Aziz Inan has a way of finding the beauty in every day—or, at least, on a few select dates on the calendar.
As a professor of electrical engineering at University of Portland, Inan, 65, has always had an affinity for numbers, but his appreciation goes beyond their academic application. He sees them as a kind of art. And in his estimation, palindrome dates—dates that read the same forward and backward when written numerically—are worthy of the Louvre, if not Hogwarts.
“That symmetric aspect,” he says, “has its own magic power.”
He first felt that mystical force himself 10 years ago. He recognized that Jan. 2, 2010, would be only the second eight-digit palindrome in over 600 years. He’s since kept a running tab of palindrome dates on his website, and worked to keep the public informed whenever one is upcoming.
As a result, he’s become the national media’s go-to contact for palindromic content: When this year’s Super Bowl fell on Feb. 2, 2020—the only day this century that’s a palindrome in both American and European date systems—he received calls from The Washington Post, USA Today and National Public Radio.
His phone should be ringing quite a bit in 2021: It’s the last time we’ll see two palindrome dates—1/20/2021 and 12/02/2021—in the same year for another century.
Inan knows it doesn’t seem like a big deal. But the way he sees it, palindromes are an example of the small miracles obscured by the clutter of everyday life—and once revealed, they can open the door to seeing the world a little differently.
“If I tell my student, ‘Your birthday is going to be a palindrome date three years from now,’ I see that excitement on that student’s face,” he says. “You know how you throw a stone in the water, and those waves come out circularly? That’s what I observe with this.”
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