by Kathy Wolfe

This week, Tidbits counts to five to bring you the facts on this prime number.

What exactly is a prime number? It’s one that is only divisible by itself and the number one!

The Latin and Greek languages give us many words related to the number five. The Latin word for five, “quintus,” is the root for the word “quintet,” a group of five musicians. Quintuplets are a group of five babies, while in card games, a “quint” is a sequence of five cards in the same suit. The Greek word for five is “pente,” and we derive our words “pentagon” and “pentagram” for polygons from this root. A pentadactyl has five fingers and a pentad is a period of five years. The Torah, or Pentateuch, the Five Books of Moses, consists of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, the first five books of the Bible.

    According to the Chinese, every significant thing on Earth comes from five elements – metal, fire, earth, wood, and water. The Five Elements Theory, which first appeared around 770 BC, declares that the world changes according to these five “generating or overcoming relationships.” Everything that occurs in the universe is the result of those interactions.

Most species of starfish have five appendages, or rays, an example of pentamerism. The five rays branch out from a central disk, with the end of each arm equipped with a microscopic eye, known as an ocellus, organs that help the creature differentiate between light and dark, as well as detecting movement.   

• There are five Great Lakes, large interconnected freshwater lakes that connect to the Atlantic Ocean via the Saint Lawrence Seaway. The five, Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario, contain 21% of the world’s surface fresh water by volume. Their total surface covers 94,250 sq. miles (244, 106 sq. km), about the size of the United Kingdom. Only one of the five, Lake Michigan, is located entirely within the United States, while the others form a boundary between the U.S. and Canada.

What enables the body to identify the five basic tastes of sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami (savory)? The chemical compounds in different foods interact with specialized protein receptor cells in the taste buds on your tongue, which in turn send the information to your brain.

What does it mean to “plead the fifth”? In the U.S. legal system, this phrase refers to the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, an amendment ratified in 1791. It protects a person from being “compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” When a witness is called to testify, pleading the fifth signals their intentions to invoke the amendment’s protections ahead of their testimony if he/she feels that statements might be negative or be used against them. The prosecution is not allowed to comment on the decision, and the jury is prohibited from drawing any unfavorable conclusions or equating the witness’s silence with guilt.

Several popular musical groups have incorporated the number five into their name. The 1960s band, The 5th Dimension, had memorable hits with “Up, Up and Away” and “Age of Aquarius.” Originally named The Versatiles, they changed their name in 1966, wanting something more up-to-date. It was five people and the dimension was about music. The English pop rock group, The Dave Clark Five, who formed in 1958 in London under the leadership of drummer Dave Clark, had big hits with “Glad All Over” and “Bits and Pieces.” Clark began the band as a side project to raise money for his soccer team. He wasn’t even a musician – he bought a drum set and taught himself to play them. The band was the first British rock band to tour the U.S., and appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” more than any other band. The Jackson 5, composed of five brothers Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marion, and Michael, was founded in 1964 in Gary, Indiana, managed by their father Joe. Their first break was winning the talent show at the city’s Theodore Roosevelt High School in 1966. A deal with Steeltown Records followed in 1967.

The symbol of the Olympic Games was created by the co-founder of the International Olympic Committee, Pierre de Coubertin, in 1913. The five interlocking rings represent the number of inhabited continents represented by Olympians – Africa, Asia, Australia, the Americas, and Europe. The five colors, blue, yellow, black, green, and red, were chosen because every nation’s flag includes at least one of the colors. The rings were interconnected to symbolize a unified group of athletes.

French designer Coco Chanel released her famous perfume Chanel No. 5 in 1921 on May 5, the fifth day of the fifth month.

    The strengths of hurricanes and tornadoes are measured on wind scales. Hurricanes rated as Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale are those with sustained winds of at least 157 mph (252 km/hr). The scale was developed in 1971 by engineer Herbert Saffir and meteorologist Robert Simpson. Very few types of structures survive a Category 5 hurricane, only those of solid concrete or steel frame construction located at least 3 to 5 miles (5 to 8 km) inland. Nearly all trees are uprooted or snapped. Tornadoes are measured on the Enhanced Fujita scale, also first developed in 1971. A Category 5 is one with winds above 200 mph (322 km/hr).    Except for heavily-built structures, virtually all buildings are destroyed, cars are hurled up to thousands of yards away, framed houses are blown away, and even the grass is ripped from the ground. The most recent Category 5 tornado occurred in Moore, Oklahoma, in May, 2013, with winds estimated at 210 mph (340 km/hr), a storm that killed 26 and injured 212.   

•    All major north-south interstate highways in the U.S. end in 5. The westernmost interstate running through California, Oregon, and Washington is I-5. Progressing eastward, the roads are numbered increasingly higher, ending with the easternmost I-95 along the east coast, running from Florida all the way to Maine.

The pentathlon tournament in the modern Olympic Games consists of five different events – fencing, freestyle swimming, equestrian jumping, cross country running, and pistol shooting. Swedish athletes have captured the gold more times than any other nation.