Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Day of Dozens

This date will be that last instance when the month, day and year match for the next 100 years.  I thought this was worth mentioning.

The number “12" has long been recognized by mathematicians and scientists as a sublime or perfect number, a quality it derives from its divisibility. There are relatively few small numbers that can be evenly divided into so many subsets. The number 12 can be evenly divided into halves, thirds, fourths, sixths, and twelfths. Multiples of 12, by definition, retain this divisibility.

But that is not all!  There are 12 months in a year.  There are 24 hours in a day - 12 hours ante-meridiem and 12 hours post-meridiem.  Noon and midnight are 12pm and 12 am respectively.  The basic units of time - 60 seconds, 60 minutes, and 24 hours - are all perfectly divisible by 12.

A basic non-metric unit of measurement is a dozen (12 units).  A foot consists of 12 inches.  A troy pound is 12 ounces.  Force 12 on the Beaufort wind force scale corresponds to the maximum wind speed of a hurricane.  There are 12 basic hues in the color wheel.  12 individuals sit on a jury of one’s peers, and 12 men have walked on the moon.  The human body has 12 pairs of ribs and 12 pairs of cranial nerves. The average man has 12 pints of blood.  And for my Canadian friends . . . the House, or the circular scoring area in curling, is 12 feet in diameter.

There were 12 Olympians in the Greek pantheon of gods. Hercules had 12 labors. The Western and Chinese zodiacs each have 12 twelve signs or constellations.  King Arthur's round table had 12 knights.  Virgil’s epic poem The Aeneid, as well as John Milton’s Paradise Lost, are each divided into 12 books.

Muhammad had 12 successors known as Imams.  They were infallible and had a close relationship with God.  When the twelfth Imam returns he will bring justice and peace to the world.  According to the Quran, “And there gushed forth from it twelve springs, and every people knew its watering place. Eat and drink from the provision of Allah.” 

The Bible is full of twelves.  Revelations 21:12 describes the city of Jerusalem descending from the heavens: “And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel.”  Jacob had 12 sons who were the progenitors of these 12 tribes.  Ishmael also had 12 sons. There were 12 minor prophets in the Old Testament, and the New Testament’s 12 Apostles gave the world the teachings of Christ.  And 12 days of Christmas which will soon be upon us.

Like I said, it seemed worth mentioning.

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