:: Pull Up and Pull Down Resistors ::
[info paraphrased from wikipedia]
Pull-up resistors are used in electronic logic circuits to ensure that inputs to the arduino settle at expected logic levels if external devices are disconnected or high-impedance. 'Just because you have nothing at all connected to an input pin doesn't mean it is a logical zero.'
A pull-up resistor weakly "pulls" the voltage of the wire it is connected to towards its voltage source level when the other components on the line are inactive. When the switch on the line is open, it is high-impedance and acts like it is disconnected. Since the other components act as though they are disconnected, the circuit acts as though it is disconnected, and the pull-up resistor brings the wire up to the high logic level. When another component on the line goes active, it will override the high logic level set by the pull-up resistor. The pull-up resistor assures that the wire is at a defined logic level even if no active devices are connected to it.
A pull-down resistor works in the same way but is connected to ground. It holds the logic signal near zero volts when no other active device is connected.
The value of a pull down or pull up resistor will vary depending upon your specific devices involved.