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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

neither 42 nor 47 are interesting

Infected with an unfortunate meme of geekdom, I've grown unnaturally sensitive toward hearing the numbers 42 and 47. These numbers are almost mythical in nature, 42 for possibly being "the answer to the ultimate question", and 47 for supposedly having an anomalously high frequency of use in daily affair.

In a bid to cure myself of susceptibility to mind control by those who'd reap the awesome power of these two numbers, and under the premise that few enough netizens are infected with these memes to constitute any significant alteration to these numbers' use — a premise I'm sure we can all agree upon given the growing ubiquity of non-geeks online — I thought I'd query Google, our very own 'Deep Thought', on what it thinks about single and double-digit numbers. Here are the results:
x-axis represents the number queried, y-axis represents matched documents in millions under Google's Sept 13, 2005 corpus

Thankfully, there existed no easily roused DoS-prevention logic and so my perl script was sportingly allowed to run unimpeded.

Observing the data, we see that lower magnitude numbers reign supreme as expected, followed by their products by 10 and to a lesser extent theirs by 5. Our odd decision to make seconds and minutes base-60 probably encouraged the high popularity of 30. Shopkeepers who price everything one or two cents shy of a whole buck are the likely reason for the spikes at 98 and 99. Curse their financial legerdemain! I snuck in 100 despite it being triple-digit to show my solidarity with our love of base-10. If you must know, I originally had 0 as well but it made the scatterplot rather messy with its frequency being between those of 12 and 13. Notably apparent from the chart, there is nothing strikingly special about 42 or 47.

So there you have it, confirmation that the '80s really were boring, and incontrovertible proof that neither 42 nor 47 are in any way more spectacular than other numbers in the hearts and minds of sane, normal people. The atypically higher frequencies of 44 and 64 do on the other hand raise new questions...

After all this faux statistical analysis of 'cult-figures', it is perhaps prudent to reflect on the sagacious words of Homer J. Simpson.
1F09, 1/6/94 Homer the Vigilante
Kent: Mr. Simpson, how do you respond to the charges that petty vandalism such as graffiti is down eighty percent, while heavy sack-beatings are up a shocking 900%?
Homer: Aw, people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. Forty percent of all people know that.

His eminence's eloquent words denouncing statistically based reasoning. Amen, Mr. Simpson, amen.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great!!! It really amused me...

Anonymous said...

Course 6 and 9 both scored higher than 42, but 6x9=42. Otherwise very amusing indeed...

West Side said...

Is the 6x9 post above a joke I don't understand? 6x9 = 54

Anonymous said...

In base 10, sure. But not in base 13!

Anonymous said...

The wiki talk page explains why base 13 isn't the solution:
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This is kind of interesting. 6 x 9 IS 42, in base 13. User:droth6
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The article mentions that (and cites Adams saying it's not the reason). Marnanel 15:12, May 17, 2004 (UTC)

6 x 9 in base 13 IS NOT "forty-two", it's "FOUR-TWO". The same way it's not "twenty-A" in hexadecimal, it's "two-A". So this "base 13" theory is way off. [Dan] 17:38, August 13, 2005 (UTC)

And why is it "fifty-four" instead of "five-four" in base 10, then? Just because that base happens to equal the number of appendixes at the end of our hands? — JIP | Talk 13:20, 29 August 2005 (UTC)
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this is "fifty-four" in base 10, because 10 is "ten", and "-ty" means "base 10) (At my opinion). Nimportnawak 16:16 GMT+1 11 December 2005

-- Pete

Anonymous said...

{Quote}
So there you have it, confirmation that the '80s really were boring, and incontrovertible proof that neither 42 nor 47 are in any way more spectacular than other numbers ......

.....So there you have it, his eminence's eloquent words denouncing statistically based reasoning. Amen, Mr. Simpson, amen.
{Unquote}

So the google statistics support what premise? Yes, I understand this was meant as a joke.

The moral of the story is to do one's own experiments and see what they obtain - keeping an open mind for ANY result. You can either believe Jung or James Redfield or not. Synchronicities are a headache for statiticians :)

Nitzan said...

I ran your test on this article and 42 and 47 both got high marks.
So there you have it.

Oh, says God, and disappears in a puff of logic...

John Roger Holte, NORWAY said...

I'm sorry but you have to think again..
The point about 47 isn't how often it appears compared to other numbers in general. It's how it lives its own life and peeks out at us on all these easy to notice places. I've had loads of baffling experiences with this number, to a point where it almost reached a religious, or at least mystic proportions...
I've even experienced this number appearing to me telepathically, and I knew about its supernatural properties BEFORE I came across the 47 webpages in the late nineties. Sorry....

Robert said...

In the quotation from the Simpsons, it should be 'forfty' percent, not forty.

http://www.snpp.com/episodes/1F09.html

Dylan said...

Im in the same boat as john, I've grown up noticing this number and wondering, before i knew that others also noticed the experience. I agree that the number cant occur much more than statistically allowed but the circumstances in which it does appear are amazing. Some are very subtle but some are grossly obvious.

some occurrences simply cant be measured like this.

Tyrus said...

hahahaha, i find it interesting that your graph is from (september, 13, 2005) Thats 09-13-2005 or 09+13+20+05 = 47!!! haha...and i caught that at 7:44 (reversed = 4:47). Just a thought.