Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Prime Time With Curtis Cooper
The big news in pure mathematics yesterday was the discovery (actually on January 25, by Dr. Curtis Cooper of Missouri) of the largest prime number yet, with well over 17 million digits... probably too long to use for your Facebook password (amazingly, this number has almost 4.5 million more digits than the last previous largest prime and is the third time Dr. Cooper has been a finder!):
It's always newsworthy when these largest primes are found, even if it doesn't affect our day-to-day lives anytime soon (…if the price of that next cup of Starbucks coffee goes up, well, it's strictly a coincidence… I think). Primes are the "stuff" (atoms as it were) of mathematics, and go on forever.
This latest prime was found by way of the GIMPS (Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search) project, a collaboration of volunteers all across the internet (yes, YOU too can take part) -- a GREAT example of the kind of group-efforts the internet has made possible, and mathematicians have been at the forefront of. If you're not already familiar with it, read about the project at Wikipedia here:
...or at the home site for the project here:
As long as I'm talking prime numbers, might as well go ahead and re-plug a book I love, "The Mystery of the Prime Numbers" by Matthew Watkins. Because it's from Britain and self-published it is not well distributed, but is available through Amazon here:
I believe anyone from bright teenagers to dull mathematicians... er, no, I mean adult mathematicians ;-)... can enjoy and learn some things from this intriguing volume on a subject of eternal interest (and it's actually the first volume in a "trilogy" by the author).