The 11:11 Phenomenon; How Numerology plays a role in 2012 fear

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Are repeating digits significant?

Some proponents of the 2012 doomsday use the fact that the 2012 December solstice was listed by the U.S. Naval Observatory1 as occurring at 11:11 UT (Universal Time, a.k.a. Greenwich Mean Time). This is significant, they claim, because of something called "The 11:11 Phenomenon".

In fact, the USNO recently changed the time of the December solstice, 2012 on the table of Solstices and Equinoxes to 11:12 UT, after one of us sent them an email pointing out that their data was a bit out of date.

What is the 11:11 phenomenon?

Gary Johnson, a self-described Lightworker/Spirit Master, and proponent of the "11:11 Phenomenon" explains it like this:

What is the 11:11 Phenomenon? Well, let's see if some of the following things ring a bell with you:

  • (1) Whenever you glance at your watch, a clock or the little square on your TV screen containing the time remaining during many sporting events, do you frequently notice the times 11:11, 12:12 or times of double digit minutes like 2:00, 1:44, 3:11, 4:33, 5:22, 6:55 etc.?
  • (2) Whenever you glance at a license plate, the address on a building, an apartment number or anything else that has numbers for that matter, do you frequently notice they end in double digits or add up to 11?
  • (3) Whenever you must wait in some line and have to take a number, is it frequently a double digit number?
  • (4) Whenever you go shopping, is the receipt total or the amount of change that you receive frequently of the double digit variety?
  • (5) Whenever you fill your car with gasoline, is the number of gallons or the amount of your purchase frequently of the double digit variety?
  • (6) Do you frequently find 11 cents?
  • (7) Do you have a ringing in your ears right now?2

If your answer to one or all of the above is yes, you are experiencing the 11:11 phenomenon.[2]

Uri Geller, of spoon-bending fame, also claims that the number 11 is significant, and has written a page detailing all of the names, words, and objects that remind him of the number 11.

Several "2012 doomsday" websites make the claim that the "11:11 phenomeon" is tied in with the so-called "Mayan Prophecy" as well as the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center terrorist attack. For example:

21 December 2012 at 11:11 am the Mayan calendar ends.3

In the astrological sense with the precision of equinoxes & the 26,000 years cycle of Earth wobbling through the 12 signs of zodiac we are moving in to the new age of Aquarius and Aquarius is the 11th astrological sign.4

The first plane that hit the world trade centre was flight 11.

Total number of crew on flight 11 was 11.

New York State is the 11th state of the US constitution.5

September 11, 2001 is 11 years from 2012.6

The world trade centre commenced building in 1966 and finished in 1977. It took 11 years to build.

Observational selection

The purported significance of 11:11 is a classic case of observational selection7, or "counting the hits and ignoring the misses".

Observational Selection Example: Probability of Life

Let’s look at an example where an observation selection effect is involved: We find that intelligent life evolved on Earth. On the surface, one might think that this suggests that life is likely to evolve on most Earth-like planets. However, no matter how small the proportion of all Earth-like planets that evolve intelligent life, we will find ourselves on a planet that did. Our data point — that intelligent life arose on our planet — is predicted equally well by the hypothesis that intelligent life is very improbable even on Earth-like planets as it is by the hypothesis that intelligent life is highly probable on Earth-like planets.

We cannot distinguish between these two hypotheses, because we do not have enough data. Both both hypotheses predict that intelligent life would have evolved somewhere. Simply because intelligent life exists here is not enough to project the probability of intelligent life living elsewhere.

Some people extend this claim and say that earth is 'fine-tuned' for life, and claim that this supports the existence of a supreme being. However, due to our observational bias, we cannot say that these are the only conditions under which life could evolve, and furthermore we cannot say that the current conditions are even the best for the development of life. We just happen to have evolved under these conditions. One would be more correct to say that life is 'fine tuned' (by evolution) to live on Earth.

The 11:11 Phenomenon as a case of Observational Selection

In the case of the "11:11 Phenomenon", the idea is first formed that repeating digits (and the more digits, the merrier, apparently) are somehow significant. Setting aside the fact that how we measure time (hours, minutes and seconds) and some of the ways we measure longer periods of time (weeks, months) are completely human constructs with no real significance to nature whatsoever, they then seek out examples of the number eleven in various calculations and observations, and make sweeping claims as to the connections.

If I glance at my watch and see the time as 12:14, that is not counted as 'significant' under the 'repeated digits' description of the '11:11 phenomenon'. If I glanced at it two minutes earlier, I would have seen 12:12, or seven minutes later 12:21, either of which would be counted as significant.

Repeated digits (assuming a typical 12 hour time format digital clock) occur frequently, 7 times every 12 hours8. If you allow for interspersed digits they occur even more frequently9.

It is fair to say that if the observer is looking for repeated digits (there are only 10 digits after all) then they will certainly find them, especially on digital clocks. Did the '11:11 phenomenon' exist before digital clocks?

An example of '11' observational selection: 9/11

The attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 destroyed the twin towers (1 WTC and 2 WTC). The obvious visual similarity between the towers and the number 11 is touted as significant.

However, the proponents of this idea completely ignore the other buildings destroyed in the attack, including 7 WTC, 6 WTC, 5 WTC, 4 WTC, the Marriott World Trade Center (3 WTC), and the World Financial Center complex and St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church.[3] The "connection" between the date (9/11) and the similarity of the WTC towers is disrupted when you take into consideration all of the other damage that was done.

11:11 Numerology

Archaeologist Johan Normark points out that the entire 11:11/2012 connection is based on nothing more than numerology and gematria.

Gematria is a Hebrew way of assigning numerical values to a word or phrase. Words and phrases that share similar numerical values have a relation with each other or may relate to the number itself (such as a calendar date, a person’s age, etc). Numerology is a belief in a mystical relationship between numbers and physical objects or living things. Each number is given a meaning. People usually use numbers from 0 to 10.[5]

Normark also points out that advocates of this connection ignore many facts that are inconvenient to their idea, such as the fact that the Maya did not count in base-10.

The 2012 December Solstice connection

As we noted above, the proponents of this idea claim that because the December solstice in 2012 used to be listed by the U.S. Naval Observatory as occurring at 11:11 Universal Time (another human construct!) that the 11:11 phenomenon ties in with the "2012 doomsday".

There are, however, problems with this idea. The solstice actually occurs closer to 11:12 UTC instead of 11:11, and the U.S. Naval Observatory has updated their table to reflect this fact.

Computation of Solstices, Equinoxes and Eclipses

One of the things that astronomy allows us to do is make predictions of various astronomical events. Some of the events that can be predicted by using astronomy are solstices (the longest and shortest days of the year), equinoxes (the days that have the same amount of daylight and night) and eclipses (when the moon moves in front of the sun, or into the Earth's shadow).

Terrestrial Time vs Universal Time

Predictions of events such as solstices, equinoxes, and eclipses can be computed very accurately in terms of an invariable time frame such as Terrestrial Time (TT), but conversion to Universal Time (UTC) involves some guesswork, and the more accurate you are trying to be, the more difficult these events are to predict.

Leap Seconds

For example, from time to time you will hear that a "leap second" is being added or subtracted from the master atomic clocks. These are positive or negative one-second adjustments to the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) time scale that keeps it close to mean solar time10. UTC (which used to be called Greenwich Mean Time or GMT) is used as the basis for official time-of-day radio broadcasts for civil time, is maintained using extremely precise atomic clocks. To keep the UTC time scale close to mean solar time, UTC is occasionally corrected by an intercalary adjustment, or "leap", of one second. The timing of leap seconds is determined by the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS).

Estimating future leap seconds

Any computation of the timing of a celestial event (solstice, equinox, eclipse, etc) involves a guess as to how many leap seconds will be inserted into UTC in the future. The farther into the future these computations are made, the more guesswork is involved. Leap seconds are only ever announced six months in advance, so the farther ahead you attempt to predict, the greater amount of guesswork involved.

The USNO table of equinoxes and solstices is drawn up years in advance, so some of the 'guesses' made are improved upon as we get closer to each date. When the accumulated corrections11 are sufficient, then it is appropriate to change some of the predicted times. All the changes involve adding a minute to the tabulated times because the Earth's rotation in the last few years hasn't been running quite as slowly as predicted (there were no leap seconds at all between the end of 1998 and the end of 2005). Thus the Earth 'clock' has been ticking a bit faster than expected in recent years and will have ticked on to 11:12 by the time the December solstice arrives in 2012.

A check of the NASA's Horizons website and interpolation of the Sun's apparent longitude gives the solstice at 11:11:38.4. The website doesn't allow for future leap seconds, so if we assume one more between now (November 2009) and 2012 (a reasonable guess), the solstice will be at 11:11:37.4 UTC. To bring the figure below 11:11:3012 will require 9 leap seconds between now and 2012, a virtual impossibility.

The USNO website now agrees with others that had already factored in the change13.

It now seems probable that the first leap second since December 2008 will be inserted into UTC at the end of June 2012. If so, it will be announced in Bulletin C, to be issued by the International Earth Rotation Service during January 2012.

Update, 10th January 2012
Bulletin C of the IERS was issued on 5th January 2012 and it confirms that a positive leap second will be introduced into UTC at the end of June 2012.14 We can therefore say with certainty that the solstice will occur on 21st December 2012 at 11:11:37.4 UTC, which will be rounded up to 11:12.

It's probably true to say that if the Earth's rotation since 2000 had been more predictable, the USNO would have correctly estimated and published the December 2012 solstice as occurring at 11:12 from the outset, there would have been no link made between 11:11 numerology and the 2012 doomsday predictions and this web page would not have been required at all.


We have shown that repeated digits, especially in clocks, are common, and insignificant. The common nature of these events leads to a classic case of observational selection. The "11:11 Phenomenon" is imaginary, and is nothing more than meaningless numerology and gematria.


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