July 04, 2011

823 and counting

What is it about the peculiar appeal of any random "numerological" claim to do with the calendar? The latest is here, a bit of flim-flam that's also making the sms and twitter rounds (and who knows, FB and blog rounds too).

Goes like this: There are five weekends (defined as Fri-Sat-Sun) this month. This is a once-in-823 years occurrence. Astrologers and numerologists and Feng Shui experts are being quoted left, right and centre about this wondrously rare event. One, a Ajay Bhambi, has it that this is a "mathematical rarity in the calendar". Another, a Sanjay Jumani, uses this as an opportunity to trumpet what he had "predicted": "This year … has been expensive right from the beginning. It will be expensive even till the end."

(Does anyone take these guys seriously? Really, anyone?)

What do you say about this stuff? I have to confess being nearly speechless on reading this 823 news. I mean, July 2005 had five weekends. July 2016 will be the same. 823 years? Where did they get that number from, this nonsense from? Why does triviality like this get gasped at and passed on in wonder?

All it takes is a little reflection, really, to know how routine a five-weekend month is. It can only happen in a month with 31 days (less than that, and you won't have three days all occurring five times in the month). There are seven such months in a year. For such a month to have five weekends, it must begin on a Friday (in which case the five weekends are 1st-2nd-3rd, 8th-9th-10th, 15th-16th-17th, 22nd-23rd-24th, 29th-30th-31st). There are seven days in a week. So it's a good bet that one of those seven 31-day months in the year will start on a Friday and will thus have five weekends.

In other words, it's a good bet that one month every year will have five weekends.

(Given the way the calendar is structured, the probabilities are not quite so straightforward, but the analysis is close enough).

And this is borne out, if you look at your calendar. In 2011, July has five weekends. In 2012, no month does. 2013: March. 2014: August. 2015: May. 2016: January AND July. 2017: December.

What was that about 823 years?

What really should happen only once every 823 years is any attention paid to astrologers and numerologists. Preferably, make that 8230 years.

Meanwhile, I have this to offer: this year has been 2011 right from the beginning. It will be 2011 even till the end.


Vincent said...

"(Does anyone take these guys seriously? Really, anyone?)"

Yes, journalists who publish articles on this nonsense.

Jabberwock said...

Dilip: I remember being befuddled when I first saw that "1 in 823" claim on someone's Facebook status. It was completely counter-intuitive for starters, and it took me barely 2 minutes of scrolling on my cellphone calendar to discover at least 3 such months in the last 4 years. Bizarre how people spread these memes.