Fact Check

Triple Symmetry Feb 20 2002

Will the last possible triple symmetrical year/date/time combination occur on 20 February 2002?

Published Feb 17, 2002


Claim:   The last possible symmetrical year/date/time combination will occur on 20 February 2002.

Status:   False.

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2002]

Believe it or not, but 8.02 PM on February 20 this year will be an historic moment in time. It will not be marked by the chiming of any clocks or the ringing of bells, but at that precise time, on that specific date, something will happen which has not occurred for 1,001 years and will never happen again.

As the clock ticks over from 8.01 PM on Wednesday, February 20, time will, for sixty seconds only, read in perfect symmetry 2002, 2002, 2002, or to be more precise: 20:02, 20/02, 2002.

This historic event will never have the same poignancy as the 11th hour
of the 11th day of the 11th month which marks Armistice Day, but it is an event which has only ever happened once before, and is something which will never be repeated.

The last occasion that time read in such a symmetrical pattern was long before the days of the digital watch and the 24-hour clock — at 10.01 am
on January 10, 1001.

And because the clock only goes up to 23.59, it is something that will never happen again

Origins:   Fans of symmetry and the Gregorian calendar may have something to celebrate on 20 February 2002, but the event won't be quite as unique as this e-mail makes out, nor will it be something that "never happens


If 10:01 AM on 10 January 1001 was a "triple symmetrical pattern" (10:01, 10/01, 1001), then 11:11 AM on 11 November 1111 was symmetrical as well (11:11, 11/11, 1111). Both these dates, of course, occurred when the Julian calendar was the standard of the western world, well before the adoption of the current Gregorian calendar.

Additionally, if 8:02 PM (or 20:02 in 24-hour time) 20 February 2002 is a "triple symmetrical pattern" (20:02, 20/02, 2002), then 9:12 PM (or 21:12 in 24-hour time) on 21 December 2112 will also be a symmetrical occurrence (21:12, 21/12, 2112).

Other combinations are possible if "symmetry" merely means that the entire sequence read the same backwards as forwards (e.g., 8:03 PM on 20 February 3002 creates a reversible sequence of 20:03 20/02 3002), but the triple symmetry posited in the message above requires that each of the three individual elements be symmetrical as well. Using "standard" clocks rather than 24-hour clocks, including seconds in addition to minutes, and writing dates in "American" style (i.e., with the day following the month) open up even more possibilities as well.

Last updated:   4 February 2008

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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