It’s Friday again? OMG! IT WAS FRIDAY LAST WEEK!!!
Photo © 1998 AP Photo/Eraldo Peres
When we humans first started marking time using the numerical calendar, nobody could have foreseen that this calendar would occasionally feature recurring numbers.
In hindsight, it would have been better to invent a calendar that just kept going up, so instead of November 11th, 2011, today would simply be Stardate 43989.1 x 10900. Or better yet, just go the Mayan route, and stop counting altogether once the numbers start getting freaky.
But no, we’re destined to spend our lives endlessly recycling the same old six digit combination, like Jake Gyllenhaal in Source Code, or, depending how weird your life is, like Jake Gyllenhaal in Donnie Darko.
As a result, at least once a year for the past decade, people have been freaking out over recurring sequences, like 01/01/01, or 02/02/02 – or even, say, 10/10/10. These are not special signs from the gods, or a reason to play Tattslotto – they’re simply numbers arranged in a completely predictable way.
Nevertheless, some people have attached significance to the fact that today is 11/11/11 (or as the Americans would print it, 11/11/11). But according to experts, these people are idiots. Our calendar is completely arbitrary, it’s been repeatedly stopped, rewritten, rejigged and restarted over thousands of years, and isn’t even the only calendar currently in use.
Here’s an experiment you can try at home: Find a calendar for 2012, and see if you can find a recurring sequence. (Hint: It will be somewhere in early- to mid- December.) Now comes the science part. Do absolutely nothing until that date comes around. No harvest festivals, no virgin sacrifices, no praying to the Sphinx or his hotter female cousin Sphinxette. We predict that 12/12/12 will happen anyway – almost as if it was going to happen all along. And if for some reason 12/12/12 doesn’t happen, we’ll be the first to admit that science is a fraud.
On a cosmic scale, today’s date is no more momentous or noteworthy than that one time your car’s odometer clicked back over to zero. But still, thousands of couples have rushed to tie the knot, and in Egypt, authorities have closed the pyramids so people can’t perform any weird binary Sphinxette-style rituals.
All this because we made up a system that repeats, and then get excited by the repetition. And people say maths is no fun.
Tonight on The Project: Star of SBS quiz show Letters and Numbers, mathematician and all-round awesome person Lily Serna.