Courtesy of Florida International University
In mathematics, it is called a sublime number. In religion, some would argue it is nearly holy. Western music is built around it and architecture pays homage to it. Even nature has an obsession with it.
And on 12-12-12, the calendar will be spotlighting the number for the last time in 100 years.
Chemist, author, musician and FIU Professor David Becker describes the number 12 as one of the most important digits on Earth.
“Twelve is a fascinating number,” he said. “There’s no question about it. It’s one of the most powerful numbers there is.”
Math lovers have an affinity to it because it is considered one of only two sublime numbers. It also is known as the “kissing number” because, if one were to arrange as many spheres as possible so that each touches a central sphere, the maximum number would be 12.
But it is not merely a mathematical powerhouse. Twelve also materializes throughout nature: there are 12 pairs of cranial nerves; 12 pairs of ribs; all matter is made up of 12 subatomic particles, known as fermions.
The number also is found in religion: 12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostles, 12 main Greek gods and goddesses. Monuments, such as the Lincoln Memorial and its 12 prominent columns, have honored the number meaningfully and majestically. And the absence of the number would be catastrophic to western music, which is harmoniously structured around 12 tones.
Becker assures the number’s constant emergence does not occur coincidentally—and its absence would be disorienting to say the least.
“The world as we know it wouldn’t exist without the number 12,” Becker acknowledged. “It’s a number that has a crucial role in a multitude of topics.”
So through a story with a 12-word headline and 12 12-letter words, we celebrate 12-12-12, which appears in a series only centennially.