Home Page Science Frontiers

No. 110: Mar-Apr 1997

Issue Contents

Other pages

Other Interesting Sites











Alphamagic Squares

Not everything in SF is profound or anomalous, although we hope most of the items are at least interesting.

Magic squares, we think, are endlessly fascinating. They exist in forms that verge on the unbelievable. You can even construct large magic squares from smaller magic squares. Nevertheless, the fact that alphamagic squares exist in large numbers is unexpected.

Alphamagic squares come in pairs. The first member of the pair consists of a magic square in which the numbers are spelled out letterwise, as in this example:

five twenty-two eighteen
twenty-eight fifteen two
twelve eight twenty-five

The numbers add up to 45 in all rows, columns, and diagonals. The square is "magic" in words.

The second member of the pair is formed by counting the number of letters in each word of the first square, thus:

4 9 8
11 7 3
6 5 10

This square is also magic, adding up to 21 in all directions!

Just a fluke, you say? Not so. You can even construct alphamagic squares in different languages. In his column in Scientific American, I. Stewart provides examples in French, German, Welsh, and even Swahili! In German, there are no less than 221 alphamagic squares using numbers under 100.

(Stewart, Ian; "Alphamagic Squares," Scientific American, 276:106, January 1997.)

Comment. The "deep meaning" of alphamagic squares is about the same as that associated with the existence of your Social Security Number in the decimal expansion of pi!

From Science Frontiers #110, MAR-APR 1997. 1997-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987