I don’t know if it was part astral projection and part sleep paralysis, or just a too-large slice of autumn bread too close to bedtime, but I recently spent some time at planet Nurmth. Don’t be alarmed. It’s much like Earth and populated by sentient hominids with technology similar to ours. There was one striking difference though. The inhabitants of Nurmth are obsessed with numbers.
When I first arrived, I noticed that many cars had bumper stickers with numbers on them. Some people wore jewelry in the form of numbers and still others sported number tattoos. At first I though this was some form of crazed NASCAR fanaticism, but I was wrong. It turns out that a large portion of the population believes that certain numbers are lucky and others unlucky. It was explained to me that 7 was thought to be lucky and 13 unlucky. This grew out of a creation myth. These Nurmths believed that they were created 7 days after the beginning of the universe and that on the 13th day, their ancestors, who had not yet discovered footwear, discovered instead “stubbing one’s toe on a rock”. I later discovered that, although “7 & 13″ was very popular, there were other schemes. For example, some folks were under that impression that all prime numbers were somehow special when it came to luck. These folks were called “Universalists” or “Primists”. Others felt that the numbers 1, 2 and 3 were special because they were the only primes that “touched each other”. In fact, they went so far as to claim that these three numbers, while distinct, were really the same number; a doctrine they called “The Numity”. Another group declared that it was a matter, not of primes, but of evens versus odds. This group could be broken down further into those who felt that evens were lucky and odds unlucky, and those who felt the opposite. Both groups were further split by subgroups who felt that the size of the number was important in determining the quantity of luck.
A similar situation occurred among those who split allegiance, not among evens and odds, but between positives and negatives. Unfortunately, there was a great rift between subgroups concerning zero. Some said it should lumped with the negatives, others the positives, still others claiming that it was “not a number” (the so-called “NANists”), and a curious splinter group that claimed that zero was simultaneously not a number and every number at the same time. Their history was complete with a great accounting of “Zero Wars”. In a bizarre twist, the subgroups who felt that the size of the number conferred luck actually saw mounting war death tolls as a positive omen. Meanwhile, the 7 & 13′s considered these groups to be out of their minds, or in common slang; “Odds and Enders”.
I later discovered that many 7 & 13′s also believed that multiples of these values or numbers containing these values, such as 14 or 17 respectively, were also special. Foolishly, I asked what this implied for the number 91 (7 times 13). My hosts were horror-struck and told me never to mention the number “whose value shall not be uttered”. I dared not ask what 7 to the 13th power meant.
After hearing these sorts of things over and over, I asked if any statistical analyses had been performed to determine whether or not specific numbers were in fact luckier than others. I was informed that this was a matter of faith, and that perhaps I should visit one of their experts on the topic, called a “Numister” (not to be confused with a “Num”, or lower-ranking female of a similar order). The chain of command topped-out with a fellow named “The Nope”. I never got to speak with him but I assume he isn’t particularly agreeable.
When it came time to leave I informed the president of the most powerful country (a fellow commonly referred to as “Numya”), that given a random process, no number is somehow “special”. He called me a “no-good commie anumist” and showed me the door. Apparently, inhabitants of Nurmth who don’t believe in the specialness of certain numbers are usually looked down upon by the general population and find it impossible to run for high public office (or even low public office in some locales). Needless to say, I was glad to arrive home, free from such an irrational belief system.