Whichever way you look at it, today's a day in a millennium

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The Independent Online

Are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era?

Are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era?

For those who are, that new era may have arrived today.

For the first time in 808 years and 73 days, today's date is truly palindromic.

Not since 29 November, 1192, has a correctly written date (29.11.1192) reversed into itself. For those who care for such things - and take time to work them out - it apparently represents the ultimate fantasy.

And no wonder. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since people were last able to gaze in awe and delight at something so humble as a date.

It is not even clear if medieval mathematicians realised the significance of 29 November 1192, for they certainly had plenty to distract them.

It was, for instance, the year that the crusading King Richard I was captured by Duke Leopold of Austria while returning to England, having made peace with Saladin. In the same year, Cyprus was sold to Guy of Lusignan, whose family ruled until 1489, Mohammed of Ghor defeated the Hindu League at Tarain, and work began on what is now Hamburg cathedral.

But perhaps they did realise the date's significance. Palindromists can be fanatical folk who amuse themselves creating such sentences as "I saw desserts; I'd no lemons, alas no melon. Distressed was I". They also created the opening sentence of this article; the missing letter "a" is intentional.

Jonathan Bowen, Professor of Computing at London's South Bank University, created an entire series of genuine palindromic website addresses including http://www.cs.rdg.ac.uk/archive/palindrome/URL-LRU\emordnilap\evihcra\ku.ca.gdr.sc.www\\:ptth

He said: "They are puzzles really. People try to create palindromes that are as long as possible and yet still work."

Although the world has had to wait more than 800 years for today's auspicious date, the next palindromic date will actually occur on 20 February next year.

We live in auspicious times. But only for a day or two.

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