Prime Time

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Ever wonder what the largest prime number is (that is, a number divisible only by 1 and itself—as in 2, 3, 5, 7, 13, etc.)? Well, some researchers at Central Missouri State University recently discovered the biggest one to date several years after they had programmed 700 computers to search collectively for it. They undertook this project because they “had nothing better to do.” (OK, so I made that quote up, but I mean, c’mon!)

 

Unfortunately, you mathletes out there aren’t going to get that number here, because it’s 9.1 million digits long, and would likely increase the content of this Web site by several factors. I can tell you it’s expressed in mathematical shorthand as 2 to the 30,402,457th power minus 1. Feel free to work that one out at home.

 

The whole idea of having 700 hundred computers simultaneously and continuously working on a single project over the course of several years got me thinking about what else such an enterprise could calculate. Perhaps, given time, it could figure out the following:

 

 

  1. The number of gummi bears I ate at my desk last week.
  2. All the times I’ve thrown my remote control at the TV during a football game. (Still works!)
  3. The total tally of blue-haired slot jockeys in Vegas right now.
  4. The amount of pandering, meaningless statements in any speech delivered in Congress.
  5. The number of times a man changes the channel in the span of an hour.
  6. The amount of times the woman with him complains about it.
  7. Every priest-rabbi-and-other-guy joke ever told.
  8. The number of people who’ve stopped reading this by now.
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