six zero eight

Tonight walking home from the store, I noticed a house number, 608. My brain thought “That’s an interesting number”. And then I wondered why was it interesting: 608, 304, 152, 76, 38, 19. My that is interesting, it’s unique prime factors are 2 and 19. In fact is 2^5th * 19. Wait, how did I know it was 2^5th? Well 20 * 30 is 600, so 19 * 32 is probably 608, I guess I was right! My 608 was an interesting number.

What is probably most interesting about 608 and how vividly it stood out in my mind’s eye is the cascade of processing that happened at an unconscious level. I had to think through the problem to try and figure out why my brain decided something was worth noticing. A house number I have walked past thousands of times before. Most connections our brains make are not conscious, and it is in fact the role of conscious thought to rationalize that which our brains have already decided. Our self perception is merely a retroactive justification for patterns of behavior that are mostly instinctual. In my case, it seems math has become instinctual. Numbers that have some sort of power of 2 property (a result of doing way too much binary math) are now seen as naturally interesting. Those patterns evoke an instinctual response along the lines of “hey look this is sexy”. Conscious thought merely rationalizes that response, trying to explain why something interests us in the first place.

Much like this blog post.