Steve D. wrote us to say:
I was listening to another podcast and they misread the copy and ended up
saying “What is the most numerous number?”. Well, what IS the most numerous number?
This is really a fascinating question! Have you ever wondered, for example, why there are 7 of so many things:
- 7 wonders of the ancient world
- 7 mortal sins
- 7 stars in the big dipper
- 7 days of the week
- 7 dwarves
- 7 brides for 7 brothers
- 7 items on this list
Really, it’s not that big of a mystery. The fact is, small numbers are very useful, and get called upon a lot. But there aren’t that many of them to go around.
Hence, the First Strong Law of Small Numbers: There aren’t enough small numbers to meet the many demands placed upon them!
The most numerous numbers, in a sense then, are the small ones. Google searches seem to confirm this:
- 1, 2, 3, 4, … (several billion hits each)
- 78, 122, 157, … (several hundreds of millions of hits each)
- 12122…(millions of hits)
- 1278232… (hundreds of hits)
Lotsa fun can be had in this way… With a little fishing, you can find some ridiculously large numbers with more hits than they deserve, but the principle is clear.
This same principle, incidentally, explains why, for example, the Golden Ratio appears in so many settings. There’s nothing really that mystical about it. The Golden Ratio is a root of the polynomial x2-x-1=0. Roots of polynomials come up all over the place, in countless applications. And just as small numbers are in great demand, roots of simple polynomials will appear over and over again.
The Golden Ratio is just about the simplest non-integer root possible, and so, of course, shows up endlessly.
Challenge Question I’m kind of curious now: What is the smallest counting number that is NOT on the web?
210210876 was not on the web until just now, according to Google. Internet history has just been made!! But I’m sure you can find something smaller…