Today is a special day for those who have such vast brains that there's room for numbers to go frolicking around with wild abandon, networking socially and sometimes forming little numerical cliques, thereby providing nerds with something to get all excited about other than their imaginary girlfriends.
Indeed today, March 3, 2009, is Square Root Day. That's 3/3/09 with three being the square root of nine, because, of course, three times three equals nine, which math nerds already knew, but the rest of us had to have explained with diagrams and charts and a hands-on demonstration shouted out by Billy Mays, that very loud man who advertises OxiClean.
It's an unofficial holiday because it's not listed on the At-A-Glance calendar and is really only official in the vast numeric mind field of Ron Gordon, 63 (who will be eight squared in a few months). Gordon is a teacher in Redwood City — not even teaching math, but teen substance-abuse education — who, for some odd reason, goes gaga over funny mathematical coincidences. So he wants people to celebrate today by getting things squared away, eating root veggies, going square dancing or rooting for the underdog.
We spoke with Gordon on Square Root Day Eve as he was busy stuffing Square Root Day stockings while humming Square Root Day carols. OK, not really. But he did say he had made a trip to the hardware store to get some rope for the tying of square knots in his class today. And he finally found some square plastic glasses out of which to drink his root beer.
"Square Root Days are special because they're so rare," he said, with enthusiasm to the nth degree. "We only get a handful of them in a century. The last one was Feb. 2, 2004, and the next won't be until April 4, 2016. They're like calendar comets. You wait and wait and wait for them, they brighten up your day and then — poof! They're gone."
Nothing significant will actually happen on this day, as far as we know.
Luck is not associated with Square Root Day as it is with, say, a Friday the 13th (which we'll have next week). The Rapture will not occur, and airplanes will not fall out of the sky like they didn't on Y2K.
So it's just a day like any other. There is a chance, however, of winning a few bucks. Gordon — who is the day's official public-relations man and sent press releases to media outlets around the world, and whose daughter is hosting a Square Root Day cyber event on Facebook — is running a little contest to find the most people involved in a Square Root Day celebration, such as getting a bunch of people to form a human square-root symbol.
Prizes will be divvied up out of a total of $339. And it's not too late to enter. You have approximately 339 hours from now (until 3 a.m. on March 18). Send your entry photos or descriptions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail them to Ron Gordon at P.O. Box 5133, Redwood City, Calif., 94063, but don't address it in square root — the post office hates that.
Gordon first became interested in Square Root Day 28 years ago when the date was Sept. 9, 1981. There will be more this century: April 4, 2016; May 5, 2025; June 6, 2036; July 7, 2049; Aug. 8, 2064; and Sept. 9, 2081 again. But those are a long way off.
And some are more alluring than others, Gordon said. He notes that 2004's Square Root Day fell on Groundhog Day, which won't happen again for 95 years. For that occasion, Gordon honored the day by cutting root vegetables, such as carrots and radishes, into squares and sending them via FedEx to Punxsutawney Phil, the weather-forecasting groundhog. Phil's handlers later said he did nibble on them a bit. He likes a square meal.
Gordon's celebratory ideas are great, but feel free to observe that day in your own special way. Maybe research your genealogy — you know, getting to know your roots. Play four square. Visit your hairdresser and touch up your roots. Be square: Listen to a Pat Boone record and don't drink or smoke. Perhaps skip the root canal, unless of course it's a must.
Oh, and nerds, don't forget Odd Day, when the three odd numbers appear in their correct order on the calendar: May 7, 2009. And of course Pi Day comes up next week on March 14. Then — for super nerds only — there's Mole Day. No, it's not Groundhog Day, and it's not until Oct. 23 at 6:02 a.m. or p.m., in which the numbers of the time and date mimic Avogadro's number (6.02 x 10 to the 23rd power) which is a basic measuring unit in chemistry. Thank you, OxiClean man.
Reach Angela Hill at email@example.com.