Monday, August 29, 2005

Mark Rebuck, Pet Detective

During a long walk last week, I noticed a "Missing Dog" poster. The dog in question was a stunningly beautiful black lab / chow mix named Bentley. I spent the rest of that walk thinking about dogs, and how much love I have for the little creatures. And, becuase I'm a numbers geek, I spent some time thinking about the phone number on the poster. As far as I could tell, the prime factors of the phone number were 11, 11, and [something huge]. That's a really abnormal prime factorization. I figured I *must* have missed an easy factor, but no matter how many times I checked, I couldn't come up with any other small factors. The number was divisible by 11 (and 121), but nothing in between. Even the number after division by 121 left a number that appeared to have no small factors. Anyway... today I went for another walk/run, this time in another direction. At one point I saw another poster, which I mostly ignored after I saw "black lab / chow mix" in the description. I figured it was the same dog, so I didn't need to read the info again. But the poster got me thinking about prime number factorization again, so I decided to give the number another shot. Just like last time, the first factor was 11. This time I couldn't do a second division by 11. I went through the math again. Same result. It bugged me the rest of the run. When I got back to my apartment, I checked with an online factor generator and discovered the the phone number factored into 11 x 17 x 17 x [a four digit number]. No f'ing way did I manage to screw up my division by 11's the other day! I had to figure out what I did wrong with my factorizations. So I drove to where I saw the first poster, jotted down the number, and factored it on my Palm Pilot. 11 x 11 x [five digit number]. My math WAS right the other day! Ha! I must have misread the number today. Then I drove over to today's poster. The instant I got out of my truck I realized what should have been painfully obvious from the start: Different phone numbers. Today's poster was a "Found Dog" poster, not a "Lost Dog" poster. Duh!!! I got phone mail when I called the "Lost Dog" number, but was able to talk to the lady at the "Found Dog" number, and give her the information from the other poster. The descriptions matched perfectly, so I'm fairly confident I managed to reconnect a dog with his parents. Problem solved. 2005-08-30, 4:30PM. UPDATE: I got a call back from the "Found Dog" lady. The bad news is that it wasn't the same dog as from the "Lost Dog" poster. The good news is that the "Found Dog"'s real owner was able to track her down. Let's all hope the original lost dog finds his way home.