The Reflective Beauty of Palindromes

Palindromes are words, phrases, or numbers that read forwards or backward the same. In a sense, they are “symmetric” since the characters on the left “mirrors” the characters on the right with the center as reflecting character.


The Sator Square contains word square containing a Latin palindrome.

Palindromes are very common in the English language.  Several of the commonly used words that are palindromes are civic, level, madam, stats, tenet and many others. In fact, there are also palindromic phrases (just ignore the spacing and punctuations). Some of the examples are “Madam I’m Adam”, “Was it a rat I saw”, and the supposed phrase of Napoleon “Able was I ere I saw Elba.” I also want you to think of a number that is “never odd or even.”

The square in the figure above is called the word square which is a Latin palindrome. The palindrome ROTAS OPERA TENET AREPO SATOR roughly translates to “the farmer uses his plough as his form of work.”

There are also palindromic dates. November 2, 2011 is palindromic date (11022011), and this year, February 10, 2012 (2102012).

In mathematics, obviously, all 1-digit numbers are palindromic, and all 2-digit numbers with the same digits such as 11, 22, 33, and so on are palindromic. The three digit 121, 343, and 999 are also palindromic. Also, not many people know that all palindromic numbers that have even number of digits are divisible by 11.

Palindromes are special, so people spend a great deal creating them even by brute force.  The one is a bit of a stretch.

Doctor Reubenstein was shocked and dismayed when he answered the ringing telephone, only to hear a strange, metallic, alien voice say, “Yasec iovn eilacilla temeg! Nartsa raehoty lnoenoh pelet gnig, nirehtde rewsnaehn ehw. Deya! Msid! Dnadek cohssaw nietsne buerro, tcod?”

Even though you’ll probably throw tomatoes to the one who made this (kidding), there are successful makers of palindromes. In fact, according to Wikipedia, two English palindromic novels have been published: Satire: Vertias by David Stephens, which contains 58, 795 letters; and Dr Awkward & Olson in Oslo by Lawrence Levine which contains 31,954 words. I can’t find any of these books at Amazon though.

However, if you have aibophobia which is a non-official term for fear of palindromes, I advise you not to read them.

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