# numbers the anaesthetist

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The Independent Online
Today is the 26th of October.

Twenty-six is most interesting when squared or cubed.

Twenty-six squared is 676, making 26 the smallest number whose square is palindromic without being palindromic itself. Other such numbers include 264, 307 and 836, of which the last is the most impressive, having an even number of digits in its palindromic square, 698,896.

Twenty-six cubed is 17,576, whose digits add up to 26. Oddly, 27 has the same property: 273=19,683 and 1+9+6+8+3=27.

The age of 26 has fascinated more than one author:

"It was not long after that that everybody was 26. During the next two or three years all the young men were 26-years-old. It was the right age apparently for that time and place." (Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas.)

"Towards the age of 26, They shoved him into politics" (Hilaire Belloc, Cautionary Tales).

"26 Men and a Girl" (title of a Maxim Gorky short story).

Twenty-six is also:

The number of ways Giles Rose, chef to Charles II, could fold a table napkin.

The number of popes to have been assassinated.

The chromosomes of a frog.

Competition: Take a full pack of playing cards. Cut into two piles of 26 cards each and shuffle, the cards of one pile alternating exactly with those of the other, starting with the pile that was on top, to ensure a change of top and bottom card. How many such shuffles are needed to restore the cards to their original order?

And how many if you had left the two jokers in?

Answers to: Pastimes, the Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL. Three Chambers Dictionary prizes for correct answers opened on 7 November.

12 October answers: 1 Track Mind (or 1 Too Many); 2 Sides to Every Question; 3 Point One Four (Approximate Value of Pi); 4 Leafed Clover for Good Luck; 5 Gold Rings. Winners: N Widdows, PG Craft, CA Burgess.