Every morning when I wake, I glance over at the clock on my night stand. It displays numbers that change with every passing minute. I am always just a bit relieved when the number is an odd number, because that means I can roll over and linger longer in bed. I could not possibly get out of bed on an odd number–doing so would start the whole day off on the wrong foot. It would be awkward and uncomfortable. It would just be wrong.
I was born on an odd day in an odd month in an odd year. Maybe that’s where the aversion began–I was overloaded from the get-go. This aversion affects me in many ways. I don’t particularly like math. I especially do not like math that involves odd numbers. They don’t compute in my brain. I can’t add or subtract them. I have to use my fingers on the odd ones. In contrast, even numbers are clean and neat and they make sense in my mind. I can add and subtract them easily. They even look beautiful. Each one. They can be divided evenly and neatly. They have multiples. They stack nicely. There are never left overs when they are paired. They Belong.
I’ve noticed there are a few odd number things that really bother me. Like swallowing water from a drinking fountain or cup. I always count the swallows. I can’t end on an odd number. Or counting the number of steps I climb. It’s really tough to get to the top of a place on an odd number, where there isn’t one more step to even things out. It leaves me feeling out of sorts and uncomfortable. If I know a set of steps is odd, I have to not count my way to the top because I can’t fix things when I get there.
When I went into labor with my 3rd child, Aaron, it was a lovely even day. Adam was born on the 14th, Claire on the 18th, and I went to the hospital to birth Aaron on the 16th. It was a perfect line up of days: 14, 16, 18. But on that day he refused to come. In spite of my willing him to come, he stayed put, opting to arrive on a prime number day. Primes are the worst of all odd numbers. They are painfully odd. They are almost repulsive to me. I only say “almost” for Aaron’s sake because he loves the number 17 and I don’t want to make him feel bad.
Because prime numbers are so Painful for me, imagine my astonishment when I read the article below this week. Why would Anyone spend time trying to discover such a large uneven prime number? The thought of spending 16 years and 150 trillion calculations per second to find an odd number 30 MILES long makes me shudder. It makes me want to roll over in my bed until it passes. Seeking such a number is beyond my comprehension and comfort. I’m glad I don’t ever have to look at it. I would have to turn away.
Largest known prime number – 17M digits long – discovered
By Sharon Gaudin
February 5, 2013 08:08 PM ET
Computerworld – A mathematician at the University of Central Missouri has discovered what is now the largest known prime number — one with more than 17 million digits.
Dr. Curtis Cooper, who has made two other prime number discoveries, has found the 48th known Mersenne prime — 257,885,161 minus 1. The number is 17,425,170 digits long.
Cooper discovered the number on Jan. 25, according to the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS), a 16-year-old project that uses a grid of computers provided by volunteers to find large prime numbers.
If the number was typed out in standard Times Roman 12 point font, it would span more than 30 miles. It also would fill more than six Bibles.
A prime number is a whole number that can be divided only by one and itself. Mersenne prime numbers are a class of primes named after Marin Mersenne, a 17th century French monk who studied the rare numbers more than 350 years ago. Mersenne primes are extremely rare. With this discovery, only 48 are known.
Each Mersenne prime is increasingly difficult to find.
GIMPS noted that the grid that Cooper used for the discovery had 360,000 CPUs peaking at 150 trillion calculations per second.
According to GIMPS, the first time Cooper discovered a record-breaking prime number was 2005. His second came quickly after in in 2006.
However, mathematicians at UCLA broke Cooper’s record in 2008. That record Mersenne prime number held until Cooper and the University of Central Missouri reclaimed it with this latest discovery.
To verify the new Mersenne prime number, it was independently tested using different programs running on different hardware, GIMPS noted. One verification test, which lasted 3.6 days, used a Nvidia GPU, while another used an Intel Core i7 CPU and lasted four and a half days.