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The Secret Lives of Numbers
February 11, 2002 5:44 PM   Subscribe

The Secret Lives of Numbers A couple of programmers took it upon themselves to use "a popular search engine"(just say it: Google) to determine the relative popularity of every integer up to one million. Even if you just take it as a big case of overthink, it's kind of fun to play with the Java-based visual representation, which provides some of the terms associated with the numbers as you click on them.
[Short warning inside; read before visiting.]
posted by Su (20 comments total)

 
The creaters disclaim the applet by saying it's optimized to run on a system going at 700Mhz minimum, but it ran fine on my PII-400. However, on exiting the page, my system was very...displeased with me and crashed just a minute or two later. Save anything you're working on first.
posted by Su at 5:45 PM on February 11, 2002


That's fantastic -- like swimming in three-dimensional math. When I grow up I want to write Java like that...
posted by fellorwaspushed at 6:15 PM on February 11, 2002


I looked at it. I played with it. I have no idea what it means.
posted by ColdChef at 7:30 PM on February 11, 2002


coldchef: worry not. i had the author of the initial post standing over my shoulder and explaining. i smiled and nodded, understanding nothing. made me feel like meg ryan.
posted by patricking at 7:41 PM on February 11, 2002


I like the artifact that shows up around 1900 -- seems like pages with 'years' in them are pretty prevalent.
Which is something I realizing for the first time in the visualization, even though with any thought, I would have come up with it. But it's nice to see visualizations doing their job -- making the non-obvious obvious.
posted by zpousman at 8:21 PM on February 11, 2002


How dare you, patricking! Meg Ryan is the coolest, most intelligent, snarkiest, understanding person on earth after my wife. Which she is, ever since I introduced her.

Back on topic: I liked the way 9622 was considered the greatest number ever invented. ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:23 PM on February 11, 2002


what a frickin cool piece of coding
posted by billder at 8:24 PM on February 11, 2002


Amen, but I thought 42 would have a higher ranking than it did. And the number association stuff--genius.
posted by Tacodog at 8:26 PM on February 11, 2002


That...is amazing. Perfectly implemented. Nice link!
posted by Succa at 8:48 PM on February 11, 2002


They didn't have a number association with 32767/32768 which I found kind of odd. It's somewhat relevant to programming.
posted by dave at 9:25 PM on February 11, 2002


This really is spectacular. Thank you!
posted by j.edwards at 9:30 PM on February 11, 2002


Fascinating. It doesnt take much playing around to discover not only cultural artifacts but also say the regular appearances of numbers with a simple hexadecimal representation.

I cant help but think that if someone really intelligent plays with this long enough, they can come up with something even more profound than that eerie Benford's Law.
posted by vacapinta at 9:30 PM on February 11, 2002


Hey, look at all the associations our society has with the number zero:
Associations for 0: download WinAmp 2.0, download winzip 7.0, Internet Explorer 5.0, WinZip 7.0
(it's a little less profound and eerie than I had hoped)
posted by thijsk at 12:58 AM on February 12, 2002


The datasets for you geeks out there who want to play with it. :)

http://turbulence.org/Works/nums/100k0102.txt.gz
http://turbulence.org/Works/nums/100k0498.txt.gz
http://turbulence.org/Works/nums/100k1297.txt.gz
posted by benh57 at 1:01 AM on February 12, 2002


What Tacodog said : how come 42's rank is so low ?
posted by XiBe at 1:01 AM on February 12, 2002


Su: bit of a typo, its only up to 100,000, not 1 million. But very interesting link! thank you
posted by oneiros at 4:11 AM on February 12, 2002


Hrm. The statement on the entry page says they went up to a million. I guess they limited the set available to the on-line visualization. Probably just to keep from killing people's computers.

In case anyone hadn't noticed: If you click the little box with text at top left, there's more stuff to read. Just noticed that now.
posted by Su at 4:23 AM on February 12, 2002


what the hell is up with 2387? there. there's one!
posted by rhyax at 10:35 AM on February 12, 2002


The only number that matters, 1142, doesn't turn up much. It's better that way.
posted by Succa at 9:28 PM on February 14, 2002


That is beautiful, and like many beautiful things, it makes me feel dumb.
posted by liam at 10:21 PM on February 14, 2002


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