Twin Baffling Towers &
a Prefab Random Number
What links two unfinished skyscrapers, an unjustified fervor toward a two-digit number, some touches of sci-fi lore, and a whiff of a possible hoax? why, an infamous famine, lots of greed, and gumption to find conspiracy in everything.
Thus, there’s the year 1847 in Ireland, then a tower in Venezuela that became the world’s tallest slum, another in Spain said to have been built without elevators, and a still unexplained drive towards making the number 47 the sum of all values.
In the age of the Internet, anything has the potential to become a ‘proven’ fact, a sinister possibility, a malevolent hoax, and the stuff dreams are made of, all rolled into one big scheme of beliefs, hollow at the center, and devoid of a shred of evidence.
Its face value, though, can at times emulate a deeper meaning, and lend purpose to many an empty life, just like a lie, even without ever adding to the truth, still gathers enough zest of it to shine like a fake diamond and fool just like anyone.
We happened upon the number 47 by chance but were never impressed about it. Even before arching back to the 19th century and the luck of the Irish, its only feeble connection with those buildings was how many stores they both carry up the sky.
But then came the ‘official society,’ the conflicting prefab theories by Trekkies and Douglas Adams buffs, an inordinate amount of mumble-jumble, and the likelihood, always present, that some lunatic fringe group is laughing out loud about it all.
It’s possible. It wouldn’t be the first time we were the butt of an inside joke. But stepping over sleeping beasts is also part of life, and while some cheerfully spend time concocting ways to amuse themselves, many more have to climb up and down 47 floors.
‘Forty-seven is the most commonly occurring two-digit random number.’ That’s how a Website dedicated to it defines its appeal. Just like that. The ‘proof’ presented is almost as flimsy: ‘the extraordinary number of times the number 47 occurs in factoids.’ We’re done here.
It’s far from the truth, of course. In fact, it’s doubtful that any mathematician would concur to such a bombastic affirmation. Then
again, it’s their site, so who’s to say they should be impartial? After all, they seem to have lots of fun finding reassurances in a huge catalog of pop-culture references.
The 47 Society is a tad more circumspect. But among tons of pseudo-quotes, factoids and merchandise, we may be bugged by the notion that there’s a joke there somewhere, and we are it. For some reason, the impression that no one has been manning the trenches for quite some time is also apparent.
The apotheosis of the sophomoric self-referential cult to the number 47, though, is privy to Pomona College, which may have been behind its hype, even if it seems to have lent almost no creative legs to what once probably did have a penchant of anarchist impulse. If it had, it’s no longer there.
In the end, as with much that happens nowadays, the lure is best presented by the entertainment culture (of which, we’re not including the 47 Ronin movie), mainly for the private obsession of one the writers of the TV series Star Trek, a Pomona alumni, who seemed to have infused the popular show with obscure 47 hints.
About Adams, his 4-book ‘trilogy,’ about hitchhiking throughout the galaxy, is by far, the most intelligently put way of investing a particular number with a comic, intriguing meaning. It so happens that his number, the one that ‘accurately answers life, the Universe and everything’ is 42, not 47. Thus, Viva Jackie Robinson.
TOWERS OF GREED & HOAX
The common denominators between the Intempo skyscraper in Benidorm, Spain, and the Torre de David, in Caracas, Venezuela, is their number of floors and the fact that they both are unfinished. But the underlining motif of both constructions is greed, as both went up at a time of real estate speculation running amok in both countries.
The Centro Financiero Confinanzas was aborted and abandoned mid-flight in 1994, amid Venezuela’s banking crisis, and has since been inhabited by a destitute population that has shown more dignity than all showcased by the tower’s builders, who either died or vanished.
It’d be a cliche to call it a symbol of the country, unless it’s in the sense of exemplary resilience by its dwellers. But it did become a point of reference, again, mostly pop-cultural, and a sign of the times. It’s also been featured in a popular TV series about terrorism.
There’s just one mystery about Intempo, among its many cliches, which include being funded by corrupted bankers and built as a luxury complex, ignoring the economic downturn all around it: it’s how come its notoriety was marked for so long by one inaccurate fact, repeated over and over, that it lacked elevators.
Apparently, the rumor started with prestigious Spanish paper El Pais, at a time when construction had been halted, and somehow, either because of an acute case of bad translation or for pure malignancy, most of every other vehicle ran with the story without checking, as it’s often the case these days,
Now that construction has restarted, word has it that it has not just one or two but eleven elevators, albeit mostly not yet operational, and damn it those who doubted it, according to the builders. Who, it must be said, have an invested interest in dispel rumors.
In case you’re wondering, or thinking you should check it for yourself, trespassers will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Just like those two CNN reporters who tried to get in the site of the new World Trade Center 1, in New York City. See you in court.
THE 1847 GORKA MÓR
If there’s any serious historical resonance about the number 47 is the Potato Blight, the great famine that killed a million of the Irish between 1845 and 1852, and whose worst period is considered to have been the summer of 1847, a date memorialized in many ways, including by the New York-based Irish Black 47 band.
What drove another million to emigrate from Ireland for good is also deemed a turning point on the troubled relationship of England and the Green Isle, divided by history, language, religion, and social class, besides having split the republic, for all sense and purposes, forever.
If that’s the real pillar of the number 47 lore, then we concede that it’s, indeed, a special number, and there won’t be any need to consult a mathematician to inquire about its supposedly daunting properties. Just the symbolism and spilled blood of a whole country is enough to place it apart from all others.
But we’re not about to go all pious over everybody’s behind here, and start preaching about The Troubles or praise the peace process that seems to have taken hold ever since. Let’s let those who have something new to say about it have their saying and we reserve the right to pay attention or not.
And to prove that we’re not above a measured sense of awe and fascination with the infinite (do we need to be more redundant?) properties of numbers, we came up with our own, homemade lore, about the deep significance of writing this post today, a day whose number doesn’t seem to have anything to do with 47.
To the untrained eye, that is, however. For after a good amount of calculations and complex theories, we arrived at the following formula (still with us?): subtract 1847 from 2014, and you have 167, right? Now, add those digits and you get to 14, which is ultimately 5 (the Rule of Nines).
Now, today is the 86th day of the year, which also adds up to 14, which ultimately is 5 too, you see? Utterly amazing, isn’t it? We always new we had it in us. And we arrived at it all by ourselves. Impressed yet? You may use it too, if you want it; say it’s yours, it’s Ok. You’re welcome. Oh, don’t even mention.