Which numbers do people most commonly consider lucky?
Do you have a lucky number? If so, what is it? Fans of the Big Bang Theory will know that Sheldon Cooper has a most particular answer to this question.
In travelling, many of us have noticed global differences in which numbers are considered lucky and unlucky. “Why does this building have no floor number X?”
In modern China, we learn from the China Highlights website, ‘8’ is associated with wealth. ‘Eight’ (八) in Chinese is pronounced ‘ba’ and sounds similar to fa (发, trad. 發, i.e. facai 发财), meaning “well-off” or “getting rich in a short time”. Thus 8 is said to invite great wealth.’
Oxford-trained mathematician and best-selling author Alex Bellos was interested in looking broadly at favourite numbers. After 30,025 responses to his survey, Bellos found one clear winner: lucky number 7. As he reports in his 2014 Alex Through The Looking-Glass: How Life Reflects Numbers, and Numbers Reflect Life, the most popular lucky numbers in order were:
Bellos Favourite Numbers Survey
Franklin Carmichael. The Group of Seven
Farm, Haliburton. 1940
A.Y. Jackson. The Group of Seven
House of Ypres. 1917-18
Bellos is not the only one to report out on the desirability of ‘7.’ The #7 soccer jersey has graced the back of some of the sport’s most renowned players. Newcastle University’s Steve Humble did his own poll of 442 attendees at the 2015 UK Numbers Festival. He too found #7 placing at the top.
Newcastle University Favourite Numbers Poll
Frank Johnston. The Group of Seven
Promise of Spring. 1930
Arthur Lismer. The Group of Seven
Olympic with Returned Soldiers. 1919
So: why do so many look to the number 7 for good fortune? Theories abound:
1. Some feel that a widespread preference for the #7 is rooted in the Old Testament and the Story of The Creation. ‘And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.’
2. Some relate the number seven to the notion that the ancient world housed seven planets: the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.
3. Significant sevens swirl around our school learnings and day to day lives: seven days in the week, the Seven Seas, Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Virtues, Seventh Heaven, Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
4. The human head has seven key orifices: eyes, nostrils, ears, and mouth.
J.E.H. MacDonald. The Group of Seven
Tracks and Traffic. 1912
Frederick Horsman Varley. The Group of Seven
Church at Yale, BC. 1930
5. Take to your piano and you’ll find that there are 7 unique notes in major and minor scales.
6. Our phone numbers, minus the newish obligatory area codes, are 7 digits. Since the 1950s, psychologists such as Harvard’s George A. Miller have talked about ‘The Magic Number Seven, plus or minus two.’ The idea is that we humans can effectively hold only seven (± 2) bits or chunks of information in our short term or working memories.
7. Alex Bellos, our author mathematician, thinks the truth lies more clearly in the number itself. ‘Seven is not because of planets, orbits, or orifices, but because of arithmetic. Seven is unique among the first ten numbers because it is the only number that cannot be multiplied or divided within the group.. of course the number feels special. It is!’
Whatever the reason, seven continues to have widespread, serious fans. And might one tiny slice of the magic that is The Sound of Music lie in the fact that there were seven children?
“Do you like children, Maria?”
“Well, yes, but seven?!”
After all, the real von Trapp family had 10 children.
Header: Lawren Harris.The Group of Seven.
Ice House, Coldwell. Lake Superior, 1943