The 23 enigma

From Academic Kids

The 23 Enigma is a belief that the number 23 is of particular or unusual significance, especially in relation to disasters.

Unusual circumstances being linked to 23 are mentioned by William S. Burroughs. He tells the story of meeting a ferry captain named Clark who claimed to have sailed the same route without an accident for 23 years. That very day, however, the ferry sank. Later that day, Burroughs writes, he was thinking about Clark's ferry accident when he heard that a Flight 23 on a New York-Miami route had crashed. According to Burroughs, the pilot's name for the flight had also been Clark. Burroughs began collecting incidences of the number 23 in a scrapbook and referred to them in his writings.

The 23 Enigma can also be traced to Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea's The Illuminatus Trilogy, as well as to the Principia Discordia. In these works, 23 is considered to be alternately lucky, sacred to the goddess Eris, or just plain weird. The Principia quotes "The Law of Fives" in explaining this, as 2+3=5.

Though certain numbers have long been linked to unusual coincidences (13 and 17 also being favorites), the 23 Enigma could be just an example of apophenia. There is also the fact that 23, being a fairly low number, occurs often in the media, current events, and daily life. Skeptics point out that it appears probably no more often in conjunction with catastrophe or coincidence than 22 or 24, while believers often enjoy hunting for ways in which 23 is "revealed."

A 23 enigma list

This is a list of unusual happenings or circumstances commonly brought up as instances of the 23 enigma. It should be pointed out that some entries on this list are of dubious accuracy or verification. Others are the result of stretched applicability, such as when decimals or remainders are ignored, or when modern calendars are used to synch up to ancient ones.

  • The human biorhythm is 23 days long. Though Hermann Swoboda and Wilhelm Fliess, the two doctors who first posited biorhythm, did determine that a human's 'physical cycle' was 23 days long, biorhythmics is at best a highly speculative and subjective area of study.
  • It takes 23 seconds for blood to circulate throughout the entire body. Blood is a suspension and does not flow at the same rate for all of its components. Furthermore, there is no single path blood takes when it circulates. For both these reasons, verification is both difficult and meaningless.
  • Each parent contributes 23 chromosomes to the DNA of a child. True.
  • The human arm has 23 joints in it. Unconfirmed, and confirmation depends on the definition of joint.
  • On average, every 23rd wave on a beach will be twice the size of the average wave. False. This idea exists in many parts of the world, with varying numbers of waves.
  • Earth's axis is off by 23.5 degrees. Dubious at best. For one, this is a case of stretched applicability, and it depends on using the arbitrary figure of a circle having 360 degrees to come up with an answer even close to 23.
  • Earth's period of rotation is really 23 hours and 56 minutes, not exactly 24 hours. (That's 4 minutes shorter than a day since a day is defined as the time between two noons on the same meridian, which is slightly longer than the period of rotation because meanwhile the Earth is revolving around the Sun.)
  • The first Moon landing, Apollo 11 was in the Sea of Tranquility at 23.63 degrees East. The second landing, Apollo 12, was in the Ocean of Storms, 23.42 degrees West. Also, 11 + 12, the numbers of the missions, add up to 23. Again, this is stretched as far as the degrees, and there are at least 11 pairs of integers that add to 23, not counting negative integers or zero.
  • December 23, 2012 is the date the Mayan calendar ends, predicting an apocalyptic event. The Mayan calendar's "Long Count" does indeed end on either the 21st or 23rd of December of 2012, depending on calculation.
  • Both the ancient Egyptian and Sumerian calendars begin on 23 July. Both calendars were apparently calculated from the date of the heliacal rising of Sirius, which does occur at that latitude around that time of year.
  • William Shakespeare was born on 23 April, died on 23 April and had his first portfolio published in 1623. His first play Titus Andronicus was performed January 23rd 1594. Though the last three statements are true, his actual date of birth remains unconfirmed (see his article for more information).
  • Julius Caesar was stabbed 23 times when he was assassinated. True.
  • The Prophet Muhammad taught and received the wisdom of God for 23 years. There exist hadith that support this figure, but many more that give other lengths of time.
  • The Knights Templar had 23 Grand Masters, the last being Jacques de Molay. True.
  • The first song on the first side of the first Beatles album took 23 takes. That would be "I Saw Her Standing There" from Please Please Me, but in reality, the song that took the most takes was "Love Me Do," at fifteen.
  • John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963 and his supposed assassin -- Lee Harvey Oswald -- was assassinated on November 24, 1963, the 23rd being in between. True.
  • If you add up all the digits in 9/11/2001 you get 23. Not exactly, this is another stretching. To make 23, add "11" as normal, but "2001" must be added as the numbers "2" and "1".
  • Michael Jordan's uniform number was 23 when he played for the Chicago Bulls. True
  • David Beckham wears the number 23 shirt for Real Madrid. True.
  • On a normal modern latin alphabet keyboard, the 23rd letter W is right below and between 2 and 3. True.
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt contains of 23 letters. True.
  • Pi's first six digits (3.14159) added together equal 23. True.
  • Caesar Augustus was born on 23 September. True.
  • Volkswagen's VW logo contains the roman numeral V (2+3=5) and the 23rd letter W. Volkswagen is based in Wolfsburg which starts with the 23rd letter. True.
  • 666 is said to be taken from 2/3 = 0.666. Very unlikely; see the article Number of the Beast for its history.
  • John D. Rockefeller died on 23 May. True.
  • Hagbard (Karl Koch), German hacker and inventor of the trojan horse spyware, died on 23 May. Probable, but not definite. Also most likely a suicide, with the date chosen intentionally to fit this numerology.
  • The Salt March initiated by Gandhi to protest the Salt tax, lasted 23 days.
  • On Microsoft Windows systems, a line break is stored as ASCII code 13, then ASCII code 10. On Apple Macintosh systems, a line break is stored as ASCII code 13. On Linux systems, a line break is stored as ASCII code 10. Supposedly, in telegraphy a line break is or was transmitted as a 23, as referred to in the article 23_(number).

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