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Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Magic" Numbers

In today's "Week in Review" in The New York Times Daniel Gilbert, a Professor of Psychology at Harvard, writes about how some numbers seem to be assumed to have magical properties.  In writing the article he shows how we make subtle and sometimes subliminal assumptions about things because of our fascination with the numbers seven and ten (as well as other numbers).

Professor Gilbert attributes the selection of a seven day week to the Emperor Constantine, for his having reduced the Roman week from eight to seven.  He then notes that the Soviets went to a five day week, which they then upped to a six-day week.  The French went for a ten-day week.  In the case of France this makes sense as they were attempting to create metrification.  However, much as they tried, they failed in making time, the most important measurement, something that could be broken down into tens.  If they had succeeded, then the whole metric system might have made sense.

But, back to who invented the seven day week, I always figured it was back further than Emperor Constantine.  Moses attributes it to G_d.  In Genesis, Chapter 2, Verses 1-3, we have:
Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed.
Since on the seventh day God was finished with the work he had been doing, he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken.
So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation.
But, then nothing is real until the secular state has said it is real.

Regards  —  Cliff

  I admit to a strong preference for four, or even two, over the number three.
  In both of these cases this makes sense as Revolutionary Governments attempt to remake the world.  And, as the author wryly notes, the French then went on to invent the 60-day vacation.

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