Apophenia, Revisited

Apophenia…. Palindrome… Onomatopoeia…

(Revisited, and Updated!)

Scrabble - WordsWhile making a little trip with my wife yesterday, I commented that the day was unique day for those of us who like to see pattern in things. I pulled over to the side of the road and grabbed my cell phone and opened it up to the calendar page and, at the appropriate time, I screen copied 11/11/11 at 11:11 a.m. … Don’t believe me? Well, consider this – I made sure that at 11:11 p.m. I duplicated my morning effort! Still don’t believe me?

Here’s a screen shot of my files on my iPhone!

11/11/11 - 11:11 a.m. and p.m.
11/11/11 – 11:11 a.m. and p.m.

I know my mind works differently than others around me. I am not a conspiracy theorist, nor a gazer at stars and planets to find patterns, nor even a gambler trying to find patterns in the world around me to gain the upper hand on a randomly selected group of numbers. Still, I do pay attention to things around me to find balance.

Patterns are a fact of life. We see them in numbering schemes to help memorize charts of ascending and descending counts. When someone tells me it’s 240,000 miles to the moon (average distance) and it’s 25,000 miles around the earth (rounded), then I determine that it’s nearly 10 times as far to the moon as it is to travel around our globe (actually, it’s 9.6 times, but who’s counting extra digits of rounding?!!). Then when we see that it’s 93 million miles from earth to the sun, I figure out we would have to go around the earth 67 times (rounded). Oh, I wished I had studied math better in school!!

Having been a programmer for many years, I often noticed the pattern of code that helps to point to problem resolution, or even to code successfully. Especially, if code is aligned to certain columns. A broken pattern can point to broken code… Trust me. I know what “I’m” talking about!

Where does this pattern noticing come from? Those pictures you would often see in a mall that required you to let you eyes sort of lose focus so that you can see the hidden picture – these generally baffle me and I seldom see what others so easily see. Still, my subconscious works through the world around me and every so often a pattern emerges and for those I cannot help but to stop and think about it.

In fact, most of my work career has shown me that there is indeed a “pattern” to numbers, letters, and words. My uncle Henry showed me a phrase that can be read the same forward, or backward, while making allowance for spacing of letters to make the words appear. These are called “palindromes”… I have shared this a lot, what Henry showed me nearly 30 years ago!  Here’s what I remember:

A Man, A Plan, A Canal – Panama

Try it… Read it from the backwards forward, making allowances for spaces to form the words! Many sentences and paragraphs have been written just so this event can happen! It’s a real mind twister…

Still, this is not a pattern easy to discern. It is easier to see patterns in numbers. Repeating numbers, sequentially ordered numbers, and even numbers that can be uniquely calculated to show a result that has patternicity.  This new millennium has given us an opportunity to see these patterns that show up every 100 years.

01/01/01, 02/02/02, 03/03/03, 04/04/04,
05/05/05, 06/06/06 (some like the fact that this was 6/6/6),
07/07/07, 08/08/08, 09/09/09, 10/10/10, 11/11/11, 12/12/12

Then, add the same time of the day, and you have created a very pattern! Capture it at the correct time and you have living proof of a pattern! We have one more year to see this work out and then we move into higher numbers that will goof up our synchronicity view point.

The questions is, does this mean anything? The answer is – you tell me!

In 1958 Klaus Conrad penned the word, “apophenia” that:

“… described this phenomenon in relation to the distortion of reality present in psychosis, but it has become more widely used to describe this tendency without necessarily implying the presence of neurological differences or mental illness.”

Uh oh… He’s likening the focus of seeing patterns in things as something related to mental illness! Quick, quit thinking… hey did you notice that the first two words of this sentence began with “qui” (is this a pattern of something and where do I find how to fit this into meaning in my life?) and this makes me realize that most words that begin with Q are often followed by U and a vowel. You know. A, E, I, O or U. Makes it quite interesting to the quick mind who has quit trying to be dis-quieted by seemingly inconsequential (okay, maybe an E falls into place every so often) patterns in things that mean absolutely nothing!

Essentially then, apophenia is the experience of seeing meaningful patterns or connections in random or meaningless data. This phenomenon has found application in many different areas of life:

  • Some use these patterns to define opportunity to gamble on an opportunity with the hopes of winning big
  • Some see conspiracy theories evolve as these patterns show forth. And, in fact, many popular novels of late have delved into the study of patterns – the authors have made great sums of money feeding off of our desire to assume these theories might be based in reality.
  • Even in religion, regardless of which one you choose, patterns often emerge and followers base past, present and future understanding of events on these patterns. Although some may be truth, many are just our desire to search out for the pattern that will explain the mysteries of life.

Other similar scientific sounding words are often used to document this pattern seeking process – patternicity, onomatopoeia, synchronicity…

Regardless, there are definitely patterns of numbers that can be found in anything.

Yesterday (11/11/11) and the day before (11/10/11) can be arranged into numerical streams of numbers that read 111111 and 111011 respectively. To any programmer we see these numbers as binary – the original coding language of all computers. Even today binary code is simply the storage location of data where one bit (it takes 8 bits to make a byte or character of data) is either charged (1) or not charged (0), and like a light switch, electricity (magnetism) is either on (1) or off (0). Still, 6 digits of binary stream must be manipulated in order to make it into a binary code, because you need 8 bits to decode. Do we assume then that “00” is added to the front of the number stream or behind?

  • If it’s before then 00111111 = ? and 00111011 = ;
  • If it’s after then the data becomes essentially garbage and that makes no sense for this blog

Of course, in order for all of this to work we have to ignore the fact that the year is really 2011, not simply 11. In binary, the only numbers that work are “1” and “0”. Again, in reality it only works because we like shortcuts to everything around us. All you need to do is read the text of this modern world to see how we like to shorten things. Imagine if Shakespeare had been able to text: 2B or not 2B…! An artist might think he’s talking about the selection of a pencil, while a texter might realize he’s actually saying: To be or not to be…

So, this is  how my mind works. I take off down these quirky (qui…) paths and file away the knowledge until such day that a pattern emerges and I can be satisfied that I “already knew that”!!!

One last thing… I do not know Hollywood, but they did create a movie and called it 111111… I’m sure there’s nothing there, do you think? Besides, if you were to watch it today you would be one day too late… Hmmm… One Day… Is a pattern emerging?