## Monday, January 30, 2006

- To continue the discussion I started in my last update, truly random numbers are almost impossible to achieve. Did you know that if you analyze large sets of data from many human-created resources, the number 1 will tend to appear as the first digit in the number, roughly 30% of the time? For example, if you measured the area of each river basin for every river on our planet, 30% of the time the first number appearing in the measurement of each river basin would be a 1. At any given time, if you look at all the prices of stocks for the Dow Jones industrial average over a given day, then nearly 1/3rd of the time the first digit in the price of that stock will be a 1. Look at the populations for the world's 1000 largest cities, and the number 1 will appear roughly 30% of the time for a given digit in the population. This phenomenon is known as Benford's Law, named after the physicist Frank Benford, who in 1938 discovered that human beings tend to favor the number 1 in their statistical record-keeping, even when a human-being is consciously trying to be as honest as possible with recording numbers. The IRS and enforcement officials use Benford's Law to expose tax-cheats and accounting frauds. Read the following article for a much better explanation:
http://www.rexswain.com/benford.html

- More number "1" goodness...before the advent of cable television, your typical television carried channels 2 to 13, and occassionally a few more channels between 14 to 60, depending on where you lived. How come no one ever used Channel 1? It seems to me that Channel 1 would have been the most coveted channel to broadcasters. Well, here's why broadcasters never used Channel 1:
http://www.discovery.com/area/skinnyon/skinnyon971031/skinnyon.html

- How to detect a two-way mirror. When I walk through a department store, I notice the many mirrors littered throughout the store. Obviously a department store has lots of mirrors so customers can look at the merchandise from a different point of view, but I have always wondered how many of those mirrors have a security camera behind them. Now I will know: