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Today is the 27th of January.

The number 27 is arithmetically fascinating: it is the cube of 3, and is equal to the sum of the digits of its own cube, 19683.

If you take any 3-digit multiple of 27 (for example, 324) and permute its digits cyclically (243 or 432) then the resulting numbers will also be multiples of 27. Finally, 27 is the smallest number expressible as the sum of three squares in two ways: 27 =32+32+32 = 52+12+12.

27 is also: Man's top speed in mph; The wounds sustained by Marcius in Coriolanus ("every gash was an enemy's grave); The miles marched daily by the Russians in War and Peace; The number of plastic bottles needed to provide enough PVC yarn to make a jumper.

The number of times the words "leprosy" and "terrapin" each occurred in the Independent in 1993.

COMPETITION: Back to our occasional "26 L of the A" (Letters of the Alphabet) formula, can you interpret these?

10 C 10 D S 10 D in the D S 100 C in R N 1000 I D The Larousse Dictionary of Scientists will be awarded to the first three correct answers opened on 8 February. Entries to: Pastimes, the Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL.

Winners and answers for 13 January competition: 3 Bags Full of Wool from a Black Sheep; 7 Brides for Seven Brothers; 13 Stripes on the American Flag; 18 Holes on a Golf Course; 87 "Four Score and Seven Years Ago" (Lincoln's Gettysburg Address).

Prizes of the Chambers Dictionary of World History to Ann Hooley (Nottingham), Marjorie Dawson (Walthamstow), A J Bartley (Newcastle upon Tyne).