Factoid Friday – Significant Numbers: Is Three A Crowd?

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”


In the past on this blog they’ve been ‘beautiful’, they’ve been ‘big’ and they’ve been ‘unusual’. Today we have the first of a selection of ‘significant’ numbers, so-called because of their use and the beliefs surrounding them.



3 Three

The number 3 is perhaps the most significant of all numbers. I’m sure at some time in our lives we have all heard that “things happen in 3’s.” There are lots of sayings and superstitions connected with the number 3. For example,

  • luck, especially bad luck, is often said to “come in threes”;
  • there is an American superstition which says that celebrity deaths tend to occur in threes;
  • in Vietnam, there is a superstition that considers it bad luck to take a photo with three people in it; it is professed that the person in the middle will die soon;
  • some people believe that it is unlucky to take a third light, that is, to be the third person to light a cigarette from the same match or lighter. (This superstition is said to have originated among soldiers in the trenches of the First World War when a sniper might see the first light, take aim on the second and fire on the third.);
  • the phrase “Third time’s the charm” is the opposite of the previous belief and refers to the superstition that after two failures in any endeavor, a third attempt is more likely to succeed; although where something illegal is involved it can mean that the third man to do something gets caught.


Many world religions contain triple deities or concepts of trinity, including,

  • the Christian Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit);
  • the Hindu Tridevi and Trimurti (Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, and Shiva the Destroyer );
  • the Three Jewels of Buddhism;
  • the Three Pure Ones of Taoism (heaven, human, earth);
  • and the Triple Goddess of Wicca.

There are also three main Abrahamic religions: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.


According to the Chinese, 3 is a perfect number.

To the Mayan, the sacred number of woman.

Egyptians see it as the number of the cosmos.


There are three types of universe  –  matter, astral (mental or soul) and spirit.

There are three main galaxy morphological classifications: Ellipticals, Spirals and Lenticulars.

The Roman numeral III stands for giant star in the Yerkes spectral classification scheme.

Earth is the third planet in its local Solar System, hence the name of the popular comedy show ‘3rd Rock From The Sun’.

The Moon has three phases.


Three is the atomic number of lithium.

Atoms consist of three constituents  –  protons, neutrons, and electrons.

There are three types of matter  –  animal, vegetable, and mineral.


There are 3 primary colors with which it is possible to obtain all the other colors we can see, because human color vision is trichromatic (because the brain uses three independent channels to process color information).

Strangely though, different applications use a different combination of primary colors, for example, CRT (TV) displays which use additive combinations of colors, normally have red, green, and blue as their primary colors; whereas in printing, which uses a subtractive combination of colors, the primary colors are usually cyan, magenta, and yellow; although most artists prefer the  red, yellow, blue combination.


Finally, a natural number is divisible by three if the sum of its digits in base 10 is divisible by 3. For example, the number 21 is divisible by three (3 times 7) and the sum of its digits is 2 + 1 = 3. Because of this, the reverse of any number that is divisible by three (or indeed, any permutation of its digits) is also divisible by three. For instance, 1368 and its reverse 8631 are both divisible by three (and so are 1386, 3168, 3186, 3618, etc..).


And finally, finally, how about 3 Degrees  


14 thoughts on “Factoid Friday – Significant Numbers: Is Three A Crowd?

  1. What about “going down for the third time”, a myth that a person drowning, finally succumbs after disappearing below the water twice before? And I couldn’t be a good gearhead if I failed to mention “three on the tree”, a 3-speed manual transmission with the gearshift on the steering column, as opposed to the “four on the floor” 4-speed in the center console. Not to mention the legendary “440 six-pack”, the great Dodge 440 cubic inch engine with three 2-barrel carbs. And most famously, the great Dale Earnhardt, who drove in NASCAR with the number 3.
    Then we go airborne – what about the 3-engined DC-10 and L-1011? They carried three engines, because in the past, the FAA wouldn’t let a twin engine fly across the Atlantic or Pacific, for fear of single engine loss causing the plane to crash. How about the Italian Air Force bombers of WW2, many of which carried three engines because the Italian engines were down on power as compared to other countries’ entries?
    But you know, I could forgive all those examples, if you hadn’t failed to mention that most holy of holies, that tremendous trinity that binds the whole cosmos together, that most important of all things related to three – The Three Stooges! (I know, you were just “a victim of coicumstance”! 😀 )

    • Thanks for your comments. Wow, you know a lot of stuff about 3! The drowning one is a good one, but I’m not a gearhead so if I’d remembered I’d probably have included one of those funny three-wheelers the British used to drive that rolled over on its side if you went round a corner too fast.
      I like the aircraft stuff but – and sorry about this – I was never a Three Stooges fan,

      • (GASP!) No Stooges? BLASPHEMY! Out, you foul, vile sinner, and come ye not back until ye have accomplished The Curly Shuffle! 😀
        Do you live somewhere you can get”Top Gear” from the UK? (Not the pathetic US clone.) They have done several shows featuring the Reliant Robin (the 3-wheeler), including turning one into a space shuttle. No surprise – it crashed and burned, literally. Lotsa fun!
        Oh, and what about all the outlets in YOUR house – 3 holes, right? (Ours is far older, and lacks grounding wires for the third hole, hence the outlets are two-holers. Fun – NOT!) And if you want to really challenge your sci-fi fan friends, there’s the 3-armed, 3-legged Edoan helmsman Lt. Arex, from the animated Star Trek series! (Plus we’re on the third Doctor Who of the modern series, but that’s a contentious issue. 😉 )

        • Reliant Robin is the very job. Then there was the Bubble Car that had one door (the whole front opened up), no side or back doors and no reverse gear. If you drove it into your garage too close to the back wall you couldn’t get out.
          Top Gear UK is a brilliant show. I can get some of it BBC America but there are other ways and means as well.
          Dr Who fan? Maybe the Daleks should have been mentioned too, since they have three thingummybobs sticking out of their shell.

      • “Thingummybobs”? You know, you should lay off the highly technical jargon, if you want average Joes to comment. 😉
        Yeah, the little Messerschmidt bubble car. Made by the remnants of the German aircraft company that mad the 109 fighters that took on the RAF Spitfires and Hurricanes, as well as ….
        Ahem. The wife just lovingly suggested not EVERYONE is a World War 2 freak like me. Excuse me, I gotta go get an ice pack. 😀

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