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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Being 47

Today I am 47. Nothing remarkable about that except that I am told 47 is another one of those numbers that has some significance in the world of pop culture.

Forty Two and its link to 'Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy' I knew about but even though I have most probably watched every Star Trek episode, I had not thought, until informed by a member of my staff, that 47 might be Gene Roddenberry's lucky number and that he made a point of writing the number into as many episodes of the legendary science fiction saga as he could. Apparently, subsequent writers followed suit as a tribute to the Star Trek creator.

Wikipedia offer another explanation:

There exists a 47 society, an outgrowth of a movement started at Pomona College, California, USA, which propagates the belief (or, to some, the inside joke) that the number forty-seven occurs in nature with noticeably higher frequency than other natural numbers. The origin of 47 lore at Pomona appears to be a mathematical proof, written in 1964 by Professor Donald Bentley, which supposedly demonstrated that all numbers are equal to 47. However, the proof mentioned above was used by Professor Bentley as a "joke proof" to introduce his students to the concept of mathematical proofs, and is not mathematically valid.

Joe Menosky, who graduated from Pomona College in 1979 and went on to become one of the story writers of Star Trek: The Next Generation, "infected" other Star Trek writers with it, and as a result the number (or its reverse, 74) occurs in some way or other in almost every episode of this program and its spin-offs Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise. The number might be mentioned in the dialogue, appear on a computer screen a character is looking at, or be a substring of a larger number. The number also appears on some of the DVD menu screens for the episodes. They range from extremely obvious (for example, "shields are down to 47%"), to very well hidden. Some examples are listed here:

In the TNG episode "Darmok," Worf reports a particle gradient of 4/7.
In the DS9 episode "Whispers," the planet Parada 4 has seven moons.
In the Voyager episode "Non Sequitur," Harry Kim lives in apartment 4-G, G being the seventh letter of the alphabet. The intentionality of this reference to 47 was confirmed by Brannon Braga, the writer of that episode.

According to a joke by Rick Berman (the co-creator and executive producer of several Star Trek series), "47 is 42, corrected for inflation".

It can only be a matter of time before Anoraks go on sale with the number 47 on them.
Happy Birthday Peter. Make sure you take some time off to relax/celebrate!
Happy birthday, Peter! And finally a reason to consider watching Deep Space Nine :)
Penblwydd Hapus! I wonder if they'll sing for you in plenary this afternoon?
Well the PO's 60th passed without mention so I hope my birthday does as well.
Peter - you'd have been younger under the Tories!
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