Wednesday, September 9, 2009

When All The Nines Collide

Exactly a year ago, I wrote "The Numerical Obsession".

In the article, I began by saying that,

"Today is 9th of September or 090908. In exactly a year's time, the date will be 090909."
So, this is it, today is 090909, 9th September 2009.

090909 is obviously a unique date and we are only left with just three more similarly 'unique' days: 101010, 111111 and 121212.

On this very 'special' day, which is the 252nd day in the year, I will just talk about 'Nine', anything about 'Nine'. (How more random can it get?)

Here you go, 19 "Trivial Pursuits" for 'Nine.

1. The Chinese Like It

090909 is a combination pleasing to the Chinese. 'Nine' (九) has the same sound as 'forever' (久) and it will certainly add more meaning to marriage vows taken today. However, there is just a little snag, as today is within the 7th Lunar month. Traditionally, it is a taboo to be married in this month.

2. 9th September Every Year

Every year, 9th Sep is taken to be the "Teddy Bear Day".

Stuffed toy bears are commonly known as "Teddy Bears". The name "Teddy" came from the name of the 26th President of the US, Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909), following an incident on a hunting trip in 1902. During that trip, Roosevelt refused to kill a bear cub.

3. Death on 9th September

33 years ago, the famous Chinese leader Mao Ze Dong (毛泽东) passed away on 9th Sep 1976, at the age of 82.

Mao was the Chief architect of the Chinese revolution. He rose to prominence after he led the communist party on the epic 6,000 mile "long march" when they fled attacks from the nationalist Kuomintang (国民党
) in the mid 1930s. In 1949 he became chairman of the newly established People's Republic of China.

4. Birth on 9th September

9 Sep is the birthday of one of my favorite actors, Hugh Grant. He turns 49 today.

Yo, Hugh! Forget about the 'Four Weddings and a Funeral", it is your day today. Happy birthday!

5. National Celebration on 9th September

61 years ago, North Korea was officially established. As an extremely closed country, it would take lots of imagination to visualize how this day will be celebrated. (I don't suppose you believe what you see on their national TV, do you?)

Anyway, Happy Republic Day to all the North Koreans.

6. 9th September in History

More than two centuries ago, a great city was named after a great man.

On 9 Sep 1791, Washington DC, the capital of the the United States, was named after the 1st President of the US, George Washington.

7. Writing Number Nine

The origin of the 9 integer can be traced back to the ancient Indian civilization.

In most font types, '9' is written as an inverted image of '6'. That sometimes causes some confusion. One way to tell them apart is to underline these two numbers. However, 'nine' is normally handwritten with a straight stem, making it more differentiable.

8. Nine In Other Languages

  • Chinese: Jiu (九,)
  • Malay: Sembilan
  • Japanese: Kyu
  • French: Neuf
  • Spanish: Nueve
  • Italine: Nove
  • Germain: Neun
  • Hokkien/Cantonese/Teochew/Hainanese: Gao (in varying tones)

9. Call The Police

999 is the number to call at times of emergency (in Singapore). Why 999? Why not 111, 888 or any other numbers?

Before the push button dial pad was invented, telephones came with a mechanical dial. It would take the least time to dial '111' and yet ' 999' was the chosen number.

In those days, the old electromechanical technology depended on intervals of pulses to make up a number combination. Under such a system, it was easy to dial '111' by accident and thus making '999' a 'surer' number to use.

Today, with the use of mobile phones, it can be problematic using numbers such as '999'. Accidental consecutive knocks on the keypad may trigger an unintended emergency call. Given this problem, it will be better to use non-identical numbers such as 911 (used in the US).

10. Periodic Table

Fluorine is the 9th element in the periodic table which has a total of 117 elements. It is represented by the symbol F. If you only want to know one thing about fluorine, just remember that it is used in toothpaste to prevent dental cavities.

11. Tic Tac Toe

This is a familiar childhood game for many. Given the 3x3 grid, we fill in naughts and crosses in the nine spaces. It is believed that this game has its origin from the ancient Egypt.

I am sure I don't have to explain the rules of the game.

12. The Calculator Game

When I grew bored in school, I used to play with the calculator. One of the more fascinating ones involved the use of the multiples of 9, ie. 9, 18... to 81.

If you enter '12345679' (skip 8) and multiply it with the 3rd multiple of 'nine', ie '27', you will get '333,333,333'. If you repeat the same with the 9th multiple of 'nine', ie. '81', you will get '999,999,999'. The same goes with the other multiples of 'nine'.

Cheap thrill, I know, but it gave me some fun, while I looked diligent and intelligent before any teacher caught up with me.

13. Geometry

In this aspect of mathematics and sciences, we learn about 'Polygons'.

A polygon is a figure which has three or more straight sides and lying on one plane. When a polygon has nine sides, we call it nonagon.

14. Binary

In mathematics, we write binary numbers with "0" and "1" only.

Counting from the right, the first number represents 1 and the next represents 2 and followed by 4, 8, 16 and so on. For example, in binary, 'one' is written as '1', 'two' is written as '10' 'four' is written as '100', 'eight' is written as '1000' and 'three is written as '11'.

Can you figure out how 'nine' is written in binary?

15. Roman Numerals

This is the numeral system used by the ancient Rome. The numbers are represented by certain letters of the alphabet and their relative positions.

The basic of Roman Numerals begins with the symbols.

  • 'I' represents '1'
  • 'V' represents '5'
  • 'X' represents '10'
  • 'L' represents '50'
  • 'C' represents '100'
  • 'D' represents '500'
  • 'M' represents '1000'
To form a number, you simply add the values of all the symbols. So, 'XXII' is '22' and 'LXXX' is '80'. You can also place just one symbol to the left of another and apply the 'subtraction rule'. For example, 'IV' means subtracting 1 from 5 giving you 4 and CD means subtracting 100 from 500 giving you 400.

Now, what is 2009 and 999 in Roman numerals?

16. Chinese Numerals

In the standard way, the Chinese numerals of 1 to 9 are written as 一,二,三,四,五,六,七,八,九. However, when used for financial purposes, these characters are not good enough as they can be easily forged or doctored. So, another set of characters are used instead: 壹,贰,叁,肆,伍,陆,柒,捌,玖.

The next time you prepare a cheque in Chinese numerals, remember to use the latter set.

17. The Solar System and The 9th Planet

When I was in school, the teachers made us memorize the nine planets in the Solar System: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto (M V E M J S U N P).

Later, we were taught an easier way to remember with the use of the Mnemonic method. With the help of the phrase, "My Very Evil Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas", the order can be easily recalled.

From the above, you can tell that the 9th planet is Pluto (or rather, it used to be).

Pluto was discovered in 1930. However, it was booted out of the Solar System family in 2006 as the scientists decided that it does not fit into the way they would like to classify 'Planets'.

Poor Pluto!

Since then, we are left with a 8-Planet Solar System. Grown-ups, I am afraid you would have to unlearn and relearn. Try this new phrase to help you, "My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nachos."

18. Nonagenarian

We call those people living up to the age of 90 and more, nonagenarians.

Unless I am from Okinawa, Japan, chances are I would not live long enough to become one. In Okinawa, there are 34.7 centenarians for every 100,000 inhabitants, probably the highest ratio in the world.

According to the Department of Statistics in Singapore, the life expectancy of a Singaporean female is 83.2 years, way short of the age of 90. (Sorry guys, you will be going back to Mars 4.8 years earlier).

19. A Song of Nines

Lastly, you can find lots of nine's in this song by pop singer Lee Dickey: "9,999,999 Tears" (video 2:57).

This song taught me at least one thing, ie. how to express this very long number in words. Just take a look at part of the lyrics below and you will know what I mean. (By the way, this song drives me crazy)
"Got nine million nine hundred ninety nine thousand nine hundred ninety nine tears to go. And then I don't know if I'll be over you...."

(it repeats, up to the point before you go nuts)

The above are some 19 well-known and less-known facts about 'nine'. Before I end, let's go back to what was asked earlier.

a. 'Nine' written in binary: 1001
b. 2009 and 999 written in Roman numerals: MMIX and CMXCIX

I hope you've got them correct.

You might want to spend this special day watching "District 9" which is now being screened in Singapore cinemas or catch the special preview of "9" at Shaw.

appy 090909.

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