren't accounted for.

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This is too, too weird! Anyway, did you get the thing about possibly 50 symbols? That would explain the ones that aren't accounted for.

I did see that. It's interesting, but I don't think it fits. For one thing, if they have 50 symbols, why do they use two symbols for numbers larger than 16? For another, the "god metals" are myths in this age, and I'm not sure their symbols would be known, let alone those of their alloys.

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My initial thought was that they formed an alphabet. Perhaps the glyphs are both a base 16 number system AND an alphabet, so the prologue and epilogue are like a "p" and an "e". I also noticed that the maps in the MB trilogy have glyphs instead of directions on the compass rose. Perhaps those are letters as well.

Maybe you could check if the glyph for the epilogue and the glyph for the direction east are the same. (Since I don't have my books or I would do it. :( ) It's a long shot, but it might work.

Admin Edit: Please refrain from doubleposting. Thanks!

Edited by KChan
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No, they aren't. At least, not in HoA. The maps in AofL don't have a compass rose that I can see. But, they have something better! Symbols along the margins! You know how maps have numbers along the sides, and letters across the top and bottom, in order to be able to locate things with a grid? Well, one map has metal symbols for these, and another has numbers and letters.

Sadly, on the Kindle edition of the book the symbols are too small to be very decipherable. Someone with a hardcover would have to contribute. That said, from what I can see the numbering doesn't match. :(

At this point, I'm wondering if we're not reading too much into this. Is Peter here, and will he confirm or deny? :)

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I see them. There are only a few that correspond to the ones in AoL. But I recognize a few from MB. We will need some help from someone with access to the whole series. Poor me.

Edit: You're probably right about reading into it, but it seems significant that chapters 17 through 20 use the base 16 system similar to how Latin used 5s and 10s. We may be on to something as far as that goes.

Edited by Guinevere
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I see them. There are only a few that correspond to the ones in AoL. But I recognize a few from MB. We will need some help from someone with access to the whole series. Poor me.

Edit: You're probably right about reading into it, but it seems significant that chapters 17 through 20 use the base 16 system similar to how Latin used 5s and 10s. We may be on to something as far as that goes.

Found this on Brandons old livejournal Edit:On his blog too.

I'm posting this image below as a quick on-line reference. (Note that on this list, we included the sounds for the letters as well as their metal. Yes, there are a few more symbols and sounds not on this list. RAFO.)

000gsxrs.jpg

Edited by discipleofhoid
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Yeah, the epilogue had me stumped as well. At first I thought it was Atium, but Atium doesn't have a double ring. Would all of the alloys have their own symbol?

Also, I love the new designs for the symbols. It looks very clean to have removed most of the spikes and replaced them with dashes.

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The symbol in the prologue might refer to whatever metal Tan used to have Wax's shot kill Lessie, assuming it wasn't atium (which there isn't supposed to be any of at this point in time). And perhaps it simply is the number zero?

In terms of the compass in HoA, this is what the symbols seem to be:

North: Tin. "K"

North East: Pewter. "I"

East: Zinc. "D"

South East: Brass. "R"

South: Copper. "L"

South West: Bronze. "T"

West: Iron. "B"

North West: Steel. "P"

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I'm also certain that there is a pattern in terms of how the symbols are assigned their letters, so it would interesting/useful to break it and possibly figure out the other letters.

One note to point out: In terms of the fantastic image discipleofhoid posted (could you post a link to the page you found it? I'd love to look at it there and see what BS said about it), atium is replaced with cadmium and malatium with bendalloy. Not sure the significance other than it makes sense being that the people during AofL don't know about atium or its alloys.

Thoughts?

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Sadly, on the Kindle edition of the book the symbols are too small to be very decipherable. Someone with a hardcover would have to contribute. That said, from what I can see the numbering doesn't match. :(

Elendel Basin Map:

Longitudinal lines (from left to right):

Iron, Lerasium, Iron, Steel, Tin

Latitudinal lines (from top to bottom):

Atium, Malatium, Gold, Electrum, Chromiun, Nicrosil

Also note how the Elendel Basin is (appropriately) in the northern hemisphere of Scadrial - you can tell because you can see on this map that the meridians converge as they move to the top of the map.

Edit: The Line of Lerasium runs right through Elendel. I propose that the Canton of Cartography is using the lerasium glyph to denote Scadrial's Prime Meridian.

(Edit 2: Because, y'know, it's bookended by Iron on each side. One would be East Iron, the other would be West Iron.)

Edited by darniil
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Genius! You guys are so good at this! :D

Also, I didn't know it was confirmed that the glyphs were an alphabet before this, but that is good to know. Perhaps the reason we are having trouble is because the glyph-language has changed since the Origin. It has been 300 years. [Potential spoiler: think about the fact that "wasing the where of needing" was considered a lofty phrase! Which by the way made me laugh hysterically, but it could be something like that.] Atium is basically unheard of at this point, which would include all of its alloys, and that could potentially change the entire language.

Edited by Guinevere
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The symbol in the prologue might refer to whatever metal Tan used to have Wax's shot kill Lessie, assuming it wasn't atium (which there isn't supposed to be any of at this point in time). And perhaps it simply is the number zero?

It's also the same symbol used for the prologue in MB1 and MB3. A similar spike is used in the epilogue of MB2, but it's definitely distinct from the prologue spikes.

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Darniil, you're from the Canton of Cartography. Care to comment about lerasium being the prime meridian of Scadrial? :)

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I do want to make a slight correction to the original posts - these aren't glyphs; those are in Way of Kings. These symbols are known as the Steel Alphabet.

That said, it came up when talking with Brandon that Scadrial does, indeed, have a base 16 number system. So, Guenivere, kudos! You were right. :D

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Thanks for the correction. I wasn't sure what to call them. Although... now that I know their real name, I feel a little...redundant.

Yay about the number system though! Base 16 = Awesome.

Edited by Guinevere
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Okay then. Here's a hypothesis for how the system works.

It IS a base-16, big-endian, positional numbering system. But, instead of a single symbol occupying a single position (as in our positional system), the Steel Alphabet number system uses a pair of symbols for each position. This is the only explanation I could come up with to reconcile both the chapter numberings and the broadsheet edition number.

The pair-per-position system seems a bit odd, but it also makes a kind of sense. There are two shards on Scadrial, they both have to work together in order for life to happen, and the whole reason they're using base 16 is due to the nature of those shards.

The one thing we're missing is a zero. Every positional number system needs a way to represent an absence of value in a given position. I posit that the spike that heads the prologues is the zero. It makes sense for the zero to have no associated metal.

(Now, here's a tangent for you: the spikes are obvious symbols of Hemalurgy/Ruin. Then, the crescents in the metal symbols would represent Allomancy/Preservation. Spike the crescents, and you have Feruchemy/Balance, and also Harmony, and life. Use just a spike, and you have only Ruin; you have nothing. Now, I know the symbols were originally designed just to look cool, so I'm probably reading too much into it...but you've gotta admit it's cool.)

SO. If we assume the edition number follows the volume/issue format commonly used for periodicals in our world, we can posit that the unknown symbols are "v" and "i". Putting it all together, the edition number says: "Edition: v.15 i.122".

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(Now, here's a tangent for you: the spikes are obvious symbols of Hemalurgy/Ruin. Then, the crescents in the metal symbols would represent Allomancy/Preservation. Spike the crescents, and you have Feruchemy/Balance, and also Harmony, and life. Use just a spike, and you have only Ruin; you have nothing. Now, I know the symbols were originally designed just to look cool, so I'm probably reading too much into it...but you've gotta admit it's cool.)

You may be reading too much into it, but I love your theory. It makes a lot of sense and it's extremely cool. And the spike in the prologues being zero because it's just Ruin makes a lot of sense as well. The spike is useless if you have no one to stab it through/put it into.

Now, about replacing the symbols we don't know from the broadsheet with "v" and "i" seems logical, but isn't pewter "i"?

Edited by lauren.e135
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Now, I must ask: How did you get 122? Because the numbers I see are "? 15 ? 6 16 10." The problem is with a true base 16 system, the only digits that can be used are 0 to 15. So the 16 there messes that up. Unless it's more like the roman numerals in terms of being positional; however, without other examples we can't determine what the positions and values represent.

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Now, I must ask: How did you get 122? Because the numbers I see are "? 15 ? 6 16 10." The problem is with a true base 16 system, the only digits that can be used are 0 to 15. So the 16 there messes that up. Unless it's more like the roman numerals in terms of being positional; however, without other examples we can't determine what the positions and values represent.

6*16^1 + (16+10) * 16^0. If I'm right about the two numerals per position thing, that's how it would work.

I initially thought it was a non-positional system like Roman numerals, but I can't come up with one that fits. At least, not based on information we already have. And for such a system to work, you'd need to have multiplicity modifiers in order to handle larger numbers. Come to think, that could be what the unknown symbols in the broadsheet are. But I find that dissatisfying, because it means we don't have enough information to figure out what they are. ;)

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Sorry, but it can't be base 16 system, if it has 16 digits plus zero (which we've seen used on the map).

Base 17, maybe? As in 17'th Shard? ;-)

Or something more primitive (however weird it would be with all the modern science they have) - look at the chapter's numbers. 17 is written as "16 1", 18 as "16 2" etc. As you've said - it's more like Roman numbers than modern, base-n numbers.

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I'm still a little confused about the 122... maybe that's because math makes zero sense to me. Sorry. I also don't understand why it can't be base-16, especially after being confirmed by Brandon.

I just noticed that the two symbols we are missing in the edition number are part of the Steel Alphabet in Mistborn. They seem to be the 20th and 19th metal respectively. Unfortunately they are unnamed, and I'm not sure if anything else is known about them. Does anyone know anything more about those metals?

Also, I have a theory about the symbols for the prologue and epilogue.

The symbol for the prologue is a single spike. Following the logic about spikes representing Ruin, this symbol could potentially encompass the Ruin shard on Scadrial (ie their way of saying Ruin in their language). That said, the symbol for the epilogue looks shockingly similar to the symbol for lerasium in the MB books. Lerasium is pretty much synonymous with Preservation. Perhaps those symbols aren't actually letters or numbers, but words denoting Ruin and Preservation. Thoughts?

Edited by Guinevere
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