« Back to the blog
Sep 27

News Flash

Google turns 12 this week, an important milestone worthy of special recognition no doubt. Interestingly, the number 12 has borne curious significance throughout civilization, and appears in many places. For instance, there are 12 months in a year. There are 12 hours on the face of an analogue clock. There are 12 inches in a foot. A "dozen" is a quantity that means twelve, whereas a "gross" is twelve dozen.

In astrology, there are 12 signs in the Zodiac. In the Bible, Jacob had 12 sons, and Jesus had twelve disciples. Twelve tribes were formed when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. There are twelve pairs of ribs in the human body – normally.

Twelve men have walked on the Earth’s moon. There are 12 stars on the Flag of Europe. There are twelve days of Christmas. D12 is a rap group also known as the Dirty Dozen. In English, twelve is the largest number that has just one syllable.  A group of twelve things is called a Duodecad. There are 12 ways of arranging eight queens on a chessboard so that no queen can capture any other queen.

There are 12 pennies in a shilling. 12 o’clock is midday or midnight. There are 12 people in a jury. On one hand you can count off the numbers from 1 to 12 by touching the joints of your fingers with your thumb. In fact, strong arguments have been made that we should count in twelves rather than in tens.

Some scientists believe that the duodecimal system – or base-12 counting, is actually the most convenient and natural system for calculating (which may, in part explain the many occurrences of the number 12.) If people had 12 fingers, we would likely have counted in base-12.  In some societies, however, infants with 12 fingers were actually killed. This may have been in part because of the following Bible passage:

In still another battle, which took place at Gath, there was a huge man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot–twenty-four in all. He also was descended from Rapha. When he taunted Israel, Jonathan son of Shimeah, David’s brother, killed him. (2 Samuel 21:20-21)
(Statistically as many as one in five hundred people are born with extra toes or fingers, otherwise known as polydactylism.)

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me: Twelve Drummers Drumming. The “Twelfth Night” or “Feast of Epiphany” on January 6 marks the end of the Christmas period. It used to be a time of great merrymaking. Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night was written to be performed as part of the Twelfth Night celebrations.

Both English and German have twelve basic numbers before starting the teens. (Otherwise one would count "one-teen and two-teen" instead of eleven and twelve.)

Under British law, when you reach the age of 12 you can buy a pet, can legally watch a 12 certificate film, and can be trained to participate in dangerous public entertainments subject to the grant of a local authority license. In Judaism when a girl turns 12 she reaches her Bat Mitzvah and becomes responsible for her actions (for boys it’s 13.)  Perhaps Google gets another year grace period.

Google is not the only search engine, however, to reach an important milestone this fall.  Our very own Spokeo just turned 4 – a number not without its own significance.  Many things in the universe are arranged in fours. For instance, there are 4 suits in a deck of cards. There are the 4 points of the compass. There are 4 phases of the moon. There are 4 wings on a bee and 4 leaves on a clover – if you are lucky.

The Bible refers to the “four corners of the earth.” There are 4 seasons – which have also inspired great works of art, such as Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” On maps adjacent countries are often shown in different colors, and no one has ever found a map that requires more than 4 colors. (Draw an imaginary map where the countries have  complicated shapes. Then try to color them in with no more than 4 colors, and with no adjoining countries sharing the same color. You may have to try coloring in several ways before you find a solution that requires only 4 colors.)

There are the 4 elements – earth, air, fire, and water. 4 Noble Truths epitomize Buddhism. To the Pythagoreans 4 was the source of the tetractys 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10, the most perfect number. In medieval times there were thought to be 4 humors (phlegm, blood, choler, and black bile—hence the adjectives phlegmatic, sanguine, choleric, and melancholic), and the body was bled at various places to bring these humors into balance. A tetrahedron is a kind of pyramid with 4 triangular faces.

The number 4 is central in the world view of the Sioux. They refer to 4 groups of gods (superior, ally, subordinate, and spirit), 4 types of animal (creeping, flying, four-legged, and two-legged), and four ages of humans (infant, child, mature, and elderly.) Their medicine men instructed them to carry out all activities in groups of 4.

Because 4 is generally a practical, material number, few superstitions are associated with it. An exception is in China, where 4 is unlucky because she (“four”) and shi (“death”) sound similar. A circle divided by 4 makes right angles. Because of it, 4 is the base number of plane (mathematics).

All in all we would have to say that “4” has been a pretty great number for Spokeo. Spokeo has been around for four years now, and we have released 4 versions of our product. We started with just a single server in a basement that had to be moved into a bathroom because it was so loud. Now we have racks.  In our first year of operation our servers once went down for an entire week and no one even noticed. Now if they are down for just a few minutes the phones ring off the hook. We went from owning a rickety, three-page paper shredder (appropriated from parents) to a fancy one that handles a whopping sixteen. We even have a foosball table now too. (Now that’s progress.) In the beginning we earned only \$3.00 a day. Many a meeting, in which there wasn’t much to do, turned into a game of Magic cards. Now Spokeo is one of the busiest sites on the web.

All in all, we’d have to say “4” has been a pretty great number for Spokeo. Still, we have to admit, 12 sounds even better. Spokeo salutes Google for reaching such a fine milestone, and we look forward to sharing many more wonderful adventures of our own in the years to come. Happy birthday Google.