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Mathemagician conjures up birthday tributes to Neil Armstrong

Where other people see just plain numbers, Aziz S. Inan sees beautiful connections — and in honor of the late moonwalker Neil Armstrong's birthday on Monday, the University of Portland engineering professor has whipped up a baker's dozen of brain-teasers.

Inan is the kind of engineer who revels in calendrical palindromes like 11-02-2011 or 3-14-13 or 4-10-2014. It so happens that Armstrong's birth date — Aug. 5, 1930 — lends itself to lots of numerological twists. Armstrong made history on July 20, 1969, as the first man to take "one small step" on the lunar surface during the Apollo 11 mission. The astronaut passed away last August at the age of 82, and the tributes have been rolling in ever since then. Now you can add Inan's numerological salute to the list. 

"You may find some of my numerical findings related to Neil Armstrong to be a bit of a stretch," Inan acknowledged in an email. It may well be that if you look hard enough, you could find mathemagical coincidences suited to anyone's birthday. But hey, isn't that what math geeks are for?

Here are Inan's Neil Armstrong brain-teasers, as listed on his website:

  1. If the numbers 1 to 26 are assigned to the letters of the English alphabet as A = 1, B = 2, C = 3, etc., the numbers assigned to the letters of Armstrong’s names “Neil,” “Alden,” and “Armstrong” each add up to 40, 36, and 125 respectively. Interestingly enough, if Armstrong’s birth date August 5 is expressed as 8-5 or simply 85, the product of the digits of 85 yield 8 x 5 = 40 (representing Neil), the difference between 40 and its reverse result in 40 – 04 = 36 (Alden), and 40 plus 85 is 125 (Armstrong)!
  2. The numbers assigned to the letters of Armstrong’s full name, “Neil Alden Armstrong,” add up to 40 + 36 + 125 = 201. Amazingly, the 201st day of 1969 is the historic moon landing date, July 20, 1969! What a perfect coincidence!
  3. Armstrong’s 83rd birthday is special. Why? The reverse of 83 is 38, Armstrong’s age when he stepped on the moon. (As an aside, Armstrong’s 38th birthday in 1968 expressed as 851968 is also interesting because it is divisible by 2 to the 16th power.)
  4. Armstrong was born on the 217th day of 1930, that is, August 5, 1930. Interestingly enough, the prime factors of 217 are 7 and 31 (since 7 x 31 = 217) and these two primes add up to 38, again: Armstrong’s age when he landed on the moon.
  5. This year, July 20, 2013 (expressed as 7-20-2013 or simply, 7202013) marked the 44th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 Moon landing. Interestingly enough, 7202013 = 3 x 7 x 13 x 23 x 31 x 37, where these primes add up to 114, which is three times 38 and twice 57, where 57 equals the sum of the numbers assigned to the letters of the word “moon.” Also, if 114 is broken as 11 and 4, the product of these two numbers results in 44, the anniversary number of the historic moon landing. In addition, the sum of the numbers assigned to the letters of Apollo is 71, and 71 plus 11 (the sum of “Apollo” and 11) equals 82, corresponding to Armstrong’s death age.
  6. Armstrong’s 85th birthday in 2015 will be unique, because 85 also represents his birth date, August 5! (That is, 8-5.)
  7. The 58th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, to occur in 2027, is special for two reasons. Why? First, the full date of the 58th anniversary of Apollo 11 Moon landing is 7-20-2027, or simply 7202027, a palindrome date! Second, the reverse of 58 is 85, representing Armstrong’s birth date.
  8. If the year numbers in each century are expressed in terms of their rightmost two digits, Armstrong’s 78th birthday in 2008, expressed as 8-05-08, was a palindrome day. His 128th birthday in 2058, written as 8-5-58, will also be a palindrome day. (His truly palindrome birthdays in all four-digit years will occur on 8-5-2258, 8-05-2508, and 08-05-5080.)
  9. Armstrong’s birth date 85 (August 5) represented in binary equals 1010101, a palindrome! (Also, 85 in octal equals 125.)
  10. Armstrong’s 102nd birthday in 2032, expressed as 8-05-2032 or simply 8052032, will be special since 2032 equals four times 508, which is the reverse of 805, representing August 5. Also, the reverse of 102 is 201, representing Armstrong’s full name.
  11. Armstrong’s 110th birthday in 2040, expressed as 852040, is interesting since both 2040 and 852040 are divisible by 85 (representing August 5).
  12. If Armstrong’s birth date August 5 is expressed as 8-05, or simply 805, the reverse of this number equals 508, which is 2 x 2 x 127. The difference between prime factors 2 and 127 is 125, representing “Armstrong.”
  13. The number 805, representing Armstrong’s birth date, August 5, equals 23 x 35. The reverse of the sum of these two numbers yields 85, which is again August 5!

It's hard to believe it's been nearly a year since one of America's most famous astronauts passed away. "You will definitely be missed on your 83rd birthday, Neil Armstrong!" Inan says.

More tributes to Neil Armstrong:

Alan Boyle is's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the NBC News Science Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding +Alan Boyle to your Google+ circles. To keep up with's stories about science and space, sign up for the Tech & Science newsletter, delivered to your email in-box every weekday. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.