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In a nutshell: Numerology is superstition about numbers. Numbers are wonderful. Without them, science would be very messy and we'd have a lot of trouble keeping track of everything we want to keep track of. But numbers are not "lucky" or "bad."

Numerology is superstition about numbers. It's the belief that numbers have magical qualities like luck and hidden meanings. Scientists know that numbers are important tools that help us understand how the world works. But numbers can't tell you what kind of person you are or whether this is your lucky day.

Numerologistssound icon are not scientists. A scientist might use numbers to describe something like how long it will take for a ball to roll down a hill. A numerologist might use numbers to tell you what kind of personality you have or what the future holds in store for you. Ten scientists will agree on one answer about how long it will take the ball to get to the bottom of a hill. Ten numerologists will make ten different predictions about your future and describe you in ten different ways. Why? Science is based on observation and proper testing of claims. Superstitions are based on observations but they are not tested properly. You can't test a claim properly if it isn't clear. Claims like "6 is your lucky number" isn't clear enough to test. What does it even mean?

One favorite superstition of numerologists is to give numbers to the letters of words and add them up. The sum might then be divided or multiplied by some other number or it might be claimed that the sum number means you'll live a long life or you'll marry a prince or princess. Whatever the numerologists say the number means isn't based on scientific testing. Numerologists get their ideas from many places, but science isn't one of them.

Your name might be "Joe" and might be given the number 30 (J is the 10th letter in the alphabet, O is the 15th, and E is the 5th). You might have been born on the 4th of July in 2001. July is the seventh month. 4 + 7 + 2001 = 2012. 2012 + 30 = 2042. The sum of 2 + 0 + 4 + 2 = 8. The game can go on forever, but somewhere along the line the numerologist will stop and say something like: "The number 8 is like two circles. You are a very centered person. No matter what direction you go, you always come back to the center of yourself." Or the numerologist might say: "Eight sounds like ate. You may suffer from stomach aches someday."

the magic of numbers

Many things that happen by coincidence can be made to seem important if you play with numbers long enough. Take the numbers in the date 9/11/2001. Forget the year and you see that 11 becomes important. 9 + 1 + 1 = 11. September 11th is the 254th day of the year: 2 +5 + 4 = 11. After September 11th there are 111 days left to the end of the year. The Twin Towers in New York City that were hit by airplanes looked like the number 11. One of the planes was American Airlines flight 11. New York was the 11th state added to the United States. New York City has 11 letters.

Guess what? There is no end to the number of things that I can connect to the number 11 to make it look like there's something special about that number. I could probably get some people to believe that 11 is a gateway to the mysteries of the universe and beyond. It does seem weird that so many things come up 11. But as you may have noticed, I had to ignore the year 2001 because there's nothing "elevenish" about it. In fact, there is no end to the number of things that I could connect to 9/11 and the number 6 or 12 or 20 (9 + 11 = 20!). By ignoring the zillions of things that can be connected to other numbers and listing only items connected to the number 11, I make 11 seem special. It isn't.

The facts that I listed about the number 11 are coincidences. They don't mean anything special, even though they might seem to when presented the way I presented them. Lots of things are coincidences that seem not to be because we don't understand numbers very well. For example, did you know that if there are just 23 kids in your class, there's a 50% chance that two of them will have the same birth date? So, if you went to eight classrooms at your school and each class has at least 23 kids, you'd probably find kids with the same birth date in four of the classes. You might think it's weird that two kids in a class would have the same birth date, but the odds are the same as a coin flip coming up heads: 50/50.

Some people think they've seen the future in their dreams because they don't understand how numbers work. Think about it. There are about 7 billion people on Earth. If each has just one dream a night and the odds of dreaming something that happens the next day are 1 million to 1, then about 7,000 people a night should have a dream about something that happens the next day. That's about 100 school buses full of people having a dream that comes true every night. Actually, there would be more who have such dreams because most people have more than one dream a night and dreams aren't always that clear. We would probably count lots of things that are "close" to our dream as being correct. For example, if you had a dream about somebody running and yelling "help!", there are many scenes that might "fit" that dream.

Since there are billions of people who have many things happen to them every day, many things are going to happen somewhere that seem meaningful even though they are just coincidental. You might think that there is some sort of message being told when a bug flies into your room while you're reading a book about bugs. Actually, there is a message: maybe you should shut the window.

further reading

What's Special About This Number?

Last updated 01-Aug-2011

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