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E-mails About September 11th

One of the emails most widely distributed in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the USA on September 11 2001 claims that it's spooky, perhaps even meaningful, how many words and names attached to the attack add up to the number 11:

The date of the attack: 9/11 - 9 + 1 + 1 = 11
September 11th is the 254th day of the year: 2 + 5 + 4 = 11
After September 11th there are 111 days left to the end of the year.
119 is the area code to Iraq/Iran. 1 + 1 + 9 = 11
Twin Towers - standing side by side, looks like the number 11
The first plane to hit the towers was Flight 11

But ....There's More.......

State of New York - The 11th State added to the Union
New York City - 11 Letters
Afghanistan - 11 Letters
The Pentagon - 11 Letters
Ramzi Yousef - 11 Letters (convicted of orchestrating the attack on the WTC in 1993)
Flight 11 - 92 on board - 9 + 2 = 11
Flight 77 - 65 on board - 6 + 5 = 11

   

 You can't really 'debunk' this e-mail -- after all, what it claims is essentially true… There are a series of names, words and numbers associated with the terrorist attack on New York and Washington DC that can be manipulated in various ways to add up to the number 11.

However, let's ask what seems to me to be the crucial question: what's the point? Why, exactly, does anyone care a great deal about how many words, names and numbers can be added up or manipulated to reach 11?

In short: does it actually signify anything even remotely relevant?

Well, to be honest, not really…

What's at work here is a well-known behavioural process called 'observational selection,' which is sometimes described as 'counting the hits and excluding the misses.'

In essence, you simply start examining words etc that have anything to do with a particular event, and keep the ones that match your significant number, and discard all the ones that don't. With enough effort, you should be able to make any number seem significant.

In fact, if you gave it some thought, it would probably seem almost spooky how many words, names and numbers associated with the terrorist attack there are that don't add up to the number 11!

Osama bin Laden = 13 letters without spaces, 15 letters with spaces
World Trade Center = 16 letters without spaces, 18 letters with spaces
United Airlines = 14 letters without spaces, 15 letters with spaces
American Airlines = 16 letters without spaces, 17 letters with spaces
Flight 77 = 7+7 = 14
Flight 93 = 9+3 = 12
Flight 175 = 1+7+5 = 13
al Qaeda (believed to be the network of terrorists responsible for the attacks) = 7 letters without spaces, 8 letters with spaces
Pakistan = 8 letters
The White House = 13 letters without spaces, 15 letters with spaces
Saddam Hussein = 13 letters without spaces, 14 letters with spaces
Iraq = 4 letters
Iran = 4 letters
Yasser Arafat = 12 letters without spaces, 13 letters with spaces
Palestine = 9 letters
Freaky, huh? After all, every single one of the entries on my list has been mentioned in respect to the attack in one way or another, and yet none of them add up to 11!

And yet, there's nothing more or less meaningful about my list above than there is about the list with all of the things that add up to 11 -- it's just that with my list I'm reversing the process: I'm making a big deal about all the things that don't add up to 11 and I'm ignoring all the ones that do (i.e. I'm counting the misses and excluding the hits).

Written By WhiteTiggress

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