# Chinese restaurants: new numbering system

In similar fashion to the proposal to limit the denominations of stamps produced by the Royal Mail, here is a proposal to revamp the numbering system adopted by Chinese restaurants.

There are two alternative proposals on offer:

• All dishes take a prime number.  On ordering, you simply multiply together the numbers of the dishes of choice;
• All dishes take a power of two.  On ordering, you simply add together the numbers of the dishes you desire and quote that number.

Under each scenario, a number quoted would uniquely identify the dishes being requested.  It could be argued that the scenarios are somewhat unwieldy.

Let’s take the former.  If a restaurant has 100 dishes, then instead of numbering them 1 to 100, it would number them 2, 3, 5, 7, … , 541.  An order for dishes traditionally numbered 5, 12, 36, 37, 44 and 83, say, would now be ordered by quoting the number 802,611,888,067.

Under the latter scenario, the dishes would be numbered 1, 2, 4, 8, … , 1,267,650,600,228,229,401,496,703,205,376.  (Wider menus would be required.)  And the same set of six dishes would be ordered using the numer 9,671,406,556,925,932,569,888,784.

Just a matter of time, I expect.

3 Responses to “Chinese restaurants: new numbering system”

1. AM on April 19th, 2009 09:22

methinks you’re confused by former and latter

2. Dan on April 19th, 2009 12:57

Corrected, and suitably shamed.

3. slatfatf on April 24th, 2009 18:37

The issue with the prime number of course is the same as the one for encryption. Algorithms (can’t remember which) are based upon the sheer difficulty needed to find the 2 primes from a number. So while it would uniquely identify your meal it may take an eternity to actually get the food you order back.

I think I have been to that restaurant.