NEW YORK -- So what are you doing on Thursday?
Not you, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan -- we already know you're a little busy with that debate thing. But others may be marking, in some way, the fact that Thursday is a special day, numerically speaking: It's 10-11-12.
Nice, but how significant? Those who study numbers say, well, not too much. Or perhaps it's better to say that it's as significant as you want it to be.
Significant enough to influence your wedding date? At one wedding chapel in Las Vegas, Forever Grand at the MGM Resorts, there's a special numerology package, including a chapel, a pianist, a minister, and a limo to the courthouse, among other things. (And if you're just finding out about this, it isn't too late: There's another special at Forever Grand for 12/12/12.)
Or maybe the day is merely significant enough to go buy a lottery ticket.
"People like a fluency in numbers," says Rajesh Bagchi, an associate professor of marketing at Virginia Tech who also studies numbers psychology. "The sequence of 10-11-12 is fluent, and it goes up, so it can have a pleasing effect. It can feel right. So someone might decide, for example, to buy a lottery ticket."
Bagchi himself, however, didn't even realize the day was coming, until we called. So he wasn't planning anything special -- he did actually get married in Vegas, but not on a numerically significant day, though surely it was significant in other ways.
Certainly, there are special things happening on Thursday, and not just the U.S. vice-presidential debate. At the United Nations, the day has been declared the International Day Of The Girl Child, recognizing girls' rights and the challenges they face around the world. But there's no evidence the actual numbers of the date were taken into account. The Jonas Brothers are returning to the stage after three years with a one-night show at Radio City Music Hall.
How rare is the day? After all, there will be neat moment right around the time many alarm clocks ring at 07:08:09, on 10-11-12. But won't it be better later this year, on Dec. 12, when we will have 12:12:12 on 12/12/12?
In fact, the kind of sequence happening Thursday is one that's been occurring every year since 2003, when we had 01/02/03. It will end for a while in 2014, with 12/13/14. Then we'll need to wait until 2103. "It basically happens in the early years of a new century," says Geoff Chester, public affairs officer at the U.S. Naval Observatory, which, if you didn't know, is the official timekeeper for the Department of Defense.
"Really, this is just a numerological curiosity," says Chester. "People find it amusing. But there is no cosmic significance. It's an artifact of the calendar and time system that we use."
Eric Carlson, a physics professor at Wake Forest University, agrees. "No great significance," he says. "Just a curiosity. I like number patterns, like many of us. Our lives are dominated by numbers."
Carlson himself plans nothing special on Thursday, though he does allow that on the day several years ago that corresponded precisely to the seven digits of his phone number, he held a party.
"Tomorrow is too busy," he says. "But I will really celebrate next week, when my daughter turns in her college applications."