Stories tagged numbers

Pick a number: The PIN you punch in at an ATM can have a higher or lower level of security based on the order of the numbers you pick.
Pick a number: The PIN you punch in at an ATM can have a higher or lower level of security based on the order of the numbers you pick.Courtesy Victor van Werkhooven
What are the most popular PIN numbers people use? What are the least? How can you best ensure that your PIN is something crooks would have a lesser chance of figuring out? This is a pretty neat report that talks about what works, and what doesn't, when selecting a personal identification number to use with some financial or electronic devices. You'd be surprised how often people commonly make mistakes that lead to easy uncovering of their PINs.

Well, I already missed 9:09:09am, but let me tell you tonight at 9:09:09pm I am celebrating this numerologically unique coincidence of numbers. I'll probably make some ice-9.

Scroll down to the Math Magic section of this article on today's event for some highlights the annals of math. Even Google is celebrating.


Some fingers: Some fingers down, more fingers up.
Some fingers: Some fingers down, more fingers up.Courtesy anna_t
Researchers from MIT have found that a tribe in remote northwestern Brazil has no words for specific numbers.

The language of the tribe, of which there are only about 300 members, seems to be unique in that it has no numbers. Counting was thought to have been innate in human cognition. Apparently that isn’t totally the case. Specific numbers weren’t useful to this culture, so they never developed them in their language.

Instead of specific numbers, the group, called the Piraha, has a couple of relative terms, translating to something like “some” and “more.” Piraha math classes, I assume, would be awesome.

Some + some = more (obviously)

Nothing + some = some (duh)

Nothing + more = some (interesting!)

More – some = some (probably)

Some – more = your mind blown (Whoa!)

Something very anthropologically and linguistically crazy is going on here. Something about how even though we think our thoughts shape language, language actually ends up shaping our thoughts. So if you come from a culture whose language has no concept of specific numbers, how does that shape your perception of the world?

Oh, if only I had been a better student.


Bring 'em on: Come on you nasty sharks...I'll take you all on. (Flickr photo by Cayusa)
Bring 'em on: Come on you nasty sharks...I'll take you all on. (Flickr photo by Cayusa)
The Miami Dolphins on the NFL football field maybe struggling through a winless season so far, but their namesakes off the coast of California chalked up a big win a few months ago.

When surfer Todd Endris was surfing near Monterey on Aug. 28, a 12- to 15-foot great white shark attacked him. It’s not uncommon for surfers to be the targets of sharks, who look up through the water to see what they think is a tasty seal.

Three shark bites peeled skin off his back and had ripped his right leg down to the bone. Then to the rescue came a pod of dolphins.

The formed a protective ring around him, allowing Endris to get his wits about him, paddle to shore and get first aid attention on shore from a friend.

I heard Endris share his tale on the Today Show earlier this week. You can get the full report by clicking here. But my biggest question was left unanswered. Why did the dolphins intervene?

Science doesn’t have the answer yet, but cases of dolphins rescuing people go back to tales from ancient Greece.

Just last year, four lifeguards in New Zealand were saved from sharks by the similar action of a pod of dolphins.

One more interesting twist to the story, within six weeks Endris was back on his surfboard riding the waters off on Monterey again.

So what do you think is at play with dolphins coming to the rescue? Do you think they do this for other species as well, or just humans? Share your thoughts here with Science Buzz readers.

What would a billion (or a trillion) pennies look like? The Megapennie project shows you.