Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Happy Square Root Day

So, on Twitter this morning I noticed a few people sending tweets to the effect that today is Square Root Day. At first I didn't know what they were talking about, until some more sympathetic soul included the date in a message: 3/3/09.

So, one of my graduate students who just recently started following me on Twitter, Tommy Wesely, or rather @Tommywesely, tweeted in response:

3.3.9 is square root day, the next square root day will not occur until 4.4.16... if we don't cease to exist in 2012

Good one Tommy, and holding Mayans calendars aside, that started me thinking about Square Root Days past. Given the format, there must be nine of them every century. Well, the first one I would have been alive for would be 8/8/64, at which point I was just shy of my seventh birthday, and hardly aware of such things.

The second one that came in my lifetime was 9/9/81, and I don't recall any mention being made of it. We were probably too caught up in the shock of having an actor in the White House.

Next, there was 1/1/01. No doubt the fact that it was a Square Root Day was overshadowed by the fact that it was the first day of a new millennium! Kinda hard to top that!

The last Square Root Day was 2/2/04. Since that was Groundhog Day, the question of how much longer winter would last was no doubt monopolizing our attention.

But of course, for all of these previous Square Root Days, there was no Twitter. The whole Web 2.0/social media wave that we're currently riding was just getting started. And who would even pay attention to such things as Square Root Day in the first place?

I know I would, actually (wish I had thought of it, to be honest). When you come down to it, it's just another example of Geek Chic, my friends! But in order for Square Root Day to become a meme, you need an actual network willing to support such a meme. Like Twitter. And there you have it.

In our new media environment, the preeminent place that words have always enjoyed in human culture has been undermined on one side by images, and on the other, by numbers. This is the postmodern condition.

More on this subject next Logarithm Day...

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