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October 25, 2003

Trevor Austin ( writes:

In 1956, at an MIT workshop that my AI textbook says "the field can be said to have started at" George Miller presented a paper entitled "The Magic Number Seven." Naturally, my mind leapt back to numerous allusions in Bungie's work. Reading the article, I found that it begins:

"My problem is that I have been persecuted by an integer. For seven years this number has followed me around, has intruded in my most private data, and has assaulted me from the pages of our most public journals. This number assumes a variety of disguises, being sometimes a little larger and sometimes a little smaller than usual, but never changing so much as to be unrecognizable. The persistence with which this number plagues me is far more than a random accident. There is, to quote a famous senator, a design behind it, some pattern governing its appearances. Either there really is something unusual about the number or else I am suffering from delusions of persecution."

And part of the conclusion reads:

And finally, what about the magical number seven? What about the seven wonders of the world, the seven seas, the seven deadly sins, the seven daughters of Atlas in the Pleiades, the seven ages of man, the seven levels of hell, the seven primary colors, the seven notes of the musical scale, and the seven days of the week? What about the seven-point rating scale, the seven categories for absolute judgment, the seven objects in the span of attention, and the seven digits in the span of immediate memory? For the present I propose to withhold judgment. Perhaps there is something deep and profound behind all these sevens, something just calling out for us to discover it. But I suspect that it is only a pernicious, Pythagorean coincidence.

I've never seen mention of the article in other discussions of Bungie's fascination with the number, but it certainly seems if not a likely candidate for the original source, at least a pertinent piece of the puzzle.

Nice find, Trevor. Sevens really are everywhere! I seem to remember an HBO forum thread that tried do enumerate all of the sevens in Halo, but, even after two years, would it really be possible to find them all (they're sneaky, you know, those sevens...)? Some people have been finding sevens for a lot longer than that...


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