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Serendipity

Karen Telleen-Lawton: Fun with Numbers

Don't let your Beddian year pass by without notice

We are a family of numerophiles. We like number patterns for their own sakes, without regard to numerology or the Fibonacci sequence.

Karen Telleen-Lawton
Karen Telleen-Lawton

When the kids were young, for instance, they would cheer from the back seat of the car whenever the digital clock blinked 11:11, 12:34 or some other fun combination. As pre-teens, they were thrilled to discover that they would be graduating high school in the years 2000 and 2001.

My husband and I were sorry not to nab a wedding date of 7/8/78 (we took the next weekend), but now our daughter is planning October nuptials (10/10). Our son missed a birth date of 8/3/83 by a few hours. A friend of ours did deliver on 8/3/83, and I don’t think she appreciates it nearly enough.

“I’d had 35 hours of labor — I didn’t care what day it was,” Chris says. Her husband, Brian, is a true numerophile. “If she could only have waited 13 more minutes, Amy could have been born at 8:03 on 8/3/83,” he says.

“Oh, brother,” Chris says.

This year, my husband and I both reach something truly memorable: our Beddian years. A freelance math writer in Minnesota named Barry Cipra published a paper on the Beddian year, named for a New York firefighter who reveled in having reached the same age as the year he was born. Beddian’s birth year was 1953; thus, he reached his long-awaited year when he turned 53, in 2006. Tragically, he also died that year fighting a fire, which is why Cipra chose to memorialize him with the appellation.

My parents, born in 1930, scrambled through their Beddian years unaware: They were 30 and busy with three pre-schoolers. Our kids will be in their 80s when their special years roll around. On the other hand, babies born in the year 2000 achieved their Beddian year at birth, perhaps before they were fully able to appreciate it.

For the past decade, the centurions among us have had a second chance to celebrate their Beddian year — once as infants or children and once since the turn of the millennium.

I’m a numerophile, but not a mathematician. I did enjoy mathematics through high school, until the numbers were completely replaced by letters, somewhere between calculus and linear equations. I only achieved satisfaction in graduate economics when I could plug real numbers into endless Lagrangian equations. 

But I still find myself marveling at number relationships. Just last month I discovered one while measuring my variously sized pie tins, trying to match the size called for in a holiday recipe. I started noticing how the pie tins’ circumferences were consistently a little more than three times their diameters. I was so excited that I called my husband to tell him about it. His reply? “Duh. That was discovered over 4,000 years ago.”

So I made some humble pie for his Beddian birthday. Happy 5th, 55th and 105th to this year’s Beddian celebrators!

— Karen Telleen-Lawton’s column is a mélange of observations supporting sustainability. Graze her writing and excerpts from Canyon Voices: The Nature of Rattlesnake Canyon at www.CanyonVoices.com.

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