Threesology Research Journal
Examples of "Threes"-oriented Web Pages
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~ The Study of Threes ~

The following are references culled from other websites regarding the number 3 or have "three" as a focus, though other labeling may be used. Please give all respective authors their due credits. Links to their websites are provided following each section. However, it must be noted that some of the links may not be viable since the information was compiled in 2004 or earlier.

A life lived in threes

By Henry Gee, a senior editor of Nature.

Tuesday April 24, 2001 --- The Guardian ---

How small can a genome be and still remain functional?

Once upon a time, many hundreds of millions of years ago, a few bacteria - a committee of microbes - got together to form the first eukaryote, the first cell with an organized nucleus. After a while, almost all of the bacteria in this happy union submitted all their genes to this moloch of the nucleus, ceasing to exist as independent entities. The one holdout was the bacterium that became the mitochondrion - then, as now, the energy powerhouse of the cell.

Even today, the mitochondria of eukaryotic cells (yours and mine included) have small, bacterium-like genomes, entirely separate from the much larger genome of the cell nucleus. Some of these simple cells swallowed small, photosynthetic bacteria, nature's own solar power cells: to invert Swift, capable of distilling sunshine into cucumbers. Like mitochondria, these bacteria retained a vestige of their own genomes even within the larger, symbiotic union.

They became the so-called chloroplasts, and with them, the first cells of green plants appeared. Even then, that was not the end of the story. Some of these simple plant cells - each loaded with a nucleus, a mitochondrion and a chloroplast - were swallowed by larger cells without chloroplasts. The results of this secondary symbiosis can be seen in many apparently simple green algae, whose chloroplasts seem enveloped in an unseemly complexity of membranes: the swallowed plant cell has lost most of its matter, its mitochondrion and even its nucleus, leaving just a chloroplast shrouded in the membranes, the husk of what was once a creature with its own destiny.

Well, almost. There are some single-celled algae, the romantic and mysteriously named cryptomonads, in which the secondary symbiont retains a tiny nucleus in addition to the chloroplast. The cryptomonad cell wears this shrivelled second nucleus, or "nucleomorph" the same way a head-hunter would wear the shrunken heads of its enemies slung on its belt. But even after hundreds of millions of years of slavery, the nucleomorph is still not quite dead. Indeed, it may have much to teach us. In today's Nature, Thomas Cavalier-Smith, of the University of Oxford, and colleagues present the complete sequence of the genome of the nucleomorph of a cryptomonad, called Guillardia theta.

Compacted into three, minute chromosomes, the nucleomorph contains 551,264 base pairs of DNA. It is the smallest eukaryote genome sequenced so far. For comparison, the human genome is 6,000 times the size. The genome of the leprosy bacterium Mycobacterium leprae - itself a relic of a much larger genome - is six times the size of the nucleomorph genome. But whereas the human genome is more than 90% junk, the nucleomorph genome is a model of succinct organization. Its 551 genes are packed together with a density unknown in Eukaryotes.

There is virtually no repetitive DNA or wasted gaps between genes - 44 of the genes even overlap, a feature virtually unknown outside the super-concise genomes of viruses. Not that the nucleomorph genome is a powerhouse of activity. The remorseless pressure of millions of years, in which virtually all the activities of the cryptomonad cell have devolved to the much larger principal nucleus, have left the nucleomorph with virtually no genes associated with any kind of metabolic activity. Of all its remaining genes, just 30 seem to be connected with the maintenance of the chloroplast. All the other genes - more than 400 - are concerned with genomic housekeeping, functions such as DNA replication.

These genes seem to be essential to keep the nucleomorph functioning as an independent genomic entity: teleologically, to support the 30 genes that seem necessary to attend to the chloroplast. This peculiar, desperate genome, hanging on to its own independence by its metaphorical finger-nails, could have a lot to teach us about genome design. It could be the smallest possible genome that it is possible for a eukaryote to have.

This begs the question of why these nucleomorphs survive at all, when those of most of their relatives perished millions of years ago to leave lone and unattended chloroplasts. It could be that the nucleomorph is maintained because its particular service to the chloroplast in cryptomonads is vital.

Even allowing for what seems a somewhat ad-hoc explanation, one is entitled to ask why - if only for these nucleo-morphs - there seems to be an irreducible genomic minimum? The answer, like so many things in biology, lies in comparisons with other creatures. Cryptomonads are not the only organisms whose chloroplasts retain a sliver of a remnant nucleus. Nucleomorphs, derived from an entirely independent symbiotic event from that which created cryptomonads, are also found in a group of single-celled organisms called chlorarachniophytes.

Although only distantly related to cryptomonads, these creatures also contain chloroplasts with attendant nucleomorphs of about the same size as that found in cryptomonads. Furthermore, the genomes of these nucleomorphs are divided into three minuscule chromosomes. Such a case of close, parallel evolution demands some explanation, and it comes from lateral thought.

Rather than asking the question of why the nucleomorph could not get any smaller, Cavalier-Smith and colleagues pose a deceptively simple question - why do the nucleomorphs of cryptomonads and chlorarachniophytes have just three chromosomes? Why not, say, two, or four, or six? The answer could be that to package the genome into one or two chromosomes would create a single stretch of DNA too long to divide reliably in the confined cell-within-cell space available.

On the other hand, dividing the DNA into more than three chromosomes would have led to chromosomes too small to be stable - chromosomes that would have fizzled away to nothing. Three seems to be the magic number that has allowed this weird, condensed, resilient genome to survive for long enough such that it can be wondered at by another eukaryote - this one a multicellular creature, put together by another committee of smaller beings - ourselves.

--- A life lived in Threes ---,2763,478442,00.html

Asking the question of why just three chromosomes in the nucleomorphs of cryptomonads and chlorarachniophytes is in some sense similar to asking why DNA has a triplet codon system. In the latter case, we often encounter the response (from biologists) that a triplet codon system is the necessary amount required to create the basic number of proteins used in our bodies. However, this is not the right answer because it reflects a misunderstanding of the question. In other words, the question being asked is: "Is there one or more identifiable and replicable events in nature that does or could have influenced biological life to adapt the usage of a pattern-of-three"? Likewise, is there an identifiable and duplicable event(s) which produced the result of there being three families of fundamental particles, instead of 30, 60 or 900 families?

rule of three book cover The Rule of Three: Surviving and Thriving in Competitive Markets
by Jagdish N. Sheth and Rajendra S. Sisodia

The Free Press, 2002
HBSWK Pub. Date: Feb. 4, 2002

Think of any mature industry. Three titans with a lot of niche players pulling up the rear, you’ll notice, rule many. Examples from the world of pharmaceuticals include Merck, Johnson & Johnson, and Bristol-Myers Squibb. Or fast food: McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy’s. So what is it about threes? As business professors Sheth, of Emory University, and Sisodia, of Bentley College, explain, all industries tend to follow a consistent, cyclical pattern that favors three giant generalists trailed by specialists. The implications for your own business can be significant. After explaining their concept, the authors describe how generalists, specialists, and the unlucky ones stuck in the middle (or "the ditch") can use the rule of three to pinpoint their own position before carving out the most effective strategy for long-term growth.

--- Recommended books on Leadership, Strategy, & Competition ---

Harness the Psychological Power of '3' and Improve Communication
-by Sean D'Souza-

Two might be company in life, but in communication you can go all the way to three and still have a rollicking party. If you step over to four however, it's quite likely that you've stepped into the harakiri zone. Back up that truck a bit and learn how the limit of '3' has the ability to make your communication soar.

Let's Start With a Little Test…

Here's a psychological test. Lay out 10 business cards in a row and choose three that catch your attention instantly. Now don't cheat. Do this before you continue reading this article and you'll be quite amazed at the results. So What Did You Find? Isn't it strange that there seems to be no real reason why you chose what you did? There doesn't even seem to be a very clear pattern emerging. Some of the cards have lots of information v/s some that have very little. Some are colorful and others are not. Yet something has drawn you to play devil's advocate and reject some of them outright. Could that something be a deep-rooted psychological trigger embedded into your subconscious? And how can this trigger make such a dramatic difference to your communication and marketing? Aha!

You've just run into the magic of THREE.

Understanding and applying it will throw a flashlight into the dark world of your presentations, brochures, web sites and yes, even email! Before you put this into the "This is for my graphic designer" basket, read further because it will help you recognize the psychological background of how the brain understands these things and reacts to them. It also helps you clean up your every day communication that your designer might never get involved with.

How the Brain Sees Things

The brain finds it relatively easy to grasp three elements, colors, fonts etc. Push that marginally up to four and it gets confused where to look and what to do and sends the eye scampering like a frisky puppy on a sunny day. So why does this happen? For that we might have to go back a little to diaper country. As a child, everything you did and learned seemed to be centered around three. A,B,C,- 1,2,3, three blind mice, three musketeers, trinity, three stooges and Huey, Louie and Dewey (Quack! Quack! Quack!) Then again maybe these writers, animators and wise men understood the ease with which we understand 'threes' and reconstructed their work to fit this paradigm.

The Lego of Visual Communication: Elements, Fonts, Colors

Most visual communication can be reduced to these three features: Elements, Fonts and Colors. Understand how they work and you've given yourself the added advantage of a mini design degree.

Just What are Elements?

I'm assuming you've got rid of those business cards in front of you so I've made up some of my own to illustrate the point of elements. Elements are simply a group of objects, grouped together to form a common definable form. For instance, your eyes, nose, mouth and ears are the main objects that form the element called the face. Let's look at the cards below to understand this even better.

If You Look at Card #1, You Will Spot 3 Elements:

First Business Card

  1. The name and the title of the person.
  2. The logo, the logo font and the service description.
  3. The contact details form the third element.

If You Look at Card #2, You Will Find Very Subtle Differences.

Second Business Card

All I've done is moved the text and logo just a tad bit around. However, even that tiny displacement has ADDED a series of unwanted elements. Suddenly it appears there are 5 or even 6 elements:

  • The name
  • The designation
  • The logo design
  • The logo font
  • The service description
  • The contact details

Card #3 Gets Even Harder to Focus On… Guess why.

Third Business Card

Card #3 is all over the place, as it has not only violated the rule of elements, but also complicated the visual layout with additional fonts (It has 5 fonts). Learning how to manage fonts makes a big difference to your layout and the overall look of your project.

Here a Font, There's a Font, Everywhere a Font, Font

There are zillions of fonts out there today and it's hard to restrain yourself when you're putting together a document. Try and use not more than 3 fonts on any communication. The more fonts you have on a page, the harder it is to actually read what you're saying. Be aware that a font that is in italic visually ends up looking like another font altogether. It adds to the elements and clutters it up considerably. Also determine what the font really is doing for your document. You might want to create some drama and use contrasting fonts (fonts that are vertical when used with fonts that are wide contrast well). I'd also recommend you read 'The Design book for Non-Designers' by Robin Williams. It's an inexpensive, easy to read book that clearly explains the different facets of fonts and their usage plus how to use fonts to set the mood.

Seven Colors are for Rainbows

Whether it's a t-shirt, brochure, website or business card, it's important to restrain yourself. Color managing your palette with just three colors can often provide a feeling of as many as five or six colors, when moved around a bit. Count shades of colors as two colors. So red and dark red are not just one color but two definite shades and hence two definite colors. So be clear about the colors you are choosing. Say you choose something like red, black and green. Move that round a bit and you can get bright communication without the confusion.

Why This is Important in Marketing and Business Communication

Most of us are always presenting or selling to someone else. The proof of the pudding is always in the eating, but the taste buds start to salivate only through when it looks really YUM! If you choose to ignore the psychology behind this, your 'dish' might taste wonderful, but you may never get someone to stay long enough to eat. This also helps you keep a check on your designers. Most designers instinctively get this right, but sometimes they goof up big time. You can run this audit past your marketing material and check for elements, fonts and colors. Having said that, a competent designer might have the innate ability to break rules and if it works, that's OK. Nothing is that sacred, but it helps to know the reasoning behind it. Besides you now have the ability to make that designer sweat a bit.

Heeeeeeeeeere's some Examples!

  • McDonald's- The McLogo consists of two elements: The name McDonald's and the Big Yellow arcs. In terms of fonts, they use just one font. Colors are just two-Yellow and White(or black).
  • Coke- The Coca-Cola button that you see in most advertising, consists of three elements: The button itself, the bottle on the button and the Coke Logo. Even though it is a full color image, the colors are minimal and there is just one or two fonts used.

Now that you can see the forest for the threes…: Go out and look at advertising. Revisit your brochure. Audit your presentation. Streamline that website. You will be appalled at how much clutter you had to start with and how easy it is to smarten it up quickly and efficiently. Your marketing message will be much tighter and more professional but best of all you'll know you're doing something that's deeply embedded in the psychological psyche of humans.

May the 'fours' be with the reckless Luke Skywalkers of the universe. You'll find it pays to stick to the threes!

Sean D'Souza uses age-old psychology and marries it to modern technology on his website:

--- ---

How Many Threes?

What percentage of all integers contains at least one instance of the digit three? For example, 13, 31, 33 and 103 all contain the digit "three" at Least once.

The Number 3
Answer to How Many Threes:

100% of all integers contain at least one three.

What?!? How can this be? The solution is so surprising, it is difficult, if not impossible to believe that 100% of integers contain the digit three at least once. The simple fact that the number 8, for example, has exactly zero threes in it seems to dispute this.

Consider this: what percentage of the first ten numbers contains at least one three? That's easy- ten percent; three and only three. What percentage of the first one hundred number contains at least one three? A slightly inflated nineteen percent. What percentage of the thousand numbers contains at least one three? Twenty-seven point one (27.1) percent.

The percentage of numbers with threes in them rises can be expressed as 1 - (.9)^n, where n is the number of digits. It reaches 99% at about the point where n has 42 digits. The ratio of "threed" to "three-less" numbers at infinity would be 1 - (.9)^(Infinity), or 1.

It is interesting to note that there are also an infinite number of integers which do not contain the digit three. The simple progression "1, 11, 111, ... " illustrates this fact. This seeming paradox illustrates one of the many "problems" associated with trying to apply concepts (like percentages) used for regular sets on the infinite. This puzzle, to the best of my knowledge, was originally posed by Clifford Pickover, the author and mathematician.

Puzzle by Kevin J. Lin

--- The Grey Labyrinth ---

Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty

Submitted by: Richard D. Marcus
George Washington 1776 Lodge, F&AM #337
Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin

Triads are groups of three ideas or objects. Triads appear in nature, politics, and religion. To early man, the cosmos consisted of the sun, the moon, and the stars. He called the natural elements earth, wind, and fire. He could see triads in the three-leaf clover. He knew he lived in a three-dimensional world. In politics, the US Constitution established three branches of government: legislative, executive, and judicial. And in religion, most faiths teach fealty to God, your neighbor, and yourself. All are arranged in intriguing triads of ideas. Let us endeavor to understand some of the power in triads both historically and for us as Masons.

Before we become aware of triads, we think in opposites or dual concepts. Developmental learning theorists easily prove that infants learn through simple stimulus and response events. Touch a newborn baby's cheek, her instinctive reflex will be to turn her head in that direction. She quickly learns to identify her Mother's voice from all others. As language is acquired, knowledge can be gathered by asking, "why?" After a child asks a question she is rewarded with an answer. The pattern engages a pair of concepts or dyads. Even as we advance in learning, we make decisions using dyads by giving reasons for and against an action. A straight-forward method for determining a course of action involves drawing a vertical line on paper and arranging the pro and con arguments on either side.

Furthermore, Socratic teaching methods train students by asking questions. The students must provide the answer or else the teacher must supply it. Catechisms are similarly simple teaching devices for youth. The first question in the Westminster Confession asks, "What is the chief end of man?" The student replies, "The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." The question is neat; the answer is clean. This is an uncomplicated style of learning for the young.

But as men, we become more complex. Answers tend to include modifiers such as on the one hand this, but on the other hand that. Dualistic thinking is insufficient for more advanced analysis. Socratic methods tend to give way to Hegelian philosophy that was based on threes: thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. Inspired by Christian insights and grounded in his mastery of a fund of knowledge, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel attempted to answer all questions--natural, human, and divine--using dialectical reasoning that swung from thesis to antithesis and back again to a richer synthesis. Two opposing forces resolve into a creature wholly different, like the cross-fertilization of two different rose bushes producing a more perfect hybrid.

Higher learning tended to use triads. Among the seven liberal arts and sciences are grammar and rhetoric. Grammar uses subject, verb, and object − three things. Adjectives are inflected into good, better, and best − also triads. Grammatical tenses are conjugated into run, ran, and have run.

Rhetoric is similarly infused with triads. "A rhetorical comment," is a phrase meaning tangential or unnecessary words. Yet expert rhetoricians reveal much about the persuasive power of words and ideas in orderly lists. In Latin, word order doesn't matter. In English, "man bites dog," demonstrates that word order matters. We remember the three things that abide which are faith, hope, and charity. The order matters. The Bible did not say charity, faith, and hope. We remember from the French Revolution: equality, liberty, and fraternity − a triad. Providing citizens with equality and liberty produces the ideal of fraternity. Rhetoricians argue that the ear wants to hear the most complex at the end of the list as it finishes or completes the first two thoughts.

Triads appear in many ancient systems of thought. In numerology, triads are seen as the combination of odd (1) and even (2) that sums to three. Three becomes a symbol of perfection in many ancient cultures and mystic philosophies. Threes also appear very early in geography and in geometry. We can find any location on a plane by reference to three points. Even anthropological artifacts reflect triads. From the union of marriage comes a child. The complication of three elements is needed to provide sufficient complexity to achieve an idealized perfection.

Triads are also prominently employed in Lodges and Masonic writings. Why triads dominate over dyads or quartets of ideas may not conclusively be known, but speculative Masonry permits us ample opportunity to reflect on the reasons.

Threes appear prominently in the lecture of the winding stairs as we are shown the first three steps. They remind Fellow-crafts of the three degrees of Masonry and the three principal officers of the Worshipful Master, Senior, and Junior Wardens. We learn that a Lodge is not singular. A Lodge is not dual. It is plural with a minimum of three.

Similarly, displaying of the three Greater Lights and the three lesser lights are central rituals for the opening and closing of the Lodge. As the furniture of the Lodge, they separately are symbols with meanings and lessons, but the fact that they are grouped into threes is not accidental.

The three lesser lights are named wisdom, strength, and beauty. They are said to help make Masons better men. Naturally, we could have added other virtues to the list: patience, fortitude, or peace making, but the fact that there is but three draws your attention.

The three Greater Lights parallel the three lesser lights. First displayed on the altar is the Holy Bible or scriptures from other religions. The Holy Bible is a collection of writings, histories, and moral teachings that provide guidance in our actions. They are sometimes known as wisdom literature; indeed, one of the books in the Apocrypha during the inter-testamental period is the Book of Wisdom. King Solomon is recalled as a wise king whose wisdom was demonstrated by the story of two women claimants for a baby. Furthermore that wisdom is symbolized atop the Worshipful Master by his hat, the crown of the ruler who is wise.

The square is the second Great Light. A right angle is key to forming a strong wall or a proper column--a wall that will withstand the vicissitudes of weather and seasons. Being on the square is commended to all Master Masons. We are charged to follow the rules and regulations of the Craft and of the country in which we live. We see the square as a symbol of right living in our own lives as well as order in society. The Senior Warden represents strength: he is the strong supporter of the Worshipful Master. Yet it is intriguing that the symbol of strength, the square, is worn as the jewel of the Worshipful Master.

The third symbol placed on the altar is the compasses. We use a compass to draw an arc or a perfect circle. There is beauty and perfection in structures built with arches and celestial windows. Cathedrals featured rose windows over the altar, which were circular stained-glass windows beautifully adorned for the contemplation of the glory of God. We are further taught a message hidden in the compasses to keep our actions within due bounds. Beauty is orderly, balanced, and under control. So too, the Junior Warden talks of the arc of the sun as it rises to Meridian height as being the beauty and glory of the day.

Hence we repeat patterns of wisdom, strength, and beauty in the three officers as well as the Greater and Lesser Lights. The rhetoric of listing wisdom, strength, and beauty in this order places importance on beauty. Beauty is an odd ideal for a fraternity. Yet beauty is seen as the resolution of a life that is brimming with wisdom and strength. Men who exhibit wisdom and strength create harmony. Harmony is itself a characteristic of beauty in social settings as it its in aesthetics. In the Aurora Lodge (a German-speaking lodge in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin), the German word for beauty is Schönheit, which involves balance and symmetry, as in the beauty of a well-built structure. Perhaps we can visualize that a Lodge of filled with wise and strong men will produce better men in a manly sense of symmetry, strength, and beauty.

The three degrees emphasize three stages of life. Our youth and adolescence are emphasized in our training as Entered Apprentices; our manhood and useful work are keys to the Fellow-craft degree; and contemplating our own mortality is vividly illustrated in the Hiramic story for Master Masons.

The posting monitors used by all three degrees today begin with three grand principles of brotherly love, relief and truth. Meetings in Lodge are designed to reinforce these three principles as we practice fraternity, charity, and virtue − three moral guides.

Triads are used by Lodges to train our minds. As we grow in understanding we will tend to use more and richer triads. Intelligence, force, and harmony provide elegant synonyms uses today for wisdom, strength, and beauty. Likewise, religion, law, and morals are pillars of Masonic teaching. By religious study and contemplation we search out wisdom. By the force and rule of law, we establish a strong and orderly society. And by inculcation of personal morality, we strive for beauty in our private and public lives.

The lesson for us is that the triads used in our rituals and in our lectures are purposeful and helpful to us. Let us strive for perfection by becoming better men in wisdom, strength, and beauty.

____________________Richard D. Marcus
George Washington 1776 Lodge, F&AM #337
Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin

--- Master Mason Info: Wisdom, Strength, Beauty ---

Latest Updated Posting: Saturday, 17-June-2007... 3:44 PM
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Herb O. Buckland