I am currently writing a post about pico and femto satellites for Sciencebase, these devices are tiny compared to the enormous one tonne behemoths many of us would picture if asked to visualise an artificial satellite (more on that later). Anyway, the earth’s escape velocity at sea level from a standing start was a figure I needed to hand while writing the piece.
I found a value in metres per second, converted to kmh and did a quick search with Google Toolbar just to get some references and to confirm my calculation. The kmh value, as you may have guessed, comes out at about 40320. However, Google’s auto-suggest offered me a search for the phrase “40320 plain bob major”, which was odd, to say the least, but would have been the obvious figure to a bell-ringing friend of mine. He would have immediately spotted it as an astoundingly long peal of bells. In fact, this very long peal was rung in 1963 in Loughborough, England, using eight tower bells in all possible permutations 8 multiplied by 8 factoria (8×8!) would come to 322,560 blows. Apparently, it took more than 18 hours to ring the changes all the way through.
Of course, the peal of 40320 arises because of the 8 factorial connection, 8×7×6×5×4×3×2×1 (8!) and has nothing to do with earth’s escape velocity, but it hooked me on a bit of guided searching looking for other significant mentions of the number 40320.
40320 is the number of minutes in 4 weeks and so February with its usual 28 days, should be designated “International Factorial Appreciation Month” according to one author (except in leap years, such as 2008, of course).
Kentucky 40320 is a spot on Ford Hampton Road in Kentucky, USA.
Item 40320 in the SigmaAldrich catalog of chemicals is 2,2-dimethylglutaric acid and bug number 40320 in Ubuntu Linux – “devhelp starts with an “empty” page area, which is not redrawn”, whatever than means, apologies to Ubuntu fans, I’ve not been there, nor done that yet.
The PubMed ID (PMID) 40320 points to a paper in the August 1979 issue of the journal Tijdschr Diergeneeskd entitled “Relationship between the presence of meconium in newborn lambs and postnatal pH and blood gas tension levels” and Tinyurl page 40320 displays a scan of a cheque for $950 with the filename bloodmoney.jpg.
Assuming Rudolph is at the front, there are 40320 ways to arrange the other eight reindeer (this simply relies on the 8! value mentioned earlier and could apply to clusters of any eight objects). It ignores “Olive the other reindeer”, you know the one who used to “laugh and call him names”. At the time of writing there were 207 cars listed for sale according to Google that had 40320 miles on the clock and just 5 with that same number in kilometres, while according to Cancerwise, 40320 women will be diagnosed with uterine cancer this year.
40320 is the item number for a “please shower” sign at BackyardGardener.com and BIOS 40320 is the Aquatic Conservation course covering global freshwaters, science and policy at University of Notre Dame.
Most of these various facts are totally unrelated, except those invoked by 8! Amazing what you learn writing about femto satellites. If you have any other fascinating examples of the number 40320 please give them a mention in the comments box below.