Thursday, February 19, 2009

I Lose Sleep at Night or I Sleep Well at Night

Deep Thoughts in the title and the post.

For some reason I was driving (insights occur while driving a lot, according to the New Yorker) and thinking about social security numbers. I couldn't figure out how there were enough numbers for everyone. I'm not smart enough/math savvy enough to figure out if there are exactly 999-99-999 numbers, or more, (i.e. 99 million, 9 hundred 99 thousand,9 hundred 99,) or if it's some kind of factorial,or if there are zeroes involved so there are more, or what. And who picks what social security number you have? I did a large and scientific study of three friends. Two grew up near me- one had a social that started with the same number, even though she was born 10 years earlier, and one grew up near me and had a different first number, though she was born about 10 miles away. The third was born on the East Coast, one year later, and her number starts with a 0. One question answered- but a whole realm of math questions opened up....

Here are many of the answers, in an exceedingly boring (and short) video that won't let me embed. You have to see it to believe it.

The other answers are that the first three numbers are based on where you apply for your social security number, and the lowest numbers are of course in the North East. Hence Tausha's zero and my 5(?). Maybe California is lower than Montana? I don't know. I don't care that much. The middle numbers break the first numbers into smaller areas and the last 3 just run in order, I guess from when you apply. And yes, we will run out. In about 75 more years, according to that video.

One problem solved, another opened. Thanks to KALX, I am left wondering what we mean when we refer to "midnight" or "12am." When someone says "The show is at midnight on Thursday," or "I'll see you at 12am" on Thursday," do they mean the 12 o'clock between Thursday and Friday or the 12 o'clock between Wednesday and Thursday (technically 12am Thursday?). Further, is there such thing as 2400 hours or 0000 hours? or is it really 1159hours and 59seconds and then 0000 hours? or is it 2400 hours and then 0000 hours and 1 second?

I am relieved that this is not a "dumb" question, after all. I mean, it sounds like one. Like one yours truly would ask since I think too much. Way too much. But it's not. Even Dr Math (who I didn't know existed) thinks it's a good question. I feel so validated. (And so dorky). Dr Math also gives the answer, although it's too confusing, I don't feel any better. He links to the National Institute of Science and Technology, who says:

When a specific date is important, and when we can use a 24-hour clock, we prefer to designate that moment not as 1200 midnight, but rather as 0000 if we are referring to the beginning of a given day (or date), or 2400 if we are designating the end of a given day (or date).

So maybe both 2400 hours and 0000 hours exist. At the same time? I'm confused. Or maybe you just pick one? Ugh. This problem is only semi-solved.

Bottom line, occasionally I lose sleep about this type of thing. Normally, I worry about it, then forget about it, for days on end. But, as Jen pointed out last night, most of the time I sleep very very well, because my brain is in overdrive all day thinking this kind of crazy shit. I'm a famously excellent sleeper. I've never realized this before, which in itself is the third deep thought of the post, and a paradox for someone else to ponder.