Notorious Numerals: 13 Famous Numbers That Changed the World

Pi Over the weekend I watched a PBS special on Andy Warhol. It’s one of those awesome documentaries that makes you re-evaluate existence itself and reassess the value of everything around you.

One of the central themes of Warhol’s work was the concept of celebrity, which made me think about last week’s Digg meltdown and how a single number was the source of all the noise. This single number became a celebrity overnight (kind of like the girl from Heroes).

If a hotel heiress can be a celebrity, why not a number? So here is my list of celebrity numbers – numerals that are famous, notorious, or world-changing, and in no particular order:


Pi, formerly known as 3.14 (like Prince, but of numbers). This might be the most famous number of this millennium. It’s a little older than Abe Vigoda and is interwoven into the fabric of everything around us. Pi has an infinite number of definitions, all depending on how far you want to take it or how dorky you want to sound.


e, not as famous, yet just as cool as pi – it is a transcendental number meaning its digits never end, nor does it have an orderly pattern – it goes to infinity and beyond! (Ok, ok, just to infinity). I’m not sure I “get it” or know why this number is so important, but I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have invented lasercats if it wasn’t for e.

1325627888 79894576510188 6590140 1704640

This is the less legally-liable (I hope) way to express the number that set off a tumultuous dork storm (most notably on Digg) last week. This is the hottest celebrity number at the moment. To put it another way, this number is the Vanilla Ice of May 2007 and holds the key to all the world’s riches. And by world’s riches I mean hd-dvd decoding in your own basement.


More accurately described as 4:20 this number will make every pothead giggle, whether it appears on a clock, a license plate, or on the take-a-number counter at the local deli.


Damien’s favorite pick-3 lottery number. If you’re a math nerd, it’s 3 perfect numbers in sequence, if you’re a goth you need to have at least 3 mentions of this on your myspace page. This number is even more sinister than its sister #13. If your house number is either of these, there’s a 99.9% chance that it’s haunted.


The inspiration for the largest data gathering service known to mankind. This number is also referred to as “googol”, which is what Google is actually named after. So 10100 is sort of like Cyberdyne’s endoskeleton arm – in that it inspires the thing that takes over and enslaves humanity. If you don’t understand the reference, you haven’t been paying attention to Google recently. This number puts the “sex” back into “ten thousand sexdecillion.” Carl Sagan’s favorite pickup line has been said to be “”A googol is precisely as far from infinity as is the number one. How you doin?”


Exactly the number of Garfield cartoons you will get in the desk calendar your aunt gave you. It is also the fifth 38-gonal number (rock-on!) and the number of days in any given year that the Buffalo Bills suck.


The basis for the metric system and the most popular number of things you will find on Digg, supermarket tabloids, and Letterman’s show. Surprisingly enough there are only 10 ways to please your man in bed, 10 things that will make or break your website, and 10 ways to lose 10 lbs in 10 days.


If the girl at the bar gives you her phone number, and she starts with these digits, you, my friend, are going to be be mighty disappointed when you try to call her. This number has been seen in hundreds if not thousands of movies over the past few decades, some great, some not so great. It’s sort of like the Samuel Jackson of the number world.


Since this is a PG-13 blog (mostly) I won’t go into what this means – if you are unsure, consult your local amateur graffiti artist. It’s also the number of licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie pop (just in case you never made it without biting).


Also known as “zilch” or “nada”. If you try to divide something by zero, your calculator will explode. Zero has appeared in many movies, car spec sheets, and basketball jerseys of kids who can’t play ball. Humanity didn’t get the concept of zero until a little while ago, which might help explain why we don’t yet have flying space cars.


Rumor has it that a promiscuous girl named Jenny will answer you if you dial this number. If you had this phone number in 1982 your life was hell.


This is exactly how many Spartans you need to fend off a few million Persians and a giant fat guy with blade-arms. It is also coincidentally the population of America in millions as of late last year. We’re catching up, China!

That’s 13.

Ok I’ll throw 1 more in, as an added bonus. So this will be 13 + 1:


Often preceded by the pound sign and often rapped about to indicate superiority to others (as in “I’m the # 1 stunna. Wh-what, wh-what, what.”) This number is so simple and basic that it’s profound. Like a can of Cambell’s soup. Seriously, you need to watch this DVD. Thu number 1 is probably the most popular number in existence. Wrap your brain around that!

I’m sure I missed about a googol of other numbers that could be considered “celebrity”, so feel free to comment and let me know what you consider to be some other famous numbers.

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