Do our favourite numbers indicate inner-most attitudes?
Posted on November 3rd, 2010

By Philip Fernando, former Deputy Editor, Sunday Observer, Sri Lanka

Most people say-”‚we will be back in five or ten minutes.”‚ We are used to a seven-day week, 24-hour day and 12-month year. Our fondness for certain numbers may show attitudinal inclinations. Numbers are a very quirky story indeed.

Do numbers seven or nine; for example, correspond to some inner most longings or affinity to Voodoo, the numinous practice of avenging a wrong? Number 13 is considered ominously bad by many-Friday the 13th is worse.

 Should we be suspicious when the signal to be sober comes at the half turn of our planet-12 hours-most bars close at mid-night? Doctors prescribing antibiotics for seven days or more are routine-does that mean that a necessary correlation exists between our digestive tract”‘s absorption rates, the life cycle of virus killing bacteria and seven days?

 Are we playing favourites with numbers? So, in order to wipe out any vicious bugs in our body, we are to take 21 pills or more -but could 18 pills could still do the trick-no scientific proof has been provided as to the question, why not?

 Are we taking at least five percent more medication than they actually need? Is that overdose meant to ensure the possibility of antibiotic-resistant-strains of “‘superbugs”‘ decimating mankind someday?

Emperor Constantine

It is a fact that seven became a special number when in 321 A D the Roman emperor Constantine, officially reduced the week from eight days to seven-obviously not the ideal one. Units of time have always been followed arbitrarily.

 USSR reportedly adopted the five-day week before they adopted the six-day week and the French had adopted the 10-day week before they adopted the 60-day vacation-now in France they work 35 hours in five days and get paid for 40.

Physicist named M F M Osborne noticed (1962 study) that stock prices tended to cluster around numbers ending in zero and five. Why? It is because well, like many species, people have two five-fingered hands-or ten fingers in all? -basis for a-10 counting system?

 But shouldn”‘t the price of goods and stock be determined by the efficient workings of the free market and not by the phalanges of the people and their fingers working at the stock exchange or the market place?

Fingering the stock market

And yet, research shows that fingers may have something to do with price vacillations. When a stock that closed for the day at $10.01 for example, it tended to go up the next morning almost always, while a stock that closed at $9.99 it did not. Similarly, a stock closing at 10.01, significantly outperformed a stock that closed at $9.99-just two pennies different at closing.

 We go from thumb to pinkie finger in four easy steps when counting and the number 10 often connoted a magic marker status -as point of reference. It is obvious that $10.01 stock listing for many people had become indicative of a rising trend while $9.99 rarely did. Retailer traders knew that goods generally marked in nine like $9.99 sold better but never when marked $ 10.01 etc. Many seemed to feel that way.

 In most languages some words are denoted by louder sounding terms-humungous, monstrous-Vishala-Pathanga, while words like teeny-sulu connoted lesser amounts even by the sound they make.

 They say that if you ask people to produce a random number between one and a hundred, their guesses generally clustered around the handful that end in zero or five.

Sound of big numbers

The hand may not be the only part of our anatomy that gives certain numbers their mystical powers. The tongue does too. Because of the acoustic properties of our vocal apparatus, some words just sound bigger than others.

 In a recent research study, one group was shown an ad for an expensive ice-cream scoop that was priced at $7.66, while another was shown an ad for a $7.22 scoop. The lower price is the better deal, of course, but the higher price (with its silkys”‘ sounds) makes a smaller sound than the lower price (with its rattling t”‘s).

 So the research found that as small sounds usually name small things, shoppers who were offered the scoop at the higher but whispery price of $7.66 were more likely to go for it than those offered the noisier price of $7.22 – but only if they”‘d been asked to say the price ALOUD. Do the magic numbers we show a partiality to hold special significance for worldly mammals with hands and watches, but do they mean anything to the study of numbers-numerology?

 Does the ten commandments correspond to the fingers in our paws and why do highly trained doctors habitually remind us about the impulses of an ancient emperor named Constantine when they say take the capsules for seven days?

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