A dozen reasons something's special about the number 12

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Some are making a fuss about the Mayan Calendar, which supposedly runs out a week from Friday, Dec. 21, 2012.

Those who have an obsession with numbers may be more interested in today's date, Dec. 12, 2012, or 12-12-12 in shorthand. Depending on how old they are, they may have had the same fetish about 4-5-67, 5-6-78 or dozens of other combinations.

But even those who are blase about the calendar have to admit there's something special about the number 12.

Here are a dozen examples:

1. For mathematicians, 12 is a smallest number with exactly six divisors -- 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 12. It's also a sublime number, a superfactorial and the ninth Perrin number. You can looks those up.

2. It's the atomic number of magnesium in the periodic table, the human body has 12 cranial nerves, and the duodenum, the first part of the small intestine, is about 12 inches long. And, Force 12 on the Beaufort wind force scale corresponds to the maximum wind speed of a hurricane.

3. Messier object M12 is a magnitude 8.0 globular cluster in the constellation Ophiuchus, and NGC 12 is a magnitude 13.1 spiral galaxy in the constellation Pisces.

4. In the Bible, Jacob has 12 sons, progenitors of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, Jesus has 12 disciples and there are many other examples. In Orthodox Judaism, a girl is mature at 12 for her bat mitzvah, there are 12 days of Christmas -- from Christmas day to the eve of Epiphany; there are 12 Imams as legitimate successors to Muhammad, the Hindu god Surya has 12 names, and then there were the 12 Labours of Hercules.

5. The starting rugby center most often wears the number 12, American football teams depend on the support of fans -- the 12th man -- and Texas A & M reserves the number 12 for a walk-on player -- and jersey no. 12 has been retired for sports greats such as Wade Boggs, Bob Griese, Joe Namath, Roger Staubach and Terry Bradshaw. There are 12 men on a Canadian football team, 12 strikes will get you a perfect game in bowling and the goal in curling is a circle 12 feet in diameter.

6. Most PC keyboards have 12 function keys and a standard digital telephone has 12 keys.

7. We've enjoyed going to movies like 12 Angry Men, Cheaper by the Dozen, Ocean's Twelve, 12 Monkeys and the Dirty Dozen.

8. There are 12 basic hues in the color wheel.

9. There are 12 ounces in a troy pound.

10. There are 12 constellations in the signs of the zodiac.

11. There were 12 pence in a shilling in the old British currency system.

12. There are normally 12 pairs of ribs in the human body.

And we haven't mentioned 12 people on a jury, 12 people who have walked on the moon, the 12 Federal Reserve Districts in the United States or the fact that American paper currency has serial numbers beginning with one of 12 different letters representing those districts.

As for the Mayans, their years were divided into 18 months of 20 days each, plus five "unlucky days" at the end of the year.

Clearly, the Mayans got it all wrong.

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