I was wondering this when using my bike lock, a combination lock with four dials, each of which has ten digits (0-9) on it in numerical order.
Suppose a bicyclist decides that, from now on, after putting in his combination on this lock, he will only give the lock one twist to close it. So, he chooses between 1 and 4 adjacent dials, and rotates them any number of spaces (other than a multiple of 10, to avoid having the lock end this procedure in a closed position!)
Unbeknown to the bicyclist, a thief is following him. The thief knows that the bicyclist uses this procedure to secure his bike. Over a period of days, the thief notes each combination the lock ends up on. What's the fewest observations that the thief needs to make before she can deduce the combination with certainty? What's the fewest observations that she needs to make before she can reduce it to 10 possibilities? How can a shrewd (but stubborn) bicyclist maximize the number of observations necessary without repeating a combination?
This seems simple enough that I'm sure it's been solved before, but I don't know where to start on it.