Daily Archives: 03/05/2005

Really Big And In His Prime

Back when I played football I used to make a facetious remark that always furrowed the brow of my fellow gridiron warriors; When asked why I wore #97, I always replied that #97 was just like me – big and in its prime baby.

Looks like I was selling prime numbers severely short. A German eye surgeon and his office computer made the news last month when he discovered the largest prime number yet calculated. Dr. Martin Nowak’s prime number, 225,964,951–1 is an enormous number, but larger number will eventually be found. There is an infinite number of primes, but they become rarer and rarer as numbers increase.

Primes are the building blocks of numbers, and they are the magic number that drives the internet. Encryption and cryptography are built around prime numbers, using the strange fact that it is easy to multiply two prime numbers together (13×7=?) but much harder to decipher what prime numbers created a product (323=?×?). Go ahead, figure those out. I’ll wait…

Bet it took a longer to uncover what two number produce 323? It sure ain’t 13 and 7 is it? Took me about five minutes with a spreadsheet to come up with the answer. Imagine how long it takes to tease out the prime numbers from a number with 7,816,320 digits? It took Dr. Nowak’s 2.4 GHz Pentium 4 computer over 50 days to compute his prime number.

Prime numbers are intimately wound around the Riemann Hypothesis, one of the great unproved theorems in mathematics. The Riemann Hypothesis concerns the distribution of prime numbers, but in over 150 years it has remained unproven.

Dr. Nowak made his discovery as part of GIMPS, the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search. Anybody with a computer can join in the hunt and search for prime numbers on a desktop computer. Windows, Linux and FreeBSD are the primary systems for this search, but the software is available for Macs running OS X and even my venerable old Psion PDA.

Whoops There Goes Another PSA

Well blow me down. Guam is having trouble with that shady B movie production company that filmed “Max Havoc” last year. Seems Rigel Entertainment did not deliver the PSA featuring Carmen Electra on time because they want more money from GovGuam. The spot supposedly features Electra urging island residents to keep Guam clean. GovGuam paid $24,000 for this masterpiece, only now the production company wants another $100,000 from us island bumpkins.

Global Flyer Circumnavigates The Planet

Global FlyerAdventurer and millionaire Steve Fossett, known for his hair raising attempts to fly a balloon around the world several years ago, succeeded in flying solo non-stop around the world in a jet aircraft, under the watchful eye of Virgin Atlantic’s Richard Branson. The Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer completed the circumnavigation in just over 67 hours, well under the anticipated flight time of 80 hours. This smashed the old record by several days. That old record was set in 1986 by the propeller driven airplane Voyager, designed and flown by Burt Rutan. Rutan also designed the Global Flyer and SpaceShipOne, the first civilian spacecraft.

It was touch and go towards the end, as the aircraft lost several thousand pounds of jet fuel shortly after takeoff. Luckily Fossett encountered favorable tail winds that let him compensate for the 14% fuel loss.

Uffizi Gallery Renovation Halted

The planned $91 million renovation of Florence’s famed Uffizi Gallery has been suspended after ruins discovered at the site of a new entrance to the gallery. The ruins date from the medieval period of the city, and were leveled in the 1500’s during construction of the gallery. Medieval ruins are not very well studied in Renaissance cities like Florence and archaeologists will thoroughly excavate the site before any future decision on renewing the renovation.

It is worth noting that the renovation drew numerous attacks because of the striking design created by Japanese architect Isozaki. I doubt there will be very much pressure to reinstate the renovation now that these ruins are uncovered.