# Do You Experience Number Forms ?

1. May 2, 2010

### zoobyshoe

Do You Experience "Number Forms"?

A "number form" is an involuntary chart, of sorts, that pops into some people's minds when they consider things like calendars (months, days), times of day, the alphabet, or even just numbers from 1 to infinity.

These "charts" have their elements grouped rather idiosynchratically from other people's perspective but to the person experiencing the "Number Form" they make absolute sense and seem inevitable. People refer to these charts all the time and visualize them being out in space around them. For some people they're colorless, but for others they are colored and may have some element of motion to them.

"The pattern or 'Form' in which the numerals are seen is by no means the same in different persons, but assumes the most grotesque variety of shapes, which run in all sorts of angles, bends, curves, and zigzags...
...These forms...are stated in all cases to have been in existence, so far as the earlier numbers in the Form are concerned, as long back as the memory extends; they come 'into view quite independently' of the will, and their shape and position...are nearly invariable."

-Galton 1907

These charts are said to be indispensable to the people who experience and use them and they are surprised when they find out everyone doesn't have the same thing going on. In fact, it's estimated only one-in-ten people has them.

I, myself, don't experience this, and I only ever heard about it the first time a couple weeks ago. What's interesting is that, apparently, Feynman had it, and saw colored equations projected into space in front of him.

Any of you have "Number Forms"?

2. May 2, 2010

### TheStatutoryApe

Re: Do You Experience "Number Forms"?

I tend to think in visual and spacial terms, I often have trouble getting chess boards and the like out of my head, but I have trouble with numbers. Perhaps my issue with numbers is a lack of perceiving them in a visual/spacial fashion.

3. May 2, 2010

### zoobyshoe

Re: Do You Experience "Number Forms"?

Number forms arise specifically from concepts of sequence; months of the year, days of the month, letters of the alphabet, etc. Thinking in visual and spatial terms, like imagining the positions of things in a room, is not the same thing. In Number Forms the position of an element of a sequence takes on a peculiar location in space relative to the person's body.

Here's a quote from one person who experiences them:

"The patterns are very defined, have always been in the same place (and are constantly getting longer as I get older). History is a good example: I cannot think of a period in history (or my past) without simultaneously (but not necessarily consciously) thinking of where it is 3-dimensionally in my mind! For example, the Renaissance is on a curve down to the left of my body. The idea, or thought, and the position are inseparable."

4. May 2, 2010

### zoobyshoe

Re: Do You Experience "Number Forms"?

Here's a couple images I found; people's attempt to draw their number forms:

5. May 2, 2010

### lisab

Staff Emeritus
Re: Do You Experience "Number Forms"?

I don't think I have this but I do think of numbers visually.

I memorized the multiplication tables as a kid by remembering patterns, not numbers. I remember the pattern of, for example, all the multiples of 6, as they lay on a 10X10 grid in my mind. This is presented in a lot of children's math books and may have been the seed of this idea for me. So for me it's not idiosyncratic, like you describe, but very logical.

6. May 2, 2010

### DaveC426913

Re: Do You Experience "Number Forms"?

Wow, what a totally novel and foreign concept. Definitely I'm not one of them.

7. May 2, 2010

### Jack21222

Re: Do You Experience "Number Forms"?

Nope, I don't have those. It seems like a type of synesthesia.

8. May 2, 2010

### rhody

Re: Do You Experience "Number Forms"?

zooby,

It almost seems obvious now, but do you think Feynman's famous (Feynman diagrams) were inspired by this trait ? Also, I have read more than a few books on Feynman over the years, and his wife would describe him at times as moving his body back and forth, contorting into weird shapes (not spasmodically though) and when asked about it, he would say he was imagining he was a proton or some other subatomic particle, just like Feynman, always the original thinker ! Just imagine, if Feynman diagrams still used by Physicists today were due to his synesthesia, that would be awesome, and newsworthy as well.

Rhody...

PS I have summed up most of what I want to say for the synesthesia thread, and the afterward does contain some new stuff that everyone following the thread may find interesting, working on it now, will report soon.

9. May 2, 2010

### lisab

Staff Emeritus
Re: Do You Experience "Number Forms"?

Interesting idea, Rhody. When I saw Zooby's post with the examples of this, my first thought looking at the stick ones was that they vaguely resemble Feynman diagrams.

10. May 2, 2010

### rewebster

Re: Do You Experience "Number Forms"?

they don't look like Feynman's diagrams at all to me---they're more/almost like obstacle paths and/or something out of set theory

11. May 2, 2010

### lisab

Staff Emeritus
Re: Do You Experience "Number Forms"?

I probably thought of them because I'm reading QED right now .

12. May 2, 2010

### leroyjenkens

Re: Do You Experience "Number Forms"?

I sort of understand what you're talking about. I see calender days in a line, like a number line, going from 1 to 31, depending on the month, and then right after the 31, another 1 starts the next month. The alphabet is the same way. It's not a weird shape, just a line.

Some of those pictures you posted makes them seem like autistic characteristics.

13. May 2, 2010

### rhody

Re: Do You Experience "Number Forms"?

lisa,

I was looking online for examples of Feynman diagrams, and found this: http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl...ndsp=21&tbs=isch:1&ei=ZqPdS-7SJ4iwtAPg5_CxBg"

Combine the fact that Feynman used to imagine himself a sub atomic particle, affecting and being affected by other bosons (particles) and fermions (forces) around him (with different masses, spins and velocities) and the fact the he naturally was comfortable with colored number series in twisted chains, then it is not too far of a stretch to suggest that all the necessary mechanics or tools were at his disposal to simply remove the numbers and let his branching thought process create the scaffolding. In looking it up on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feynman_diagram#Alternative_names", it seems Feynman was not the first to invent them though: from the article:

This is a bit off topic but in reading Gell-Mann's, "Quark and the Jaguar" he is a perfectionist to the point of pain when reading his work because he pays such exquisite attention to detail, and writes as if one were reading an English text book (he was a linguist too, and could speak 4 or 5 languages). I often came away from reading that book with a headache, no disrespect Mr. Gell-Mann due to his style, content and sensory overload he delivers to whatever topic he describes.

Rhody...

Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2017
14. May 2, 2010

### Averagesupernova

Re: Do You Experience "Number Forms"?

I think like this all the time. I've often wondered if anyone else does but hadn't thought of a way to describe it without sounding like a nutjob. This is the first time I've seen it brought to discussion anywhere.
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I picture the calendar year as an arc. Multiple years (up to 3 or so) are arcs stacked one on top of the previous. However, I don't think of the years going back through history this way. They are 'blocks' like sections of a sidewalk. Different decades have different shades as do different centuries. Different months in the year have different shades associated with them. For instance, January is very bright, but December is dull and gray. Quite a contrast considering they are similar in weather.
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The alphabet also has various dark and light colored sections in it.
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Thinking about it, this sort of thing is so familiar to me that alot of things I am not even conscious of I probably picture this way.

Last edited: May 2, 2010
15. May 2, 2010

### rhody

Re: Do You Experience "Number Forms"?

Averagesupernova,

Well you can thank Zoobyshoe for it, the serendipidious journey started https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=374522", I think you are going to like it.... a lot.

Rhody...

Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2017
16. May 2, 2010

### zoobyshoe

Re: Do You Experience "Number Forms"?

Damn strong possibility. Good thinking, Rhody.

Beside what you said about that report from his wife I've only heard the one quote from Cytowic. I don't know where Feynman said that either. The reports of his Number Forms are scarce, I think.

I'm reading Cytowic's Synesthesia, A Union of the Senses and Number Forms aren't classified as synesthesia because they arise from concepts rather than in response to the stimulation of a primary sense. Of course they're considered related to it, though.

Feynman's children are still around. Have to wonder if they have number forms.

17. May 2, 2010

### zoobyshoe

Re: Do You Experience "Number Forms"?

Funny you say that. Oliver Sacks did a TV special about an Autistic Savant girl a few years back and she had this very elaborate calendar she decorated every day as a sort of journal. It was quite like one of these number forms in that it was rigidly organized in her mind but seemed pretty eccentric to everyone else.

Her special talent was that she painted super-realistic paintings of houses. Very literal, and objectively accurate, unlike her calendar.

18. May 2, 2010

### zoobyshoe

Re: Do You Experience "Number Forms"?

Exellent! This sounds like an authentic number form!

Be very cool if you could photoshop up a calendar to show us how you envision it.

19. May 2, 2010

### Chi Meson

Re: Do You Experience "Number Forms"?

Holy CRAP! I thought I was unique!

I have been aware of the weird ladder that my numbers (from 1 to etc) take since 6th grade, and I have never known this to be talked about until now!

Some of the pictures that you showed are similar to my own. I even see various portions of my numberline from different perspectives. Sometimes it helps with quick problems of addition and subtraction, but just as often, it gets in the way, because the damn thing is so irregular.

I recognized it long ago as something that might explain why a savant can do math so quickly, just by essentially looking at the "map" in his head.

Mine starts at zero and goes straight line to ten, looking like a ladder propped agains a low wall. 10 to 20, the ladder turns to the right, and gets steeper. 20 to 30, turns left, and gets steeper still. A bit fuzzy at the 39/40 transition, but the steepness stays the same, and slight zigzags at each ten, but not necessarily the same turn. 100 is like a solid platform (much like zero) from which the same ladder begins again.

After 200, the 100s seem to be a repeat of the 1 to 10 ladder.

The 1000's for some reason, go to the left, at no angle.

20. May 2, 2010

### zoobyshoe

Re: Do You Experience "Number Forms"?

Amazing! Do the numbers seem associated with a particular position relative to your body?

Any thing beside the number line? Elements of the calendar, measurements, the alphabet?