46 Years Young

With 46 the number on everyone’s lips this week, we’ve been wondering about its broader significance. Is there anything more to 46 than merely being the dialing code you need to get through to Ikea’s Swedish headquarters when you want to complain that your meatballs are cold?Well, it’s also the atomic number of palladium (thanks Wikipedia!), but who cares about real-world metals anymore? It’s the country’s birthday, we’re all geeks at heart, and if we’re to get any presents this year we’re surely more interested in a job lot of vibranium (the stuff with which they make Captain America’s shield). You can keep your palladium, thanks.Forty six is also the number worn by motorcycle champ Valentino Rossi, a badge of pride for mountaineers who’ve conquered the peaks of the Adirondack range, the number of books in the Old Testament, and the name of the road between Batheaston and Cleethorpes in the UK. All fairly uninspiring, you might think.But 46 is also the number of chromosomes in the human body. That’s right—46 is nothing less than the number that makes us who we are.(In the case of the Tim Robbins vehicle Code 46, it’s also what determines who can love who, in a tale of “romance doomed by genetic incompatibility.” It’s pitched as a dystopian version of the future, but we have to say we’re rather smitten with the idea. It certainly beats romance determined by drunken compatibility. We give it 12 months before dating agencies start asking for DNA samples instead of hobbies and interests.)So we’re naturally curious about what this convergence of our nation’s history and our genetic heritage says about where we’re heading. As a people, we’re no longer as timid as house cats (38), and no one could accuse Singapore of being a social experiment populated by lab rats (44) any more. 2011 is truly our time. (It’s also the time of the guppy, for whom 46 is also the magic number. But we’ll let that slide.) And we should make the most of it while we still can.After all, gorillas and chimps have 48 chromosomes. Is it mere coincidence that Rise of the Planet of the Apes has just opened at cinemas here? We doubt it. It’s simply a precursor of what’s to come in two years’ time. We’re talking gorillas on the grandstand and monkeys parachuting into Marina Bay in 2013. You’ve been warned, people.