Friday, 1 February 2013

Popular Numbers

What is the most common "favourite number"?

This is something I recently stumbled upon in the course of making some Numberphile videos.

It all started in San Francisco at a YouTube EDU summit, where I met a bunch of clever YouTubers.

I took advantage of the situation and asked many of them: "What's your favourite number"?

Here's the resulting video:



I then invited the viewers to submit their favourite numbers, preferably with an explanation.

Thousands of people responded (and continue to do so!)

So with all this data, it seemed obvious some analysis should be done.

Unfortunately I lacked the time and skill for such an endeavour.

But fortunately a software writer named Dave Wiley (right), from Colorado, came to the rescue.

We had to draw a line in the sand (or we'd never have started) so selected the first 6,041 comments.

From these, Dave used a combination of programming and human checking to glean a list of 5,286 number choices.

Here's one observation Dave made about reading everyone's explanations: "It's people sharing a bit of themselves. I love these little glimpses into the way other people think."

How true.

So what were the results?

Well, the most commonly selected number was seven (238 votes).

Very close behind was three (225 votes).

Here are the numbers which achieved 100 votes:
  1. Seven (238 votes)
  2. Three (225)
  3. Forty-Two (204)
  4. Eight (202)
  5. Thirteen (200)
  6. Two (175)
  7. Four (174)
  8. Pi (152)
  9. Seventeen (130)
  10. Twelve (127)
  11. Nine (126)
  12. Five (123)
  13. Sixty-Nine (118)
  14. Twenty-Seven (113)
  15. Twenty-One (111)
  16. Eleven (105)
  17. Golden Ratio (100)
Notable numbers with fewer votes included Zero (98 votes), One (73 votes) and 666 (18 votes).



It was also interesting to note that odds slightly outperformed even numbers.


A normal arithmetic average is quite pointless (because some people chose HUGE numbers like Googolplex and the unimaginable Graham's Number).

But the median can be found quite easily and it lies at 16 (sixteen itself recorded 53 votes, by the way!).



And here are a couple more graphs (or here for higher quality):



SOME RANDOM FACTOIDS:
  • Two people chose 40 and two people chose -40
  • Dave used a C++ program to extract numbers from the YouTube page, followed by manual checks
  • Many numbers were chosen because they represented people's birthdays
  • Two and powers of 2 were popular with computer scientists
  • Popular culture showed up often, such as Douglas Adams's famed 42 and the online slang 1337 (leet)
  • 18 negative numbers were chosen - the lowest was -47
Dave also wanted everyone to know he his best to "properly record every vote whether it was expressed in English, as a number, as a formula or as a programming constant".

Finally, here are a selection of the many fascinating contributions people made (click here for the full comments section and read ALL of them):

"I have synesthesia, and this question is very tough for me. I used to like 3, 6, and 7. But now I feel closer to 8 and 11. 11 is so pure and pleasant, and 8 is like a gentle gay uncle."

"267. I'm a synesthete and I just like the colour combination of those numbers ^_^"

"Ok 03, no it CAN NOT be just 3. I don't know why it just can't."

"88 because it is symmetrical. You can draw a vertical or horizontal line through it and it's the same. It just always seemed very round and finalized to me. (:"

35 comments:

  1. I posted 2 numbers, the # I liked and the # I disliked. I like 9, I dislike 147... Love your channels. TY MrB!
    Regards,
    Ketobbey

    ReplyDelete
  2. @Dave Wiley:
    Would you mind sharing source code?

    BTW, My favorite number is a surreal number like { | 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, ...}

    ReplyDelete
  3. Go 5!! 123 votes. Can't beat that!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. At first, I thought you meant 5! (factorial) or 120, and was very confused to see it was not on the 100 votes and up list.

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  4. I'm kind of curious as to how the prime numbers ranked? It seems to me that primes would tend to form a pretty interesting trend.

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  5. no one else like that the amount of odd numbers were odd and even numbers were even? nope, just me.

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  6. What Benford's law?
    How do the numbers go about that?

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