I've always liked numbers. I was good at math in elementary school, where all you deal with is the intrinsic nature of numbers; 4 and 8 are related - the former is half the later. In high school, it was the relations of numbers at a higher level - algebra, geometry, trig, etc. High school also was the beginning of science based upon the systematic use of numbers. I became intimately familiar with my favorite numbers - 2.1718281828, 3.141592653589, 1.414,
In college, skill with numbers was assumed in my major. You don't become a Mechanical Engineering student without a little bit of ability with numbers. When I went to work after college, number skills were embedded in the other expectations; part numbers are systematically designed number systems, and they're fun to play with.
There are some numbers which now mean things they didn't ever used to, numbers whose widely recognized meaning has drastically changed. For instance, if you said "777" to me 3 or 4 years ago, I would have thought of "the number of perfection" (related to, and opposite of the "number of the beast": "666"). Now, I think of the Boeing 777, and my first ten months in the company, as part of the design team working on the 777-300ER.
Also, if you said "767", I would think of Boeing's 767, the airplane I've been assigned to since I left the 777. I've spent the last 17 months on the 767; I've changed job types while on the 767; I've learned much about the structure of airplanes while on the 767; I've enjoyed my time at work.
It's a rather strange thing, but here at Boeing, I've come to associate "number" with things that aren't strictly 0-9. The numbers I think of are often alphanumeric - part numbers, assembly numbers, installation numbers, line numbers, effectivity numbers, document numbers, specification numbers, heh, even page numbers aren't always just 0-9. For me, numbers like 140T2102 and 146T3341 tell me much; as do VA526 and VA013, or even N334AA and N612UA. I can deconstruct and decipher those numbers into meaningful, real objects - physical things I can grasp or describe.
There are some numbers that I take quite personally. My age, the license plate of my first car, my phone number, my street address, my weight.
Some numbers I don't take quite so personally, but I still find them fascinating. Here are some nearly random facts about the airplane I work on every day. The 767 is a twin engine, twin aisle, high bypass turbofan passenger airliner, built to carry over 200 people and tons of cargo thousands of miles in safety for 40 years. A 767-200ER has a range of 6600 nautical miles (12220 km), a maximum takeoff weight of 395000 pounds, a maximum fuel load of 23980 gallons, a maximum cargo space of 2875 cubic feet, and a capacity to hold 181-255 people, depending on seating layout. The 767 cruises at approximately 35000 feet, where it's about negative 65 degrees Farenheit, typical cruise speed is 550 miles per hour. The 767 was one of the first airplanes that the FAA certified for ETOPS, the Extended Twin-engine Operations class, which means that the 767 can safely fly for hours without being near any airports.
The 767 was the last airplane Boeing built "The Old Way", with manual drafters carefully marking each line on physical sheets of mylar  with ink pens; the next airplane, the 777, was digitally designed. Some drawings I look at have signatures from 1978, some analysis notes I hold in my hand were signed in 1979 - the math on that page was laid down when this year's graduating college class (master's program
The 767 is MY airplane. I work on it everyday. I design repairs for airlines, I examine tiny discrepancies, I put my professional reputation into the 767 every time I sign something or make a decision. I can tell you that the thickest skin I've seen on a 767 is
And I see my airplane. I see it, and I see some numbers. I see 767, and 757, and 3000, and
I see my airplane - the airplane which should be bringing grandmothers to see their grandchildren - I see my airplane ramming into a building. My mind can't help but map out what happens - how the nose breaks through the glass and metal sides of the building before the nose begins to crumple, how the fuselage pushes the floors apart (assuming that the #$%$ing pilot got the nose centered correctly) and rams farther into the building, desks and chairs flying like shrapnel after they are hit by the skin. The plane finally starts to really come to a stop - maybe the wings weren't flat enough to let them enter the floor, maybe the angle of the strike wasn't parrallel to the floors, it doesn't matter - and the engines tear off of their mountings. Heh, that's the only thing that is supposed to happen. (The engines are designed to come off of the wing cleanly so that belly landings won't ignite the fuel in the wing; if the engine stayed attached to the wing, but flopped around or rolled under the wing and hit the underside, the thousands of gallons of jet fuel might ignite.) Except here, this time, the engines don't seperate from the plane and tumble across an empty landing field, these multi-ton behemoths - arguably the most solid, most dense part of the plane - these wrecking balls untethered fly through the building, demolishing anything and everything.
And that's just the metal.
Here are the 767s. Our official Boeing records note that these planes crashed on 09/11/2001 and were a "Total loss".
American Airlines Flight 11, N334AA
169th 767 built, internally refered to as VA526
One World Trade Center, North Tower
United Airlines Flight 175, N612UA
41st 767 built, internally refered to as VA013
Tower 2, South Tower
Life is more than numbers. But not today.
Mylar is what was drawn on, like drafting paper. It holds up well over time, doesn't expand or shrink much with temperature, and it's easy to work with. Of course, it's physical, so it's not as easy to modify as a CAD drawing or model. But the 777 was built with all CAD, no hand drafting.