Whatever your grievances against 2016 as a year, it was a stellar number. Like a picnic with milkshakes and beer, this integer was fun for the whole family.
Just look at these equations:
After this crowd-pleaser came 2017, a prime year, which engendered this brilliant Tweet from Matt Parker:
That brings us to 2018.
It’s not triangular, like 2016.
It’s not prime, like 2017.
Is it, then, worthless?
Well, I myself am neither triangular nor prime. But if the roles were reversed, I like to think 2018 would do its best to uncover my special qualities and catalogue them in a blog post. So I went to do “research” (my codeword for “Google searches”).
What secret mathematical properties and pleasures will our new year contain?
To 2018’s credit, there are a few special days to mark on your calendars:
That’s just around the corner! And there’s another one coming:
And then in February, the first of our factor days:
The second will follow in March:
And the third in June:
With another special day in August:
And the final factor day in September:
Exciting as these days are, they pale in urgency alongside the fact that 2018 is the year in which the film Iron Sky takes place. So if there’s a shadow civilization of Nazis living on the dark side of the moon, expect them to surface sometime in the next 12 months.
In another dark turn, 2018 marks the 500th anniversary of the great Dancing Plague, in which four hundred citizens of Strasbourg danced for days without rest, some to their deaths. The cause remains unknown.
(Seriously. I’m not making that one up.)
Aside from that… I’m afraid 2018 is a rather bland number. Well, not bland; let’s go with “understated.” I can’t call it outright “boring” because of the classic proof that there is no uninteresting positive integer:
Still, I have to confess that 2018 is below-average for mathematical swagger. The best I can offer is this little trifecta:
Or, if you prefer strange conversions to and from binary:
I’m afraid I’m not serving well as 2018’s advocate, since this is all rather arbitrary and numerological. We’d get similar answers from an astrologer or a fever dream.
The harsh mathematical truth of 2018 is that it is “semiprime,” i.e., a product of two primes—in this case, 2 x 1009.
That’s not the most exciting property. Other semiprime numbers include 6, 9, 10, 14, 15, 21, 22, 25, 26… and indeed, more than a quarter of all years that have happened so far.
Is that the best we can say for the forthcoming year?
Luckily, no. 2018 has one last trick up its sleeves.
Although semiprime years are quite common, this is the first since 2005. That 13-year drought is rather impressive; it’s the longest since Shakespeare’s death.
With any luck, that’s interesting enough to last us until the Moon Nazis show up.