Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The dial goes all the way to eleven

Well, it's finally 11/11.  Happy Veterans' Day to all of you who have served your country, which I think is a much better way to mark the day than to succumb to all of the numerological hoopla that is happening regarding the confluence of ones in today's date.

I just read, for example, that the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities is closing the Pyramids today, ostensibly because of a need for "maintenance following a busy period during Muslim holidays."  The real reason, as confirmed by Atef Abu Zahab, the director of the Department of Pharaonic Archeology and a member of the Council, was that they wanted to avoid any "strange rituals that were going to be held within the walls of the pyramid on November 11, 2011."

Apparently, the internet has been full of people making plans to hold ceremonial dances, meditation sessions, and ritual casting of magic spells in a variety of so-called sacred places, such as the Pyramids, Stonehenge, Glastonbury Tor, and so on.  Egypt, being a country not known for its quick acceptance of alternative belief systems, basically said, "Not on our watch, buddy."  But if you happens to live near a site that has any woo-woo significance, you might want to keep an eye out today -- especially as the clock approaches 11:11 AM.

I've never understood why people go for numerology.  Whenever there's any unusual confluence of numbers in (for example) a date, there are news articles that babble about how amazing it is, and how long it's been since a similar arrangement has happened, and so on, conveniently neglecting the fact that my last birthday (10/26/2011) is also a completely unique number string -- that particular set of numbers will never occur in that order in a date again!  To which most people, understandably, respond, *yawn*.

But when there's some kind of apparent pattern, it makes everyone think that there's some sort of significance.  Of course, this conveniently ignores that the calendar is a human construct, and quite arbitrary in many ways.   For example, November 2, 2011 was a palindromic date (11/02/2011) - but only if you live in the US.  Other countries, which put the day first and the month second, already had their Palindrome Day on February 11.  Does the universe take that sort of thing into account when it schedules its Cosmic Convergences?  As far as 11/11/11 at 11:11 AM, we have to ask: what time zone?  Will the amazing events that are supposed to be in the offing going to be operating on Eastern Standard Time?  I hope so, because if it's Greenwich Mean Time, 11:11 already passed, and as far as I can tell nothing interesting happened.

So, anyway, my general thought is that playing these kind of number games is a little silly, even if unsurprising.  Human brains are wired to detect patterns; and the result is that sometimes we will attribute meaning to patterns that are actually meaningless coincidences.  Harmless, actually, unless you were planning on visiting the Pyramids today.

1 comment:

  1. Dick Feynman smashed this nagel on da kopf soundly one day when he walked into the classroom and told his students: "While I was getting out of my car in the lot, I saw a red Mustang with California plate # 2487. Incredible. I mean, how likely is that?"

    I need to check the date I found your blog back on Xanga. It was a definition of 'yutz', and something about New Jersey. The date is probably a prime number. Figures, you know...