It may not be special, but 3 is a *magic* number, dammit!

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2006/11/30 19:30 -05:00, original URI:

So on Tuesday, Eric Lippert posted about how Every Number Is Special In Its Own Special Way.

Now everyone over there geeked out about proving that all numbers are special, as one might expect.

But as soon as I saw the title, I knew what popped in my head -- Three is a magic number!

Just as I learned it on Schoolhouse Rock!

I couldn't find the original online but I found the Blind Melon cover of it here on YouTube, and Everything2 has the lyrics here, plus some fun info from Bob Dorough (the author) who wrote it the way I write some blog posts (first the title, then try to fill in the post that goes with that title!).

Ignoring the possible semantic/pragmatic differences between "magic" numbers and "special" numbers, it seems like a reasonable leap of logic to me!

(As a side note, the number eight (8) is also quite special given the common association with infinity (∞), due to the code page best-fit mapping most commonly attributed to Cathy Wissink, by everyone except for her!)

This post brought to you by 3 (U+0033, a.k.a. DIGIT THREE, a magic number!)

Aaron Robinson on 30 Nov 2006 8:09 PM:

You mean you don't have the DVD with all of them?  ;)

Michael S. Kaplan on 30 Nov 2006 8:34 PM:

I do, Aaron. But if I provide a hyperlink to it, then people will not have much luck hearing it. :-)

Maurits [MSFT] on 1 Dec 2006 11:57 AM:

As noted in the comments, this is an old Martin Gardner chestnut.

Alas, the lowest "magic number", mathematically speaking, is 15; the next lowest is 34, which was used by Durer in a famous engraving from 1514; which Sam Loyd used as the inspiration for his infamous 15/14 puzzle; and to complete the circle, Martin Gardner edited a book "Mathematical puzzles of Sam Loyd."

Speaking of covers of "Three is a Magic Number", the recent Jack Johnson CD "Curious George" contains a song "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" which seems to borrow somewhat heavily from "Three is a Magic Number."  But I guess it's hard to trademark mathematical facts.

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