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.
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..).