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In Italian culture, the number 17 is considered unlucky: it is not uncommon to find buildings that do not have a 17th floor, hotels that do not have a room 17, and when it is Friday the 17th, superstitious Italians worry. Some say it is a myth created by the Ancient Romans: 17 is written XVII in Roman numerals, and if you change it into an anagram it becomes VIXI, which in Latin means "I have lived", implying that you are not living any longer.

But it may come from earlier times, from the Ancient Egyptians: according to Plutarch's Moralia, Osiris, the god of the afterlife, died on the 17th. The Pythagoreans called this day "the Barrier," and loathed this number as much as they hated fava beans. For them, the number 17, coming in between the square sixteen and the oblong rectangle eighteen, which, as it happens, are the only plane figures that have their perimeters equal their areas, bars them off from each other and disjoins them, breaking up the epogdoon by its division into unequal intervals. Ah, the Pythagoreans!

The story of Noah and the Ark described in the Bible tell us that the flood started on the 17th day. “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the deep burst forth and the windows of the heavens were opened” Genesis 7:11. But Noah’s Ark also came to rest on the seventeenth day: “and in the seventh month on the seventeenth day of the month the ark came to rest upon the mountains of Ararat”, Genesis 8:4, so it should not be considered that unlucky.

17 is a prime number and the least random number: in more than a study where people were asked to choose a random number from 1 to 20, 17 was the most common choice. And, it takes 43 muscles to frown but only 17 muscles to smile. That’s what you should remember, forget the rest.