Fifty-Seven

“Pick a number from 1 to 100.”

Today I’m thinking about the number: 57.

What can be said about the number fifty-seven?

It almost looks like it might be a prime number (due, I expect, to the five and the seven, both of which are prime). But it’s not prime (or in its prime). It’s divisible by 3, and that’s easy to see, because:

5 + 7 = 12;  1 + 2 = 3

That trick works for any number divisible by three. Just keep reducing the digits by adding them until you get a single digit. If that digit is divisible by 3 (3, 6 or 9), then the number can be divided by three. We could even have stopped at the 12, since that is also divisible by 3.

A similar trick works for numbers you can divide by 9 (which, of course, is 3 to the power of 3).  Consider 101,745. Is it divisible by 9?

1 + 1 + 7 + 4 + 5 = 18;  1 + 8 = 9

Yes it is! (And any number divisible by 9 is also divisible by 3.)

Since we’re playing with math, I’m using the digits rather than their names. Usually when writing any number below 10, you use the name, not the digit. (And you can use the name any time above 10 if it makes the writing look or flow better.)

But I digress from today’s topic, the number fifty-seven.

In base seven, it’s a repeating-digit number: 57 = 1117

In base three, it’s almost the current year: 57 = 20103

[It’s a pity it’s not 2012, but that’s just me.]

It’s also a Leyland number: 25 + 52 = 57

There was a Wesley Snipes movie, Passenger 57, where I learned the value of expecting a movie to be a shallow bit of silly fluff. When you expect it, then you find the movie quite enjoyable. (There is a life lesson there about expectations!) Oddly, it’s a movie I still rather enjoy when I happen to catch it channel surfing. It did well enough to launch Snipes as an action hero, even though Rotten Tomatoes only gives it a 23% (critics) / 47% (audience) rating. Maybe I just like Wesley Snipes; I have a soft spot for the Blade movies, too.

There’s a great Bruce Springsteen song, 57 Channels (and Nothin’ On), that isn’t just a catchy tune to me. It speaks to me about the amount of shallow, pointless content we’re deluged by these days. It’s only gotten worse as the interweb takes over so many aspects of our lives, so it’s a bit prescient. (The Boss did another tune with “57” in the title; can you name that tune?)

Speaking of music, as someone who’s done tech work for stage and a little bit of music recording, the Shure SM57 was the microphone of the day! The Wikipedia article says it’s been used by every U.S. president since the mic was invented back in 1965 (which wasn’t many years before I first used them in high school).

There’s an astronomical object, Messier 57, also called the Ring Nebula. It’s located in the constellation of Lyra. [I think it would be cooler if it was in Virgo, but that’s just me.] On the other hand, Lyra contains one of the brightest stars in the sky, Vega. (And that star figures prominently in the book and movie, Contact, subject of an upcoming post.)

Speaking of space (space is the place), the Earth’s orbit around the sun is about 587,000,000 miles. In 57 years, the Earth has traveled almost 33.5 billion miles. That’s a lot of mileage! (The Earth travels over 1.5 million miles per day!)

And then, of course, there’s Heinz 57. Originally it was an advertising slogan from 1896 (a good bit more than 100 years ago). It has come to mean anything made of lots of different parts. And in that sense, it certainly applies to many aspects of my life (perhaps yours as well).

Funny thing, though. I do like that Heinz 57 steak sauce, but I’ve never been a fan of ketchup. Too bland for a spicy guy like me!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

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