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The Numbers: Misc



Up to date as of February 07, 2010

From Lostpedia

"Numbers" redirects here. For the episode, see: Numbers (episode).

The Numbers 4 8 15 16 23 42 are one of Lost's most prominent recurring themes.

They were first featured prominently in the Season 1 episode "Numbers" as the winning lottery numbers that made Hurley a multi-millionaire. He first heard them from Leonard in the mental hospital, who originally heard them with Sam Toomey when they were in the Navy together in the Pacific. Because of the run of bad luck Hurley experienced after winning the lottery, he believes the numbers are cursed. After seeing the Numbers in Danielle's notes, he seeks her out; she explains that a transmission of them drew her people to the Island, and she believes him about the curse.

In the first season finale "Exodus, Part 2" Hurley sees the Numbers engraved on the hatch of the Swan. In the second season episode "Adrift" it was revealed that the Numbers are the code that must be entered into the computer in the Swan every 108 minutes (4+8+15+16+23+42=108). Entering the Numbers resets the countdown timer to 108 minutes. If the operator doesn't push the button in time, the counter flips to a series of hieroglyphs; during this time it's still possible to finish typing in the Numbers, press execute, and return the counter to 108 minutes. The crew in the Swan were supposed to be replaced every 540 days (108 x 5), which means that each crew would enter the Numbers at least 7200 times. In the fourth season episode "Confirmed Dead", a television news anchor reports that although the remains of Oceanic Flight 815 had been found, all 324 passengers and crew had been confirmed dead (108 x 3=324).

A worker constructing the Swan station in "Some Like It Hoth" referred to the numbers as a "serial number" for the hatch lid. The other worker had some slight difficulty in determining the final number as the number was smudged on his paperwork.

It has been revealed in The Lost Experience that these six numbers are the core values of the Valenzetti Equation, a mathematical formula designed to predict the end of humanity. The numbers in actuality are said to represent human and environmental factors in the equation (given numerical form), though their precise meaning is uncertain. One purpose of the DHARMA Initiative was to change the factors leading to humanity's demise, which will be indicated by an alteration in at least one of the human/environmental factors - i.e. the numbers. However, in all its years of research, the Initiative failed to reach its goal. Despite much research and manipulation of the equation's values, the end result was always the numbers.

In an interview with E! in 2009, Damon stated the following in regards to the Numbers: "Here's the story with numbers. The Hanso Foundation that started the Dharma Initiative hired this guy Valenzetti to basically work on this equation to determine what was the probability of the world ending in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Valenzetti basically deduced that it was 100 percent within the next 27 years, so the Hanso Foundation started the Dharma Initiative in an effort to try to change the variables in the equation so that mankind wouldn't wipe it itself out." [1]



Hurley's winning lotto ticket.
The numbers printed on the the Swan's Hatch.
Girls of a soccer team seen in the background of one of Hurley's airport flashbacks are wearing jerseys with the Numbers on them
The numbers appear on the odometer of Hurley's Camaro.

All at once

Combos & single numbers

Please see their respective articles:

Main article: 4
Main article: 8
Main article: 15
Main article: 16
Main article: 23
Main article: 42

The Lost Experience

  • On if you go to a nonexisting type like this link, the Numbers on the loading screen are 4 8 15 16 23 42 and 64.
  • In the early introduction of, 6 blank television screens were seen rotating. They had to be clicked 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42 times, respectively, to get a clue.
  • One of Rachel Blake's Copenhagen post clues points us to 43 Things, where the words to goals #4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42 were the only entries that contained just one word. Together, these words: "truth safe reckon copenhagen alvar sumo" formed a secret code that needed to be entered in as a string at
  • They are the "core environmental and human factors" of the Valenzetti Equation, according to the Sri Lanka video.
  • In a hack, a computer at the Vik Institute displaying the hieroglyphs was shown. After sequence #4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42, each step gave a part of the clue, which ended up solving the DHARMA acronym.
  • There are 23 questions asked be be accepted into LOST UNIVERSITY [1]

Production notes

  • Damon Lindelof did make a comment at Comic Con in 2005 that "We may never know what the Numbers mean". He quickly regretted this, as he got tons of unhappy fan mail demanding to know what he meant exactly, and since then, the writing team have declined to comment directly or expand on this topic (except through The Lost Experience).
  • In a May, 2008 interview with Kristin Dos Santos, Damon Lindelof furthered his statements: [2]

Damon Lindelof

There are some questions that are very engaging and interesting, and then there are other questions that we have no interest whatsoever in answering. We call it the midi-chlorian debate, because at a certain point, explaining something mystical demystifies it. To try and have a character come and say, "Here is what the numbers mean," actually makes every usage of the numbers up to that point less interesting.

You can actually watch Star Wars now, and when Obi-Wan talks about the Force to Luke for the first time, it loses its luster because the Force has been explained as, sort of, little biological agents that are in your blood stream. So you go, "Oh, I liked Obi-Wan's version a lot better." Which in the case of our show is, "The numbers are bad luck, they keep popping up in Hurley's life, they appear on the island." ... But if you're watching the show for a detailed explanation of what the numbers mean—and I'm not saying you won't see more of them—then you will be disappointed by the end of season six.

In a 2009 interview with E!, Damon again commented on the Numbers: [3]

Damon Lindelof

Here's the story with numbers. The Hanso Foundation that started the Dharma Initiative hired this guy Valenzetti to basically work on this equation to determine what was the probability of the world ending in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Valenzetti basically deduced that it was 100 percent within the next 27 years, so the Hanso Foundation started the Dharma Initiative in an effort to try to change the variables in the equation so that mankind wouldn't wipe it itself out.

  • The numbers are visible at the beginning of the current (2008-?) ABC Studios video logo:
    The numbers appear at the very beginning...
    ... and a couple of frames later



  • In a Lostpedia interview, David Fury (one of the Season 1 writers and co-executive producers) talked about how the Numbers were developed: "When I started writing the episode (Numbers), I already figured to use numbers that had been heard on the show… 4 (number of years Locke was in wheelchair); 8, 15 (Flight 815), etc." He also confirmed that the number 42 is a homage to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and that the original idea to include a set of Numbers which would be important was J.J. Abrams'.
    • The original interview does not address 23. (The reward for Kate was $23,000. "Exodus" Hurley to Kate: "Does 23 mean something to you?")

Religious references

The project the Swan Station was built for is called "The DHARMA Initiative". The word "Dharma" means "moral duty", and the number 108 is very important in Buddhist and Hindu mythology; Namaste and many other recurring themes also follow from the same religious traditions. To many Buddhists, there are 108 sins (or "defilements") of mankind. It is for this reason that New Year's celebrations, such as those in Japan, feature ringing a bell 108 times as well as one possible reason most Buddhist prayer beads (mala) have 108 individual beads. In Buddhism, there are Four Noble Truths that are meant to be followed. The fourth Noble Truth lists 8 habits (the Eightfold Path.)

In Hinduism, any number whose digits add up to 9 are considered sacred or auspicious. While there are many theories about this, the most common has to do with astrology and the planets. Astrology in Hinduism is an intricate practice and so ancient scientists knew, for example, that there were 9 planets (including the Sun). Pluto is no longer considered a planet of the Solar System. As in most astrological beliefs, a proper alignment of the planets brings about certain events in a person's life.

Liturgy Hyms to the Devas (Gods) known as "Sahasranama" (1008 Names) are common for Shiva, Vishnu, as well as the Goddesses Lakshmi and Saraswati. In Shiva worship, a rosary known as a "Rudraksha Mala" (Rosary of Seeds) has 108 beads for the chanting of Shiva's name 108 times.

In traditional Chinese culture, 108 is a lucky or auspicious number, deriving from the "108 heroes" (also called the "108 generals" or the "108 bandits") who were the central figures in an uprising in Shandong province a millennium ago—events immortalized in the classic 14th-century Chinese novel Shuihu Zhuan (in English, The Water Margin or Outlaws of the Marsh) by Shi Nai-an. The 19th-century Japanese version is known as "The Heroes of the Suikoden."

Apophenia in arithmetic

Main article: Apophenia

If you start adding and subtracting the Numbers you can make up almost any theory that you want. For example;

  • Boone's accident is in episode 19 (42−23)
  • Boone dies in the 20th episode (16+4); Claire's baby is born in the same episode

This is why using arithmetic in deciding if a number counts as a reference is a somewhat pointless exercise, with three notable exceptions;

  • -100 (the difference of the Numbers; the temperature outside the listening station, at the end of season 2).
  • 108 (the sum of the Numbers; referenced above in detail)
  • 7418880 (the product of the Numbers, which appeared on the computer screen at the listening station before the discharge).

Here, the arithmetic is straightforward, and therefore can be construed as intentional, and beyond coincidence. This follows a general rule laid out by Occam's razor of avoiding needless complexity in order to force connections which do not really exist.

  • 8+15 =23, 23*16/8=46, 46−4=42 (Just proving the numbers all interrelate.)

Danielle's papers

Numbers written by Danielle

4 8 15 16 23 42
4 8 15 16 23 42
4 8 15 16 23 42
4 8 15 16 23 42
4 8 15 16 23 42
4 8 15 16 23 42
4 8 15 16 23 42

8 is 8th number counting in standard reading format; that is, starting at the top, reading a line left-to-right, then moving to the next line beneath. 15 is 15th, 16 is 16th, 23 is 23rd and 42 is 42nd. If only the 4 was a 1 or 7 this would work with all the Numbers.

Danielle's numbers map has exactly the same columns and rows (rotated 90°) as a Connect Four board, which was used by Lenny while being questioned by Hurley in the episode 'Numbers'.

Note that a six number sequence (n1, n2, n3, n4, n5, n6) with this property can be generated if
n1 = 4 (the first number does not have this property)
n2 = 6*k2 + 2
n3 = 6*k3 + 3
n4 = 6*k4 + 4
n5 = 6*k5 + 5
n6 = 6*k6 + 6

While this particular sequence uses:
k2 = 1
k3 = 2
k4 = 2
k5 = 3
k6 = 6,
any natural number values of k would give a sequence with the above property.

In episode 18 of season 1 "Numbers" is the first time you see all the numbers together, if you add all the numbers together from top to bottom and then add the sum of all those numbers and then make a medium of that and then subtract 18, the number of the episode you get 108.
In this series of equations I only multiplied it by 7 because I couldn't make it look like what I wrote on my piece of paper I used to make this work.

Occurrences outside of the show

At the time the Numbers were first prominently featured in the episode Numbers, The On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences did not have any integer sequences which included the Numbers. Two days after the episode aired, the numbers (along with 108) were added to the encyclopedia as "The Lost Numbers". Because of this it is highly unlikely that the Numbers have any real-world mathematical or scientific significance. Since then, however, two more sequences have been added which include the Numbers, A122115 and A130826

At least some of the Numbers are well known as special numbers before the show:

  • 4 is considered to be an unlucky number in Korea. Its pronunciation is the same as the pronunciation for the Chinese character for "death". In the past, elevators were marked with an "F" button instead of "4".
  • 4, 8, 16 are binary numbers with only one "1" (and are thus powers of two).
  • 4+8-15-16-23+42 = 0
  • The numbers are very similar to the common bit-depths of color on VGA and SVGA (and later) graphics cards for PCs, for example 4-bit (16 color), 8-bit (256 color), 15-bit (32k hi-color), 16-bit (64k hi-color), and then the sequence deviates slightly with 24-bit = 16.7 million color TrueColor, and 32-bit for 24-bit true color with an 8-bit alpha channel. This generates the sequence 4 8 15 16 24 32, only the digits "4" and "3" near the end being swapped. Other common bit depths have existed for different types of displays such as Amiga, but these are the most common on the PC.
  • 08/15 is a German saying for "ordinary" or "boring", also used as a placeholder on demonstration objects.
  • 08/15 was the model number of the German standard machine gun during World War I.
  • The Hiroshima Bomb was detonated at 8:15 a.m. (JST).
  • 23 is in several conspiracy theories the number of the "Illuminati". It is claimed to appear all over history.
  • There is a German movie called "23" (1998) (more info on IMDB)
  • 8/15 is Independence Day in Korea. South Korea even has a national soft drink called "815 Soda," or "Pal Il Oh Cola" as it is better known locally.
  • 8/15 is also Independence Day in India. "Namaste" is a greeting word in Hindi, an official language of India.
  • In the famous science fiction comedy series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, 42 is the answer to life, the universe and everything.
    • David Fury has stated that this was the inspiration for selecting 42 as the last number.
  • Fox Mulder from X-Files (1993-2002) has one of them as an apartment number and 23 and 42 appear throughout the show. This was one of the most influential science fiction series prior to Lost, and had influence on a number of writers within the genre (and the show, in turn, was influenced by the Illuminati and Hitchhiker's).
  • All the Numbers are retired Yankees jersey numbers. (While jersey 42 was not retired specifically by the Yankees, 42 was retired across the league on April 15, 1997 to honor Jackie Robinson.) The other numbers: 4 - Lou Gehrig, 8 - Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey, 15 - Thurman Munson, 16 - Whitey Ford, 23 - Don Mattingly. Of special note is Munson, who died in a plane crash. And despite the baseball-wide retirement of 42 for Robinson, the Yankees' star closing pitcher, Mariano Rivera, continues to wear 42 under a grandfather clause because he was using it before 1997. Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse are both baseball fans, from their comments in the Official Lost Podcasts.
    • Ten other numbers have also been retired by the Yankees.
    • Mariano Rivera's 42 will most likely be retired by the Yankees as well.
  • Alias predated the show, but is by the same creators, with overlap of cast and crew, which would explain the Numbers' appearance there as Easter eggs.
  •'s The Impossible Quiz shows the numbers plus 108 in one of their questions as a spin-off.
  • In the movie "Bull Durham," Susan Sarandon's character Annie muses that there are "108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball." In actuality, it is a (Hindu) Japa Mala that has 108 beads.
  • In Manhattan, the first five numbered two-way east-west streets are 8th, 14th, 23rd, 34th, and 42nd Streets. The other numbered streets below 42nd Street are one-way.
  • William Shakespeare’s The Tempest was initially published in the First Folio of 1623 – it ran until the closing of the theatres 1642. 16 23 42
  • In Douglas Adams' influential science fiction comedy The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, 42 is revealed to be the meaning of life.
  • In an episode of The George Lopez Show, originally aired April 2, 2004 and titled "George's House of Cards," Max mentions one possible combination for the lock on their garage as being 42-23-16.
  • On 16 September 2009, the same six numbers were drawn twice in a row in the Bulgarian lottery [4]. Four of the six numbers are also part of The Numbers, including the first and last.

Outside media references

A reference to some of the Numbers is often made in other shows, movies, or pop culture that post-dated Lost, very frequently a tribute to the show:

Mythological occurrence

  • Penelope Widmore's given name comes from the Homeric epic poem, the Odyssey. In the Odyssey, the character Penelope has 108 suitors (4 + 8 + 15 + 16 + 23 + 42 = 108).

Natural occurrences

  • Not found in the first 1,000,000,000 digits of pi. Interestingly, 4815162343 can be found at the 176,025,488th position of pi [5], and 4815162341 begins at the 734,468,718th position.
  • Latitude 4.815, Longitude 162.342 are the GPS coordinates that lead to a point in the Pacific Ocean on the trail from Australia to L.A. (see Mapquest: [6] or Google Earth: [7] or Google Maps [8] [the former requires Google Earth being installed])
  • Looking on Google Maps, 151.6 miles due east of latitude 4.815n, longitude 162.342w, you will find a small island with no discernible features of note (it is called "Manounou", and its coordinates are 4.8n, 160.4w; 4+8+1+6+4=23). Continue 108 miles due southeast of that island, and you will find Tabuaeran, also called "Fanning Island" [9] which can be found at 4n, 160w -- take a look on Google's satellite photos [10] for yourself if you don't believe it.
  • They appear in a mathematical relationship to the Flavius-Josephus sieve. The appear in the on-line encyclopedia of integer sequences as A130826[11], which defines it as "a(n) is the smallest number such that twice the number of divisors of (a(n)-n)/3 gives the n-th term in the first differences of the sequence produced by the Flavius-Josephus sieve". This sieve locates "lucky" numbers[12]. Josephus Flavius[13] was a 1st century Jewish historian.

Diophantine relation

  • The numbers hold a valid Diophantine relation: math. This was found using Wolfram Alpha.
  • The first 5 numbers also hold a valid Diophantine relation: math. This was found using Wolfram Alpha.

Miscellaneous real world occurrences

  • Coincidentally, the winning lottery numbers in the Irish national lottery were very close to the Numbers, at 4 8 15 16 23 24 (last number reversed digits) on 11/16/2005 (after the show had begun)[14]. Because of the increasing popularity of the show, the Numbers are one of the most frequently played number sets in lotteries in recent years. [15]
    • On 16 September 2009, the same six numbers were drawn twice in a row in the Bulgarian lottery [16]. Four of the six winning numbers are Numbers, including the first and last.
  • The numbers being repeated by the radio tower resembles real-word numbers stations.

Unanswered questions

Unanswered questions
  1. Do not answer the questions here.
  2. Keep the questions open-ended and neutral: do not suggest an answer.
More details...
For fan theories about these unanswered questions, see: The Numbers/Theories
  • How can they be changed, if at all?
    • Why these numbers in particular?
  • What are the numbers' roots?
  • Where did the numbers come from?
  • Whose voice repeats the numbers in the radio transmission?
  • Why did the DHARMA Initiative put these numbers at the Swan?
    • Why did they choose them?

See also

External links

  • Fan list of occurrences of the Numbers in the show #1
  • Fan list of occurrences of the Numbers in the show #2
  • On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences entry
  • 4.815 - 162.342 at Google Maps

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This article uses material from the "The Numbers" article on the Lostpedia wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.


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