- Tom Lehrer
I wasn't a very good student at university. I didn't work anywhere near hard enough, and didn't get very good grades. Nevertheless I did get my maths degree, and I still have some books on my bookshelf with titles such as "Elementary Differential Geometry", "An Introduction to the Theory of Numbers" (the classic work by Hardy & Wright). One day I might read them. Who am I kidding?
I also have a book which I may have mentioned before entitled "The Penguin Dictionary of Curious Interesting Numbers". I haven't read that either, and the definition of what constitutes "interesting" isn't exactly the same as most people's. For example, Emilia Kenevezou's phone number would be of interest to many of us. Instead we have entries such as "139854276 - Equal to 11826 squared." To be fair it goes on to explain that it is the smallest pandigital square. Maybe that's not interesting so much as curious?
Anyway, the reason I'm bringing all of this up is because of 8. The Dictionary has over a page devoted to it, and it mentions useful facts, like if you multiply any triangular number by 8, you get one less than a square.*
It doesn't mention that this is a lucky number for the Chinese. I am, of course, referring to the fact that the Olympic Games started today, 8/8/8, one of those rare days where even Americans manage to write the numbers in the correct order.
In Cyprus, and presumably other countries, they've have a lot of extra civil weddings today, with one couple tying the knot at 8:08 am. Spare a thought for those poor men who will have even less of an excuse to forget their anniversary.
Of course having studied numbers, I can't get at all excited by these "special" ones. After all, it's not really 8/8/8 but 8/8/2008, where the year is counted from some arbitrary point in history that wasn't even when Christ was born, and the months and years aren't much better.
As a C programmer, I'd have had a year 0. And a day 0 and a month 0, come to that, so it should really be 7/7/2007. But they didn't have zeros when they invented dates.
Here 888 is the teletext page for subtitles. If bingo went up to 888, then presumably it'd be "three fat ladies". In 888 days, it will be the 14th January 2011, and Harrods will just be starting their Christmas shopping campaign.
However, I'm looking forward to 9/9/9, because I'll have an easy day.
I'll be able to reuse this post.
Talking of the Olympic games, I saw the highlights of the opening ceremony on the news. I'm sure it was all very impressive, but it apparently went on for four hours. I imagine that the poor people in that stadium were suffering from "Spectacle Fatigue", not to mention piles...
*Because triangular numbers have the form: n(n+1)/2, and 4n(n+1) = (2n + 1)^2 - 1