Innumeracy in Numerology: 9/11 Conspiracy

March 5, 2009 at 9:23 pm (Conspiracy) (, , )

Briefly: I’ve come across a website that claims that:

The Number 11 Mysteriously Dominates the Events of
the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks in the USA.

Now, obviously it is easy to find links to a number if you try hard enough. There are countless keywords and phrases relevant to 9/11, inevitably some will contain 11 letters. You can also have fun spotting numbers that have digits adding up to 11. It doesn’t mean anything – it’s just a pattern that you spotted because you were looking for it[#]. Funnily enough, though, it appears that looking for meaningless patterns using cherry-picked names, phrases or numbers isn’t enough for some people. This page, for example, has managed to work in the number of passengers on Flight 77 – apparently there were 65, and 6+5=11. Unfortunately for the authors of this website, there were 64 rather than 65 people on board that flight[*]. Elsewhere on the internet, I’ve seen claims that 254 passengers died. It was actually 246 (or 265 if you include the hijackers). Neither of these numbers add up to 11 – so it seems a third, more convenient, number was simply invented.

[# Feynman: “You know, the most amazing thing happened to me tonight. I was coming here, on the way to the lecture, and I came in through the parking lot. And you won’t believe what happened. I saw a car with the license plate ARW 357. Can you imagine? Of all the millions of license plates in the state, what was the chance that I would see that particular one tonight? Amazing!” ask.metafilter.com.]

[*It’s possible they picked up their information from this wiki on Sep11memories.org. I quote: “The attack killed 65 people, 58 passengers including the 5 passengers, 4 flight attendants, and 2 pilots.” Apart from stating that the 58 passengers included “5 passengers” rather than the “5 hijackers” I think they intended to refer to, they’ve added 58, 4, and 2 and come up with 65. It is unfortunate that this wiki seems not to have been properly proof-read.]

17 Comments

  1. dvnutrix said,

    Your last footnote is an example of something that must be an example of a law that has it’s own name. Something like Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum. When the collaborative ‘scholars’ enter all the secret/paranoid plots that they have discovered into a the randomising program in Abulafia and even though they know it is a fraud, they and others are taken in because they are enchanted by its seeming solution to all the unexplained/inexplicable phenomena of history, the apparent existence of a cosmic plan and a tremendous secret. Was it telluric currents from the ombilicus mundi that are supposed to control the land, seas, and skies through psychic forces (must retrieve it from the attic)?

  2. stavros said,

    Feynman is the best…

  3. rob said,

    I think my favourite cherry-picking story/joke may also be Feynman-related, but I forget (and can’t find) the reference (anybody help?). It goes something like:

    “He was very proud of his shooting skills, but I would have been more impressed if I hadn’t seen him fire randomly at the barn door then draw a target round the 3 holes that were closest together”

  4. Sceric said,

    mumble, I wanted to be the 11th poster, but I’m too early…but if you count the number of letters of my homeland (and thats where some of the terrorist studied) hurray there are 11…only works in German…

  5. jdc325 said,

    @Sceric “mumble, I wanted to be the 11th poster, but I’m too early…” – if I get 11 comments on this post I may begin to suspect a conspiracy.

    @rob – I remember Ben Goldacre using the analogy here in connection with the De Berk case.

    @stavros – I’ve read a couple of his books. I particularly enjoy the mixture of interesting anecdotes and insightful thinking that you can find in Surely You’re Joking… or The Pleasure of Finding Things Out.

    @dvnutrix – I’ve read something recently that referred to Foucault’s Pendulum. I was previously aware of most of the societies and conspiracies that appear in the book but reading an online plot synopsis has still felt a bit mind-boggling. Ancient secret knowledge of telluric currents does seem to be part of the final version of The Plan. [It also seems to have popped up in discussion of the TV series Lost. Link.]

  6. Ute Medley said,

    Patterns that show coherence in a larger context are important.
    The discovery of patterns always points to something important. Just think of the development of the chemical elements and the periodic table.
    Jung as other forward-thinkers and inventors believed that the spheres of matter and psyche (mind) have a tangible connection through numbers. The Universe is ordered in a systematic fashion based on numbers with their inherent metaphysical attributes, chemical elements, and patterns.
    For a demonstration of a numerological pattern in number Pi, clusters of numbers, especially number 7, up-to-date explanation of the metaphysical attributes of numbers in context with current scientific facts, and the demonstration of living successful authentic lives like Nelson Mandela and Oprah see my book “Invisible Cloak – Know Thyself” (www.sumuniversal.com)

  7. The Gonzo Girl said,

    Oh dear, it’s incredible how often woo-woo’s use your blog to advertise their products. :D

    As a teenager numerology was a hobby of mine, though I never had any supernatural associations with it.
    (I just liked the playing around with numbers and letters)
    You’re absolutely right, that when you take enough numbers and sum the digits, it seems like a frightening conincidence how often numbers will match.
    It seems to work like cold reading, you’re excited when numbers match, but unconsciously ignore it if they don’t.
    Nothing magical whatsoever about this.

    This mistaking of numbers reminds me of a horoscope, based on a false birthdate, that was made for James Randi (of all people) Here’s a link to the video, where Randi corrects his birthdate, it’s so funny…

  8. jdc325 said,

    Hi Gonzo Girl.

    While I’d be interested to see what Ute thinks is an “up-to-date explanation of the metaphysical attributes of numbers in context with current scientific facts”, I don’t fancy buying the book. The excerpt isn’t all that appealing really. There’s a really unconvincing passage about 7 being an important number to Ute. The author uses their mother’s first (but not maiden) name, while ignoring the numbers ‘associated with’ any of their father’s names; the father’s day of birth is deemed to be relevant, but not the mother’s [nor are the father’s month or year of birth deemed relevant]. Still, it’s only a bit of fun and it makes a change from all the Russian spammers trying to sell porn, viagra and gold.

    “As a teenager numerology was a hobby of mine, though I never had any supernatural associations with it.
    (I just liked the playing around with numbers and letters)”
    I can see the attraction, I find pattern-spotting fun myself. I like that (now-and-again) the patterns are genuine and may even be useful too – like summing digits to see if your number divides by nine.

    The Randi video is ace, by the way. I hadn’t seen that one before.

  9. Warhelmet said,

    What about Nostradamus? Surely he must have predicted 9/11?

  10. truthbeliever said,

    U JUST dont know the facts, when theyre RIGHT there in FRONT of your EYES!1 isnt it obvius to you that there were DIFFERENT numbers on the plane that could also have ended up with 11!

    OPEN YOUR EYE!

    If you look at the FACTS then you will notice that when the plane crashed into the pentagon there were 4 sides left untouched and 6 layers destroyed out of 24, if you get these numebers you will see that a pentagon has only the FIVE SIDES, yet FOUR were untouched! what does that tell you! Exactly!ThAT YOU CANT ADD: look!!! 6-24=18, but 4 ontouched, thats now 14, and if you take the number of sides in the pentagram that leaves NINE!!! How do you get the 11? I don’t know, BUT THATS NOT IMPORTANT!

    OPEN UR EYES!

  11. Sceric said,

    Ha I did it (<– 11 signs by the way)

  12. jdc325 said,

    Warhelmet – I’ll have to take a look. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if someone on the interwebs was claiming that Nostradamus predicted 9/11.

    truthbeliever – I’m calling Poe’s Law. You are a spoof.

    Sceric – congrats on being the 11th commenter on this blog post.

  13. Neuroskeptic said,

    truthbeliever is pretty good though. I was only sure it was a spoof at the last sentence.

  14. colmcq said,

    yeah, the last sentence gave it away huh!

  15. jdc325 said,

    Re truthbeliever: I thought it might be you col! Fine work, though.

    @dvnutrix – re Foucault’s Pendulum: I’ve thought of another example. Bill Kaysing was apparently asked to write a satire on the Moon Landings conspiracy and ended up believing in it himself. Amazon review of his book is here.

  16. Warhelmet said,

    I looked at Nostradamus & 9/11. Guess what, bogus text that fooled many people.

  17. jdc325 said,

    Thanks Warhelmet – I see Snopes has a page on the Nostradamus-9/11 fabrication here. Brilliantly, it’s another case similar to the plot of Foucault’s Pendulum or the tale of Bill Kaysing – someone mistook an illustrative example for an actual Nostradamus prophecy.

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