[Editor Note: This article is contributed by Jonathan Palley <jonathan At brainpage.com> who is the co-founder of Brainpage. He started his first Company focused on Virtual Flash Cards in high school and successfully obtained half million paid users globally. In 2006, he founded Idapted, a company focused on e-education and sold in 2011. Residing in beijing, his current company, Brainpage, is aiming at bringing cutting edge data technologies to Chinese market.]

There is turmoil in the Middle East, global economic uncertain and imminent high-stakes political decisions in the world’s two largest economies (the U.S. and China) – but none of these would be more popular than a simple math problem on the New York Times’ website this past week. Yes, nothing beats the magical mathematical fun of The Birthday Problem – the surprising statistical insight that if you have 23 people in a room, there is a 50% chance that two of them have the same birthday.

But perhaps, somehow, its appropriate. This problem – and the basic statistical principles behind it – is an essential ingredient to our digital and increasingly “big data” world. Without having this problem, you can’t securely send information over the internet nor can you instantly access massive amounts of information. We often forget these low-level discoveries that enables our modern lives; and major technical announcements, like the release of a new cryptographic standard called SHA-3 this week, are rarely covered by the news. Thus, in honor of the NY Times’ article and SHA-3 (more on this news from the security industry below), we thought we’d take a moment to explain just why these types of problems are so significant to the technology world.

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