7/7/7 and why media needs crowdsourcing
A (now increasingly rare) return to network news reminds me of a key driver for crowdsourcing in news: quality. What on earth makes Katie Couric think that the best authority to interview on the significance of the number “7” (apropos the 7/7/7 date) is a “numerologist”? Why not a historian, or an astronomer, or a mathematician? Even I know more about the number 7 than the “expert” on CBS.
Ok, so, this is not exactly tech nor tech industry. But I can’t help it. It’s about tomorrow. I’m watching all the news coverage on tomorrow’s date – 7/7/7 – and it makes me YEARN for crowdsourced mainstream news.
Specifically, I’m watching “CBS Evening News With Katie Couric” and sigh at the following exchange:
Katie Couric (Anchor): What is so special about the number 7?
Lloyd Strayhorn (Numerologist): Well 7, Katie, has always been associated with things that are spiritual, mystical, and things related to nature. Tomorrow is a perfect day for change.
Voice over (by Anchor): Strayhorn says that no matter what corner of the world, from cultural to religious symbolism, seven is a sacred number. There are seven days of the week, seven colors in the rainbow, seven wonders of the world.
Brilliant. How did she get this job?
Ok, Katie, here’s the deal. Seven comes from our calendar. The Babylonians (and the Sumerians before them) had a lunar calendar. The cycle of the moon has 28 days, and the Babylonians split it into four parts. Hence seven days. (*)
The seven day week outlived the lunar calendar system. Notably, the ancients named the days of the weeks after the major astronomical objects that are visible with the naked eye: Sun, Moon, and five planets – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter.
(Btw, on occasion, all five planets are visible at the same time, like back in March 2004; next time will be 2036. One would expect such events to be quite significant for ancient man, without artificial lighting at night.)
This naming convention continued through the Romans and the Germanic peoples right up to modern day English. There are plenty of sources to track the linguistic history up to our modern-day names, for example this one.
This ancient, central origin of the use of the number seven is clearly what predates all the other symbolic use of the number.
Secondly, what’s this “no matter what corner of the world”? As examples, Katie takes days of the week (western tradition, see above), seven colors of the rainbow (western, from Newton), and seven wonders of the world (western, from old Greek historians). So that’s Katie’s perspective on “all corners of the world”: Babylon, Greece, and England.
But no. Why ask historians, mathematicians, or astronomors when we can invite a “numerologist” into the studio.
This is why I yearn for mainstream media truly embracing crowdsourcing. That way they might actually be able to get access to real research …
(To be fair to Katie, other news sources are, by and large, not doing a better job.)
(*) Yeah ok, to be completely accurate, the lunar month is 29.53ish days. The Babylonians inserted one or two days to flesh out each lunar month.