in addition

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There are some people who write to this newspaper whenever we mention any number that is divisible by 42. There are some journalists who insert multiples of 42 into their writings just to keep the fortytwophiles on the hook. This week, however, there has been another numerical coincidence. One day, John Major and Gillian Shepherd were at sixes and sevens over the merits of giving school miscreants six of the best, and the next day Kenneth Clarke increased the bank rate. And what did he increase it to? Six per cent!

This week also, Trevor Mitchell set a world record for the number of haircuts given in an hour. Was it six? Well, no, it was 18, but six was the number of people the barber Robert Hardie shaved in one minute in 1909. Yes, six has undoubtedly been the number of the week.

Six is, after all, a perfect number. Euclid knew it was perfect, because it is equal to the sum of the integers that divide it exactly: 1, 2 and 3. And St Augustine wrote that "six is a number perfect in itself". For, he explained, "God created all things in six days because this number is perfect. And it would remain so even if the work of six days did not exist."

Six is, after all, the number of:

sides on a snowflake;

deaths caused by the Great Fire of London;

bottles in a rehoboam;

months spent by the average American waiting for red traffic lights to change;

pints capacity of the average ten-gallon hat;


feet in a fathom;

characters in search of an author;

pips in the BBC time signal;

impossible things Lewis Carroll's Red Queen sometimes believed before breakfast;

and recorded accidents in the home in the UK in 1994 involving a bidet.

Six is also the ratio of the earth's gravity to that of the moon.

And just think: if old Rehoboam, son of Solomon and king of Judah, had not, in the 10th century BC, presided over a split in the Jewish nation into Israel and Judah, middle-eastern history might have been different and we might not have had the Six Day War in 1967.

And if any diehard fortytwoists are still unconvinced, just take the word "six", add the numerical values of its letters, 19+9+24 to get 52, add 5+2 to get 7, multiply by the number you started with: 6 x 7 = 42. Uncanny.