It’s always fun when someone discovers for the first time something you’ve known about for a while. Their joy at seeing it fresh and new often translates into you rediscovering parts of it yourself that you’d forgotten, or appreciating it in some different way.
That’s how it is for me now that my old friend Jim Carrey is discovering a pleasure of mine: numbers. And not just any numbers, mind you, but that perennial favorite, 23.
Jim Carrey told SCI FI Wire that he’s particularly excited about his next film, The Number 23, a mind-bender about a man who becomes obsessed with the number 23. Carrey said that it was likely fate that brought the project to him, since he himself is obsessed with the number 23.
Note: describing the film as a “mind-bender” means that maybe one or two scenes is out of chronological order and it’s possible that at some point there’s a shot framed at a weird angle. Remember how “cerebral” the incredibly formulaic (but “weird”) movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (also starring Carrey) was. It’s unfortunate he doesn’t get to be in the equally brainified movie of The Da Vinci Code.
“I’ve had this obsession with the number 23 for years,” Carrey said in an interview, while promoting his current film, Fun With Dick and Jane. “[The script] was given to me by a friend who had the obsession with it, where he talked about the Earth’s axis is on the 23rd degree and 23 chromosomes in the human body from each parent and all that, and he has books written about everything that adds up to 23. As soon as he told me, I started seeing 23 everywhere. And it’s shocking how much adds up to 23; it’s a primary number, but it’s bizarre. But it really works out in a strange way to be very prevalent everywhere.”
It’s true! Despite being a “primary” number (in fact, some consider it to be the MAIN primary number) it turns out there are HUNDREDS of numbers that add up to 23. Mathematicians are at a loss to explain it!
The fascination with 23 is nothing new. This Wikipedia entry is a nice summation of the “enigma”. It, unlike Carrey and Sci-Fi Wire, references the book The Illuminatus! Trilogy, which is where I first encountered it. At the time, in high school, I found it to be pretty wild and trippy, but I eventually actually learned something about numbers and statistics and such and now find it to be entertaining at best.
(One factor the Wikipedia doesn’t mention is the fact that there is a perceived “23 Enigma”. What writer or creator, having heard of it, isn’t tempted to throw a 23 into his work just for fun, which may ultimately be “found” by the people looking for it? I know I used to do this when I wrote.)
You’ll have to wait until later this year to have your mind bent by Carrey and Joel Schumacher. And then in 2007 will come the sequel, The Number 42, about the mysterious secondary number that is almost a palindrome of 23!