Friday, June 23, 2006


It would be difficult for me to accurately describe exactly how I felt the first time I realized that rearranging the letters in ELEVEN + TWO would give TWELVE + ONE, but it is sufficient to say that the experience almost momentarily made me believe in a personal version of some kind of intelligent design. I have since then often pondered on what it is exactly that fascinated me so much then, and still does now; I mean, obviously, it's not just the case that we are looking at a particularly smart and surprising anagram, and I have come to believe my sense of wonder may have something to do with the delicate and elegant way this curious fact seems to tie up all of the three R's and attempt to bridge the gap between literacy and numeracy for one blazing moment.

In fact, I have always found puzzles that related words and numbers in unexpectedly intelligent ways particularly engaging. For example, try to explain the pattern and find the next number in this sequence:

3, 3, 5, 4, 4, 3, 5, 5, 4, ...

As you can probably guess, you will be wasting your time if you try to find a purely mathematical rule because all I have done is simply list the number of digits in the words:

one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ...

Now, interestingly, 4 is the first number whose value equals the number of letters in it's name. But is it the only one? I suspect so, but I don't know if one could establish a rigorous proof for this assertion. In any case, it only makes sense to claim that the value of a number equals the number of letters in it's name as long as we talk about positive integers; the number of letters in the names of nonpositive integers and non-integers can never equal their value. I am certain this is a somewhat profound statement that will eventually lead us to the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything, but I am just too tired to go down that route right now.

And besides, it's almost lunchtime.

1 comment:

Theo said...

Imagine how much more amazing the universe would be if there were no coincidences.