Originally created 01/31/05

My love of numbers doesn't add up



When I saw there was going to be a new drama on television called Numb3rs, I was all excited. A program about numbers: Could it get any better?

Yes, it could have, but it didn't. When I watched the show, I found it was just one more drama about police, criminals and blood. There wasn't much at all to do with numbers - unless you count the effort to woo Nielsen ratings.

It wasn't a bad show, mind you. It just wasn't anything different. It had a few fancy electronic graphics with numbers floating around as an FBI agent and his family tried to solve crimes, but those numbers (or perhaps numb3rs) meant nothing to me.

I like numbers, although anything above 12 times 12 is pretty well beyond my limit of knowledge. I know that a million is a thousand thousands, and that a billion is a thousand millions, but my mind can't really grasp such concepts. I know there is such a thing as a googol and a googolplex, but again, they don't relate to my daily life.

In short, like many of you, I am math-deficient. It was always my toughest course in school. As the Barbie doll once said, "Math is hard!"

I came along just after the slide rule went out and just before the pocket calculator came in, so I'm pretty lost when the subject turns to numerals instead of letters of the alphabet.

As I said, though, I like numbers. I love to read books about math and other things beyond my realm of knowledge. I like to try to solve puzzles and games based on numbers, but I never get very far. I enjoy reading about latitudes and longitudes, nanoseconds and light-years, Roman numerals and secret codes.

I guess you could say I have math envy. It's as though I'm punishing myself for not doing very well in algebra, geometry and trigonometry while in school.

As I eagerly awaited the first episode of Numb3rs, I got to thinking of all the other TV shows and movies (and the books they were based on) that have enticed us with numbers in their titles. It's easy to build a list of them.

Here are a few programs on the air now: That '70s Show, Two and a Half Men, 60 Minutes, 7th Heaven, 8 Simple Rules and 24.

From years past were Route 66, Room 222, Three's Company, thirtysomething, 3rd Rock from the Sun and Beverly Hills, 90210.

Movies included Apollo 13, The Sixth Sense, 1984, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, 48 Hrs., The Third Man, a television movie about NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt simply called 3, and Catch-22 (which was to have been called Catch-18 in book form but was changed because a novel with "18" in the title had just come out).

By the way, I think the best film title of all time was a TV movie made by Billy Crystal about the 1961 race between Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle to reach and surpass Babe Ruth's record of 60 home runs in one season.

Maris won the race, knocking out 61 home runs. It was always said, though, that Maris' feat had an asterisk by it in the record books because he played in a longer season than had Ruth.

There was no asterisk, but the story was a way to credit Maris while keeping Ruth's name alive.

So, the name of the movie? 61*.

Numb3rs, on the other hand, has me stumped. Why does it have a "3" instead of an "e"? And how are we supposed to pronounce it? "Numbthreers"? I mean, I like numbers, but this is ridiculous.

Reach Glynn Moore at (706) 823-3419 or glynn.moore@augustachronicle.com.