• Question: whats your faviroute number?

    Asked by abbytasker to Charlie, Eoin, Jemma, Julian, Steve on 22 Mar 2011.
    • Photo: Stephen Moss

      Stephen Moss answered on 22 Mar 2011:

      Hi Abby
      I like prime numbers, but for no real reason. If I ever bought a lottery ticket I would definitely stick to just prime numbers – and probably still lose.

    • Photo: Charlie Ryan

      Charlie Ryan answered on 22 Mar 2011:

      hi abby!
      Well its got to be 42!! This is the meaning of life given in the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy book!
      Whats yours??!

    • Photo: Eoin Lettice

      Eoin Lettice answered on 22 Mar 2011:

      Hi abbytasker,
      I recently wrote a short blog post about just this subject!! So I’ve reprinted it here to explain about my fave numbers:

      I’ve always thought of numbers in different ways. I imagine it’s just a mathematical thing, but I think of some numbers as being “friendlier” than others. Geeky I know, but hear me out.

      For example, eight is a great number. First of all its shape; so curvy and continuous. What’s not to like? Then there is the fact that it’s an even number so it can be evenly divided. Four, of course, is also even but has a much less pleasing shape—all angular and awkward.

      One is entirely boring: both shape-wise and mathematically. I’m sure mathematicians will disagree, but it’s all to do with perception, I think.

      Two is the perfect shape: elegant and swanlike. It can divide all even numbers in such a pleasing way that you’ve got to love it. Stack a few side-by-side to get 22, or 222 and you’ve got a pleasant row of swans sailing away into the numerical distance.

      Three, although pleasing in shape, is just too awkward to really like, as indeed is five. Five is just too middle-of-the-road, too decidedly average to stand out.

      Six is pleasing enough, but (in my head at least) I know that it’s just an upside-down nine. An odd number masquerading as an even number by turning itself on its head—shameless!

      Is it just me or do others see numbers in the same way? It’s certainly not a case of putting colours or tastes with the digits, and may just be a side effect of staring at numbers too long for work.

      However, if asked to choose my favourite number, I just couldn’t do it. It wouldn’t be fair to all the other numbers.


      This post originally appeared here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/secretlife/