Dec 31, 2009

2009, and the Year to Come

The New Year has always seemed a bit anticlimactic to me. At midnight, everything is pretty much the same as it was before: my job hasn't changed, the weather hasn't changed, my foibles haven't changed. The move from Dec. 31-Jan. 1 is little different than the change from Jan. 31-Feb. 1, Feb. 28 (9th...ooooh)-March 1, etc. However, I think it's a great idea to 'start anew' every once in a while, and Jan. 1 seems as good a time to me as any. This, in the public mind, marks the end of the 00's (actually, 2011 is the end, but whatever). When they began, I was an eighth grader, having just survived an epic battle with E-coli that (I learned later) almost killed me. Y2K was the big worry of the hour. I remember standing in my aunt and uncle's kitchen, watching the ball drop, and thinking "In 2010, I'm going to be 23 years old!"

Well, here I am, and here we are. 10 years older, two presidents (and two wars) later, hair growing on my face, high school and college degrees received, employment attained. Seems strange that 2000 feels like it was so recent. I guess that's what my grandpa is referring to when he discusses how sometimes he feels like he should still be in the 1940's.

Your 20's are supposed to be quite a time in your life. I suppose mine will be, too (though I have a three-year head start already). I welcome 2010 and the next ten years with anticipation. So, tonight, we celebrate. Tomorrow, we pave hell with our resolutions (as Mark Twain so gently put it). Today, however, I leave you with this, courtesy of John Derbyshire:

Someone wants to know if there is anything interesting to say about the number 2010.

Nothing occurs immediately. 2010 has no entry in David Wells's indispensable Dictionary of Curious and Interesting Numbers. Nor could I find a reference in Conway & Guy on a quick leaf-through.

It's a rounder-than-usual number, having sixteen factors, the usual number of factors for numbers of that size being about 4. (Note: the "usual" number of factors of a number in the region of n is (log n)log 2 — natural logs, please — which for n = 2010 comes to 4.081. See Hardy & Wright, The Theory of Numbers, §22.13.)

The OEIS turns up 154 entries for 2010, but none of them really made me jump out of my chair. It's nice that 2010 is the 16th 21-gonal number, and the 35th coefficient of the 6th-order mock theta function ρ(q), and the number of trees of diameter 7 (huh?), and belongs to the happy band of numbers which are the products of distinct substrings of themselves (2010 = 201 × 10, see?). I'm even willing to give a nod of appreciation to the fact that 20103 / 3 is the average of a pair of twin primes. On the whole, though, one is left contemplating the great universal truth that something has to happen, and that there is no number so benighted that there isn't something mildly noteworthy to say about it. (This latter fact can be proved rigorously.) We are all special!

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