Leaving paradoxes aside, however, just what really is the smallest uninteresting number? For the past two years I have been compiling a list of interesting numbers (shameless book plug: shortly to appear as The Book of Numbers, published by Richard Cohen Books), from 1 (the number of elephants in Alaska) to 4,985,567,071,200 (the US National debt in 1995, in dollars). Apart from assembling an unparalleled amount of useless information in a single volume (did you know there are 25 helicopter pads in Antarctica, or that there are 26 species of goat?), I had hoped to reveal the identity of the lowest uninteresting number. For if I collected all the interesting numerical information, the first unrepresented number would be the answer.
And until this week, I thought it was 213. We all know that 212 is the boiling point of water in degrees Fahrenheit (though it would have been 215.4 had Mr Fahrenheit not had a slight fever when he set the temperature of human blood at 100), and that Valentin Lebedev spent 211 days in space aboard Salyut 7 in 1982-3, and that 210 Coca-Cola Bottles is a work by Andy Warhol. But I had nothing for 213.
Now, however, I know it is the combined age of the Rolling Stones on their 1997 world tour. Step up number 232 - the new smallest uninteresting number.
William HartstonReuse content