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Happy 22/2/22 Twosday! Why Numbers Like This Have Fascinated Us for Over 2,000 Years

This Feb. 22, the world hits an unprecedented milestone. It’s the date itself: 22/2/22. And this so-called “Twosday” falls on a Tuesday, no much less.

It’s true the quantity sample stands out, unattainable to overlook. However does it imply something? Judging by the hundreds of commemorative merchandise accessible for buy on-line, it could seem to.

“Twosday” carries completely no historic significance or any cosmic message. But it does communicate volumes about our brains and cultures.

I’m a social psychologist who research how paranormal claims and pseudoscience take maintain as in style beliefs. They’re almost at all times absurd from a scientific perspective, however they’re nice for illustrating how brains, folks, teams and cultures work collectively to create shared which means.

Seeing patterns

Twosday isn’t the one date with a hanging sample. This century alone has had a pair Onesdays (1/11/11 and 11/11/11), and 11 different months with repetitions akin to 01/01/01, 06/06/06 and 12/12/12. We’ll hit Threesday, 3/3/33, in 11 years, and Foursday 11 years after that.

The mind has advanced a incredible capability to seek out meanings and connections. Doing so as soon as meant the distinction between survival and demise. Recognizing paw prints within the soil, for instance, signified harmful predators to be averted, or prey to be captured and consumed. Modifications in daylight indicated when to plant crops and when to reap them.

Even when survival isn’t at stake, it’s rewarding to detect a sample akin to a well-known face or track. Discovering one, the mind zaps its synapses with a bit shot of dopamine, incentivizing itself to maintain discovering extra patterns.

When a quantity sequence appears to leap out at us, that is an instance of apophenia: perceiving significant connections between unrelated issues. The time period was first developed to characterize a symptom of schizophrenia.

One other instance of apophenia is astrology, which visually connects stars into constellations. These are the acquainted Zodiac indicators akin to “The Ram,” Aries; or “The Archer,” Sagittarius. Every signal is linked to meanings related to its respective object. For instance, folks born beneath the signal of Aries are believed to be cussed like rams. However these indicators don’t exist within the sky in any bodily sense, and the system fails scientific exams.

Studying into numbers

The date 2/22/22, although hanging, carries no inherent which means past its operate in our explicit calendar. That is true for numbers usually: Their meanings are restricted to measuring, labeling or counting issues.

“Twosday” is an easy instance of a well-liked type of arithmetical shenanigans: numerology, the pseudoscientific follow of attaching supernatural significance to numbers.

Numerology could be traced again 2,500 years to the Greek mathematician Pythagoras, with different programs showing elsewhere, together with China and the Center East.

Numerology could look mathematical, but it surely’s extra akin to palmistry and studying tea leaves. It has been popularized by magazines, books, motion pictures, tv applications, web sites and different social media. Assessing the extent of numerology’s recognition is troublesome, however the perception that sure numbers are good or dangerous is frequent. For instance, almost 1 / 4 of People say 7 is fortunate.

There are lots of sorts of numerology. The preferred kind assigns numbers to names or different phrases, after which calculates their “root,” also called the “future quantity” or “expression quantity”. It begins by assigning a quantity to every letter of the alphabet: A = 1, B = 2, as much as I = 9, then the cycle repeats with J = 1, Okay = 2, and so forth.

For instance, including up the 5 numbers in my very own first title – 2, 1, 9, 9, and seven – yields 28. To seek out the basis, add the digits in 28 to get 10, after which add up these two digits to get 1. For my center and final names, the roots are 4 and 9. Including the three roots returns 14; including these digits reveals that my “future quantity” is 5, which numerology associates with being free-thinking, adventurous, stressed and impatient.

Greater than coincidence?

I used to be 10 years outdated once I first encountered numerology. A fellow coin collector confirmed me a transparent plastic case holding two gleaming specimens: a copper Lincoln penny and a silver John F. Kennedy half greenback. On the again of the case was a printed label with numerical “details” linking the 2 presidents. For instance:

6: day of the week – Friday – of each assassinations

7: letters in Kennedy’s and Lincoln’s final names

15: letters in each assassins’ names

60: yr elected – Lincoln 1860, Kennedy 1960

While you compile sufficient of those, it will get eerie. The expertise was astonishing sufficient that I nonetheless recollect it over a half-century later.

Are the Lincoln-Kennedy details simply coincidences? What will get missed is that they’ve been drawn from a pool of lots of or hundreds of numerical potentialities. Throw away the boring ones and also you’ve framed the remaining coincidences in a means that provides them extra credit score than they deserve.

One other means of drawing eerie coincidences from very massive swimming pools of potentialities was exploited in “The Bible Code,” a best-selling ebook within the Nineteen Nineties. The writer, Michael Drosnin, took the Previous Testomony and organized it right into a grid of textual content. A pc algorithm highlighted skip patterns within the grid, akin to “each 4th character”, or “2 throughout, 5 down,” to supply an enormous database of letter strings. These had been then sifted by one other algorithm that looked for phrases and phrases, and distances between them.

The strategy appeared to predict many historic occasions, together with the homicide of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995: A specific skip sample yielded his title close to the phrase “murderer that can assassinate.”

Findings akin to these can appear spectacular. Nevertheless, critics have proved that the strategy works simply as nicely utilizing any sufficiently prolonged textual content. Drosnin himself laid down this gauntlet by difficult critics to seek out Rabin’s assassination foretold within the novel “Moby-Dick.” Mathematician Brendan McKay did precisely that, together with “prophecies” for a lot of different deaths – Lincoln’s and Kennedy’s included.

Which coincidences folks take note of is essentially a social phenomenon. What sociologist Erich Goode phrases “paranormalism,” a nonscientific strategy to extraordinary claims, is sustained and transmitted by group customs, norms and establishments. “The Bible Code” couldn’t exist with out faith, for instance, and its recognition was fueled by mass media – akin to its writer’s interviews on “The Oprah Winfrey Present” and elsewhere. In her ebook “Scientifical People,” science author Sharon Hill makes a compelling case that in style tradition within the U.S. helps to foster protected havens for particular person and collective perception within the pseudoscientific and paranormal.

As for “Twosday,” I’ll conclude by plumbing its “hidden which means.” Take the three roots of 02, 22 and 2022. We arrive at 2 + 4 + 6 = 12, and the future quantity 3. Some numerologists affiliate this quantity with optimism and pleasure. Although I could reject the messenger, I’ll settle for that message.


Barry Markovsky, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Sociology, College of South Carolina

This text is republished from The Dialog beneath a Inventive Commons license. Learn the unique article.

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