The Numbers Game

Many of you might have noticed what the date is. I’m not going to blather on about it too much because I’m doing a Friday 13th post on Teen Skepchick later, but I do like to ponder over here and when it comes to the number thirteen I really do get a little smirk. You can see it right there on the side of my mouth where my face scrunches into lines and I try to imagine how a number could possibly cause the hysteria associated with it. Triskaidekaphobia (sp?) is one of those few states of mind that I struggle with, and by that I mean I find it hard to persuade myself that there are people who are genuinely scared of things associated with the number thirteen, or the number itself, which is of course a human label attached onto an arbitrary accumulation of ‘things’ to help us understand the world around us.

Certainly there are some other powers that numbers are given undeserved credit for, numerology for example is based entirely around the idea that fiddling with numbers and their places in unrelated places and times somehow is the herald of prophecy. The only time I’ve ever seen this work is in fiction, and even then it’s on pretty shaky ground, although I must say the lighthouse connection with the numbers on LOST is probably as close as it comes to a satisfying use of numerology in the ‘mystical worlds’ fictional subgenre.

But numbers in reality do have real power, and not in the bad luck/good luck/clairvoyance/magic way either. Much of what we know about the universe is thanks to our numerical system and our ability to deduce relationships between different variables by applying numerical value. How much more difficult would it have been to discover general and special relativity without having the mathematical backbone in which to demonstrate that the relationships between mass, energy and the speed of light were directly having an effect on one another and the implications forthwith?

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