Chapter 1

A Baker’s Dozen

It is a curious truism that wherever one goes, one bumps into the

number twelve: the tribes of Israel, the apostles of Jesus, the signs

of the zodiac. One would therefore not be amiss in assuming that

twelve and all things connected to this number must necessarily be

good. Add one and the resulting number thirteen cannot but spell

disaster as it intrudes on the round and fulsome dozen. The number

seven, found in the colors of the rainbow, the days of the week, the

number of continents, and the notes in an octave, obviously indicates

unity and perfection. Hence, the number six must be imperfection.

Repeat the six three times to form the number 666 and, woe is us,

one has the number of the devil. Any nonsense can be proven with

numerology. Nevertheless, number mysticism is not utterly senseless.

As we shall see, it was the precursor to rational science.

Numerologists never tire of interpreting numbers, describing at-

tributes and prophesying events which can be connected in some way

to numbers. Even if this seems an outlandish pastime, more suit-

able to those who dabble in the occult, numerologists keep at it.

It is a great comfort to them that most negative prognoses can be

turned into their exact opposite—with an equal amount of certainty—

by swiftly multiplying, dividing or simply reinterpreting the ominous

number.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1090/mbk/073/01