## Posts tagged ‘favorite’

### What Number Do You Hate?

In 2014, Alex Bellos conducted a poll to find out people’s favorite number. Based on those results, Maddy Fry wrote an article for *Time* in which she stated,

The least favorite number turned out to be 110, which was the lowest number to receive no votes.

That’s not quite true. It would be correct to say that 110 was the *least common* favorite number, but calling it the “least favorite number” makes it sound like it’s the number that folks like least. In a poll where folks were asked to choose just one favorite number, a number that gets no votes doesn’t make it the least liked number. It just means that no one picked it as their favorite. That’s a subtle but important distinction.

It could be the case — however unlikely — that even though no one picked 110 as their favorite number, it could be everyone’s *second-favorite* number.

On the other hand, I **do** have a least favorite number.

More than two decades ago, I heard a local Maryland band called Dead City Radio (not to be confused with the song *Dead City Radio* by Rob Zombie), and I bought their debut album. Although the band is now defunct, the image from that album cover holds a permanent spot in my psyche:

The cover includes disturbing imagery of a doll, a gun, graffiti, an atomic bomb explosion, and the number 219 on the door. Why 219? I spoke with DCR’s lead singer after the show, and he told me that it was serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer‘s apartment number. *Disturbing.*

As it turns out, that’s not true. Dahmer’s apartment number in Milwaukee was actually 213, though he did meet several of his victims at Club 219. I’m not sure if the DCR guys had it wrong, or if I misheard because my ears were still ringing after the concert, or if there’s some other explanation.

Regardless, I had no reason to question the statement when I first heard it, and I now have a fear and abnormal hatred of the number 219. It’s been my least favorite number for years. I obviously avoid room 219 when I stay at hotels. (And now that I know the truth, I avoid room 213, too. In fact, I try to avoid the second floor entirely. I don’t even want to walk past those rooms.)

But my hatred is deeper than just avoiding hotel rooms. When I score 219 points playing Dots, or when I receive $2.19 in change at the grocery store, or when my GPS tells me to turn right onto Route 219, a slight shiver runs down my spine.

I’m not the only person who despises a particular number. At The Top Tens, many people say they hate many numbers for a variety of reasons:

- 6 looks weird.
- 16 is so obnoxious. I can’t stand this stupid swagger of an integer. It should burn in hell.
- 12 will lead to endless controversies.
- 18 sucks because it’s when you have to say goodbye to your childhood.
- 39 is a multiple of 13… plus it’s so annoying.

**So, what number do you hate?** Complete the poll below. (And if it isn’t working for you, jump over to **this Google poll**.) Once I get a reasonable number of responses, I’ll clean the data and share the results. Check back in early 2019.

### A Muppet You Can Count On

A big MJ4MF thanks to Lindsey Witcosky, who directed me to a wonderful BBC article about one of my favorite Sesame Street characters, the Count! The link to the article is provided below, but first a quiz based on some trivia in the article.

**1.** What was the Count’s full name?

**2.** What was the Count’s favorite number?

**3.** Who was the voice of the Count from 1970 until 2011?

Answers are below, but you can also find them in the BBC article:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19409960

The Count’s favorite number is equal to 187^{2}, and BBC Radio asked listeners of the show *More or Less* to speculate why. One listener noted that 187 = 94^{2} ‑ 93^{2} and, of course, 187 = 94 + 93. The BBC article referred to this coincidence as, “An embarrassment of riches!” But I prefer to think of it as, “An embarassment of algebra!”

Algebra can be used to show why this is true. The *n*th square number is equal to the sum of the first *n* positive odd integers. That is,

*n*^{2} = 1 + 3 + 5 + 7 + … + (2*n* ‑ 1)

From this it follows that

94^{2} = 1 + 3 + 5 + 7 + … + (2 × 94 – 1)

and

93^{2} = 1 + 3 + 5 + 7 + … + (2 × 93 – 1)

so of course

94^{2} – 93^{2} = 2 × 94 – 1 = 187

Moreover, the difference of two squares is equal to the product of the sum and difference of the two numbers. That is,

a^{2} ‑ b^{2} = (a + b)(a ‑ b)

Consequently,

187 = 94^{2} ‑ 93^{2} = (94 + 93)(94 ‑ 93) = (94 + 93)(1)

So, saying that 187 = 94^{2} ‑ 93^{2} = 94 + 93 is kind of like saying the same thing twice, just in different ways.

**Answers**

**1.** Count von Count

**2.** 34,969

**3.** Jerry Nelson, who passed away on August 23. R. I. P.

### What is Your Favorite Number?

The WordPress Post-A-Week Challenge sends me a daily topic idea to consider for blog posts. Often, the prompts are not appropriate for a math jokes blog. For instance, some recent prompts have been:

- Grab the nearest book (or website) to you right now. Jump to paragraph 3, second sentence. Write it in a post.
- How do you find your muse?
- If you could bring one fictional character to life for a day, who would you choose?

But today’s prompt landed in my wheelhouse:

What is your favorite number, and why?

When Art Benjamin appeared on the Colbert Report, he said that 2,520 was his favorite number when he was a kid. When Stephen Colbert asked him why, he replied, “It was the smallest number that was divisible by all the numbers from 1 through 10.”

Tonight, I asked my twin sons Alex and Eli what their favorite numbers are.

Eli: 5, 15, 55, because my favorite number is really 5, but 15 and 55 are triangular numbers that have 5’s in them.

Alex: 21, because my favorite numbers used to be 1 and 2, and because it’s the number of cards you deal when we play Uno (3 players, 7 cards each).

My favorite number is 153, for lots of reasons:

- It is the smallest non-trivial Armstrong (or narcissistic) number — that is, it is an
*n*‑digit number that is equal to the sum of the*n*th powers of its digits: 1^{3}+ 5^{3}+ 3^{3}= 153. - Its prime factors are 3 and 17, and my birthday is 3/17.
- It is a triangular number. (Consequently, it’s the sum of 1 + 2 + 3 + … + 17.) As 351 is also a triangular number, 153 is also a reversible triangular number.
- It is the sum of the first five factorials: 1! + 2! + 3! + 4! + 5! = 153.
- The sum of its digits is 9, and the sum of its proper divisors is 9
^{2}. - It is one of only six known truncated triangular numbers, which means that 1, 15 and 153 are all triangular numbers.

Mathematician John Baez claims that his favorite numbers are 5, 8, and 24.

Got a favorite number? Share it, as well as the reason it’s your favorite, in the comments.