Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Why is the number 13 evil?

In Sunday school last week, our teacher explained to us how numbers can be evil. I don't like going to Sunday school anymore since my friend Steve got kicked out. (If you want to know how it all happened, you'll have to read my post on 'So, when was God invented, then?'). But my parents think it's a good idea to have at least some religious education. Most of the stuff we get told doesn't make any sense to me, but I still go because my dad promised to get me a new bike for Christmas...

I think what our teacher was trying to tell us was that the devil has a number and that we should avoid using it (it's 666 - in case you're interested). He wanted us to know that 13 can be evil too. I didn't believe any of it and so I tried to think of more interesting things (such as building a fort this winter and playing Quidditch with my friends - we use broomsticks as well, but none of us can fly). I also tried to think of my new bike.

But I know that some people like to believe in strange things. My mom for example thinks that our uncle Herbert is special because he was born on Christmas Day. He believes in angels and sees people who aren't there. (He also uses aluminum foil to wrap his furniture in case aliens want to steal his lunch.) I think Uncle Herbert is schizophrenic. But my mom is convinced that he has visions. And when I asked her about the numbers, she couldn't explain any of it. So I decided to do some more research ...

Here's what I found: a normal year in our calender has a little over 12 lunar cycles, so there's an odd month every four years or so. In the old days, some of the monks who were responsible for coming up with new calenders didn't like this because it was too difficult. That's probably why they thought the 13th month was unlucky. (Find out more about lunar cycles and the blue moon on space.com)

13 is also important for Christians because, when Jesus had his last supper, there were 12 apostles at his table (13 people altogether). One of them betrayed him, so I guess he must have thought 13 was evil. 

In the Jewish religion, a boy achieves maturity when he turns 13. He then becomes a full member of the community (although I don't know if this is a good or a bad thing.) I think witches are cool, so I think it's important that there are normally 13 witches in a coven.

I guess people are a little afraid of the number 13 because there are some very complicated things you can do with it in Maths (and Maths is always scary). There are 13 Archimedean solids, for example, and people say that there are 13 ways for the three fastest horses to finish a race (if you're into this kind of stuff, you will be interested to know that this is because 13 is the third ordered Bell number - you can find out more about Bell numbers here). 

I also think people believe 13 is unlucky because it's an odd number that doesn't seem to fit in anywhere. Some people think it's bad to start a new project on a Friday or on the 13th. But I think that's mostly because you would run way into the weekend before you could finish it...

I like funny words, so I think it's pretty cool that fear of the number 13 is called 'Triskaidekaphobia'. But - as it turns out - the number 13 is not an evil number after all, it's just been a bit unlucky. Not because it's evil but because superstitious people don't seem to like it very much. 

I'll have to talk to my Sunday school teacher on Sunday. Steve and I wanted to start building a boat next Friday. If I talk to him about his superstitions this week, I think there's a good chance that we'll have enough time to finish it next Sunday morning. If I do it right, he'll kick me out too and I could tell my dad it wasn't my fault ...

If you want to know a little more about why people don't like the number 13, check out this post on mentalfloss.com. I took the Quidditch picture from Harrypotter.wikia.com. The first 13 came from the Telegraph website and the calendar with Friday 13 came from a blog called blog.pch.com.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

What's the difference between a Raven and a Crow?

I haven't posted anything for a while. The reason is that my parents had this great idea to refurbish our house. They had been planning to do it for years, so I didn't think it would ever happen. But a few weeks ago they told me that they would need my room for storing bricks and cement and stuff. And that's why I had to go and stay with my grandma for a while.

My grandma's a little crazy, but she's also very nice. I didn't mind living with her for a few weeks. She bakes the most amazing cakes! The only problem is that she doesn't have any broadband at her place...

Anyway. I'm back home now. My parents are almost finished (there's still lots of cement bags and bricks stored on our driveway). So I thought I should post something new...

Last week, my cousin Carl (who is a few years older than me and totally into horror stuff) told me something very strange about crows. He said that they sometimes attack people and hack out their eyes. I thought he was just trying to scare me, so I asked my dad about it. He didn't think they did. But he also couldn't explain the difference between a raven and a crow. So I got online and did a little research.

Here's what I found out: Crows and Ravens are actually all part of the same crow family called corvus. Crows are a bit smaller than ravens (pigeon size), and they are less shiny. Ravens are huge, almost as big as a falcon. But they live farer away from cities and from people, so we usually see them less.

I only ever see crows when they sit outside my window in our neighbour's garden. Sometimes there's a few flying over our house (a few crows flying together is called a 'murder of crows'- which I think is pretty cool!). It's hard to tell what they look like when they're flying. But apparently they have a very different shape of tail (which you cannot see when they are sitting down). Crows' tail feathers are fan-shaped and a raven's tail looks a little more wedge-shaped.

Another way to tell crows and ravens apart is the way they sound. A crow's call sounds a bit like an angry poodle and a raven's call sounds more like a complaining old person. Check out these videos on YouTube for an example:

Video 1: angry poodle crow

Video 2: old person raven

Crows eat almost everything they can find. Berries, little insects and also dead things. In the stories of old, people saw them after battles and such because they fed on the dead bodies and the fallen horses. I think that's why a few of them together are always considered to be a bad sign.

So - as it turns out - crows actually will hack out your eyes if you're a dead soldier lying in a ditch somewhere. They will also eat your horse. But the good thing is that they would not try and eat you while you're still alive, so there's no need to worry.

What most people don't know is that ravens also eat dead things. But they usually do it alone. Maybe that's why they're not as well known for it.

 If you want to find out a little more about crows and why they sleep together in roots, check out this informative website: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/crows/crowfaq.htm.

For some more information on crows and ravens in celtic and native American myths, you could have a look at this blog.

The picture with the crow and the pram was designed by Dark Shepard - I found it on imgfave.com. The image with the flying raven came from people.tribe.net.