It's important stuff as a child: one's favorite number. And that penchant for a special digit doesn't necessarily fade as adulthood sets in. As Dana Mackenzie writes for Nautilus, it was a question that Guardian math blogger Alex Bellos fielded so frequently that he decided to turn the tables on his readers with favouritenumber.net, a website that asked people to select their favorite, and explain why. The victor, per the 30,025 responses Bellos analyzed: 7. Though 1,123 numbers received nods, almost half of respondents professed to loving a number between one and 10. Indeed, from that range only "one" and "10" failed to qualify for the top 10, replaced by 11 and 13.
Speaking to PRI, Bellos says our seven obsession is an ancient one, dating back to Babylon. "You go back to the earliest writers we have, and there are more sevens there than any other number." But Bellos wasn't just interested in the what—he wanted to suss out the why. The most popular reason given for selecting a number was that it was the participant's birthday. But someone born on the 10th was "a lot less likely to choose" that 10 as his favorite than someone born on the 13th, he found. That's because we want an "exceptional" number, Bellos posits. Even numbers feel vague, which could be why he says 110 is the best candidate for least favorite number. He tells Nautilus, "We use round numbers to mean approximate things. When we say 100, we don’t usually mean exactly 100, we mean around 100. So 100 seems incredibly vague. Why would you have something as your favorite that is so vague?" (Read more numbers stories.)