The Secret Lives of Numbers

Gordon Mohr
Wed, 13 Feb 2002 01:17:05 -0800

More search-engine datamining, interesting topic, vivid applet. 

Does your ATM code appear more often than the numbers around it?

# The authors conducted an exhaustive empirical study, with the aid of
# custom software, public search engines and powerful statistical
# techniques, in order to determine the relative popularity of every
# integer between 0 and one million. The resulting information
# exhibits an extraordinary variety of patterns which reflect and
# refract our culture, our minds, and our bodies.
# For example, certain numbers, such as 212, 486, 911, 1040, 1492,
# 1776, 68040, or 90210, occur more frequently than their neighbors
# because they are used to denominate the phone numbers, tax forms,
# computer chips, famous dates, or television programs that figure
# prominently in our culture. Regular periodicities in the data,
# located at multiples and powers of ten, mirror our cognitive
# preference for round numbers in our biologically-driven base-10
# numbering system. Certain numbers, such as 12345 or 8888, appear to
# be more popular simply because they are easier to remember.
# Humanity's fascination with numbers is ancient and complex. Our
# present relationship with numbers reveals both a highly developed
# tool and a highly developed user, working together to measure,
# create, and predict both ourselves and the world around us. But like
# every symbiotic couple, the tool we would like to believe is
# separate from us (and thus objective) is actually an intricate
# reflection of our thoughts, interests, and capabilities. One
# intriguing result of this symbiosis is that the numeric system we
# use to describe patterns, is actually used in a patterned fashion to
# describe.
# We surmise that our dataset is a numeric snaphot of the collective
# consciousness. Herein we return our analyses to the public in the
# form of an interactive visualization, whose aim is to provoke
# awareness of one's own numeric manifestations.
#   The Secret Life of Numbers by Golan Levin, et. al. (February 2002)
#   is a commission of New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc., for its
#   Turbulence web site. It was made possible with funding from The
#   Greenwall Foundation. Further information here.