The song says three is the magic number, but why is it special? It features across history, science, art, and religion. Throughout time, it seems humans have latched onto three to help them make sense of the world. Some of it seems logical and some just pure imagination. But it can’t be denied that three has stuck in the human mind for millennia as being a number that means something. So from ancient religion to science and DNA, this article looks at the alleged magical qualities of the number three.
#1 Humans see the world in three dimensions (height, width, and depth) although quantum physics suggests there may be a fourth dimension (time).
#2 There are three primary colors which make all other colors. They are red, yellow and blue. This is due to our eye cells only having three color receptor cones.
#3 Buddhism cites these three colors as ‘The Three Jewels’ Buddha (yellow), Dharma (blue), and Sangha (red). They also follow the “Threefold Path” of Ethics, Meditation, and Wisdom.
#4 Tri means three, thus Trigonometry is a branch of mathematics based on the relationships between angles. Triangles have three corners and three sides and trigonometry was essential in early navigation and astronomy.
#5 The secret society of Freemasons use three in many rituals and symbols; they have three grand masters, three degrees, three knocks and three candles.
#6 The idea of the three parts of a human (mind, body and soul) came from Ancient Greece where Plato set out his philosophy of the ‘threefold soul’ – the intellect, noble affections and the lower appetites/passions. Life itself has been noted to take three parts – birth, life, and death.
#7 In terms of DNA our genes are read by a triplet code – read in a sequence of 3 bases which determine our genetic makeup.
#8 Many religions have 3 or Triple Gods, such as in Christianity with God The Father, The Son and The Holy Ghost, and the Hindu Trimurti with Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.
#9 The ‘rule of three’ occurs as a useful estimation tool:
Pilots use it – calculating three miles of travel for every 1,000 feet (300 m) of descent
In Economics, a rule is that there are three major competitors in a free market in any one industry.
#10 In business, a three is written with a flat top to prevent fraud by way of it being changed into 8. As such, it became known as the ‘bankers three‘.
#11 It is the closest number to Pi (3.14159) which is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. Among many other things knowing Pi (or estimating it to three) enables geometric, statistical, fractal and mechanical calculation.
#12 It is a prime and super-prime number – the sum of the numbers below it, and the only number whose sum with those below equals the product of them and itself.
#13 Pagans believe in the three-fold law – whatever good or bad energy a person puts out into the world, it will be returned to them three times.
#14 This hit classic De La Soul track sampled the track in 1989.