Join 3,415 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The H&FJ Institute for Unapplied Mathematics
April 22, 2009 8:27 AM   Subscribe

Joe Palca, a science correspondent for NPR's Morning Edition, was meditating on the best way to convey the magnitude of the world's largest known prime number, 243112609-1. He contacted H&FJ at Typography.com to discuss the implications of typesetting a number with more than twelve million digits. Crunching of numbers and fonts ensued.
posted by netbros (21 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
My typogeeky heart swoons everytime someone mentions Hoefler & Frere-Jones. Good on 'em!
posted by cavalier at 8:30 AM on April 22, 2009


Damn, that's cool.
posted by rtha at 8:44 AM on April 22, 2009


Some have suggested that 13- and 17-year cicadas each follow prime numbered life cycles in order to ensure that their populations compete as little as possible, coexisting only once every 221 years.

Wow. That is some swanky evolution right there.

Also, I just adore that this entire typographic discussion was for a piece on NPR.
posted by CaptApollo at 8:46 AM on April 22, 2009


That number is written in invisible UV ink in very small print that wraps around the walls of my living room. Turn on the blacklight and it's a Prime Number Party!
posted by Burhanistan at 8:47 AM on April 22, 2009


Also, I just adore that this entire typographic discussion was for a piece on NPR.

You're probably not going to connect with many font nerds running a piece like this on Opie and Anthony's Whip 'em Out Wendesdays.
posted by The Straightener at 8:57 AM on April 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


The fact that changing the kerning on the number pair "74" can cause a 150 ft variation in the length of the printed number is just amazing!
posted by djfiander at 8:57 AM on April 22, 2009


What about typesetting the hexadecimal representation? I'll start off:
FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF......
posted by vacapinta at 9:12 AM on April 22, 2009 [14 favorites]


Does being fascinated by this make me a geek? OK fine.
posted by ob at 9:14 AM on April 22, 2009


This is geekery I can swing to.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:22 AM on April 22, 2009


the math gets quite a bit easier in fonts with tabular figures, where all of the digits are the same width
Which, of course, is the only way one should ever actually typeset numbers in math or sciences. But, as they say, "but what fun is that?"
posted by Nelson at 9:27 AM on April 22, 2009


Microsoft Excel can't even calculate any Mersenne prime with an exponent larger than 607.

Well, if it confuses Excel, that's some bigass number indeed
posted by ElvisJesus at 10:03 AM on April 22, 2009


What's the largest prime number that is not a Mersenne Prime?
posted by eye of newt at 10:34 AM on April 22, 2009


largest known non-Mersenne prime
posted by eye of newt at 10:38 AM on April 22, 2009


I found my own answer:

27653 × 2^9167433 + 1

(2,759,677 digits, much smaller than the Mersenne prime).
posted by eye of newt at 10:44 AM on April 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


vacapinta:

1FFFFFFFFFFFFFFF...?
posted by Bokononist at 10:46 AM on April 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I remember Googling (OK, stalking) one of my computer science professors and discovered he was an avid GIMPS participant.

I don't have the stomach to sit on one number for two to three weeks, but I do participate in PrimeGrid, which is the next best thing. This prime number is my baby.
posted by spamguy at 11:32 AM on April 22, 2009


'bagatelle' is officially my word of the day.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:56 AM on April 22, 2009


And how long would it take the Prime Number Shitting Bear to get to this number?
posted by marxchivist at 12:48 PM on April 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


20 miles, yeah, sure, but what's that in pica?
posted by klangklangston at 2:28 PM on April 22, 2009


20 miles, yeah, sure, but what's that in pica?
According to Google, 7,603,200. In postscript.
posted by scrump at 2:52 PM on April 22, 2009


So, I'm on PrimeGrid too. How often do they find a new prime number?
posted by reenum at 2:58 PM on April 22, 2009


« Older How to Build: A simple washtub bass....  |  Slime Molds Show Surprising De... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments