The year just ended seemed so, well, odd to me that I felt a need to get some insight on it from the spirit world. I had lately learned a system for consulting with the souls of the departed, so I gave it a try. Not to bore you with the details of preparing for the seance, in a few hours I found myself in conversation with a spirit who identified himself as Dr. Irving Joshua Matrix.
"Dr. Matrix!" I exclaimed. "I thought you were a fictional creation of the late, great Martin Gardner!"
Martin Gardner wrote a series of esays recounting his interviews with Dr. Matrix over a period of many years from the 1960s to the 1980s. Dr. Matrix was a numerologist and always explained contemporary events through numerical coincidences. His theory was that numbers control human behavior, in some mystical way.
"Well, here I am," he (it?) said. "You wanted to ask something about 2016?"
"Of course. I mean, what's with Pokemon Go? And clown attacks? And how does who can go to which bathroom in North Carolina become a national issue? And..."
"My time is limited, you know. Maybe you should prioritize?"
"Well...how does the Republican party come to nominate a candidate that past Republican presidents wouldn't endorse, and whose nominating convention prominent Republicans wouldn't even attend?"
"That's more like it. You know the GOP was founded in 1854, right?"
"Um, yeah, sure, I knew that."
"Making it 162 years old in 2016. You'll note that 2016 is a shuffling of the digits of 0162, leaving no digit in the same position. Hence, the shuffling of the power within the party."
"Holy cow! I would never have thought of that! But then, how did Trump come to win out? Everyone seemed to think Hillary Clinton would win."
"Hillary was overconfident," he said, smirking. How I could tell that a disembodied spirit was smirking I can't say, but I could. "I'm afraid her numerologists were not as competent as I would have been." Hillary Clinton used numerologists? I thought. "They were deceived into thinking 2016 would be auspicious for her by the somewhat remarkable fact that 2016 times 81833 turns out to contain all the digits from 1 through 9, each one exactly once."
"Uhh," I said, whipping out my calculator. I punched in the product and found it to be 164,975,328. "Yep, all nine digits. But so what? What was that 81,833 about?"
"Translate the letters HRC, her initials, into their positions in the alphabet," explained the spirit patiently. "H is letter 8, R is 18, C is 3. So HRC is 8183, and if you repeat the last 3, there you are."
"Huh," I said. "Well."
"But what they neglected to consider is that an even more significant product is to multiply 2016 by 818330, so that you get all ten digits in the result. And that suggests HRC 30. You see?"
"Umm," I said, not seeing. "But the alphabet has only 26 letters?"
"Good lord. Don't you know the significance of the number 30 in journalism? You put it at the end of a story. It lets the next person handling the paper know that he's at the end."
Light dawned. "You mean..."
"Absolutely. 2016 marks THE END of HRC's political career."
Somehow, he seemed to be making sense. "But why Trump, of all people?"
"Well, 2016 is something new in American politics. This is, of course, the first election year in US history that's a triangular number."
"A triangular number? Let's see, that is..."
"You call yourself a math major? A triangular number is a sum of consecutive integers starting with 1. Such as 1 itself, 1+2=3, 1+2+3=6, and so on. Fifteen pool balls form a perfect triangle at the start of a game because 15=1+2+3+4+5, and those are the numbers of balls in the five rows of the triangle."
"I see," I said. "And 2016?"
"Is the 63rd triangular number. Hence the departure from previous trends, such as the GOP nominating a candidate whose last name did not have either 6 or 4 letters."
"Wait, now--what's that about?"
"Great Gauss's ghost, you really are a beginner, aren't you? You haven't noticed that ever since the Watergate scandals, every GOP presidential candidate's first and last names have had either 6 or 4 letters?"
"What? Wait a minute," I said. How could anything so bizarre have escaped notice? Let's see: Gerald Ford; Ronald Wilson Reagan, George Bush -- two of those -- Robert Dole, John McCain, Mitt Romney: holy guacamole, he's right!
"But what could account for that?" I said, baffled.
"Gerald Ford set it off, of course. The Republicans were so relieved to be done with Watergate, and FORD suggested F or D, which translated to their alphabet positions, meant 6 or 4. The trend held for nearly 40 years. It even affected most of their vice presidents. Up until the overwhelming influence of the triangular number, 2016, when you elected the 45th president: 45 being the 9th triangular number. Hence, Donald John Trump, whose name has 15 letters..."
"The fifth triangular number!"
"Now you've got it. It didn't hurt that 2016 divides into 20 and 16, which are the positions of T and P in the alphabet, the first and last letters of his name.
"Of course, once he got the nomination it was practically over, since 2016 is pretty obviously a Republican year, based on its remainder when divided by 17. Since 1968, every election year whose remainder when divided by 17 was from 1-7 has had a Democrat president, and all others Republican."
My head was spinning by this time. "Then--then, for instance, that's how Barack Obama won reelection in 2012? It was fated all along? I mean, even Karl Rove was flabbergasted--"
The spirit snorted. Imagine something that could make a spirit snort. "Of course he won in 2012. It's four times 503, a prime number. The Democrats haven't lost an election in a year that was four time a prime since Reconstruction. I mean, if people would pay attention to just rudimentary numerology--"
"Okay, hang on. What can you tell me about 2017?"
"Twenty-seventeen, now that's when things are going to get really interesting," he said, but his voice seemed to be coming from farther away. "You see ..."
It was as if he were retreating down a hallway. "Dr. Matrix!" I cried. "Talk louder! I can't hear!"
I could still make out his voice, but only snatches of words now. "... prime ... expressed in base ... cube root ..."
And that was all.