Are you more likely to be killed by a meteor or to win the lottery?

This tweet from the QI Elves popped up on my Twitter timeline:

In the account’s usual citationless factoid style, the Elves state that you’re more likely to be crushed by a meteor than to win the jackpot on the lottery.

The replies to this tweet were mainly along the lines of this one from my internet acquaintance Chris Mingay:

Yeah, why don’t we hear about people being squished by interplanetary rocks all the time? I’d tune in to that!

$2^{77,232,917}-1$ is the new $2^{74,207,281}-1$

We now know 50 Mersenne primes! The latest indivisible mammoth, $2^{77,232,917}-1$, was discovered by Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search user Jonathan Pace on the 26th of December 2017. As well as being the biggest Mersenne prime ever known, it’s also the biggest prime of any sort discovered to date.

GIMPS works by distributing the job of checking candidate numbers for primality to computers running the software around the world. It took over six days of computing to prove that this number is prime, which has since been verified on four other systems.

Pace, a 51-year old Electrical Engineer from Tennessee, has been running the GIMPS software to look for primes for over 14 years, and has been rewarded with a \$3,000 prize. When a prime with over 100 million digits is found, the discoverer will earn a \$50,000 prize. That probably won’t be for quite a while: this new prime has $23{,}249{,}425$ decimal digits, just under a million more than the previous biggest prime, discovered in 2016.

If you’re really interested, the entire decimal representation of the number can be found in a 10MB ZIP file hosted at Spoiler: it begins with a 4.

More information: press release at, home of the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search.

via Haggis the Sheep on Twitter

I’ve re-recorded Alan Turing’s “Can Computers Think?” radio broadcasts

On the 15th of May 1951 the BBC broadcast a short lecture by the mathematician Alan Turing under the title Can Computers Think? This was a part of a series of lectures on the emerging science of computing which featured other pioneers of the time, including Douglas Hartree, Max Newman, Freddie Williams and Maurice Wilkes. Together they represented major new projects in computing at the Universities of Cambridge and Manchester. Unfortunately these recordings no longer exist, along with all other recordings of Alan Turing. So I decided to rerecord Turing’s lecture from his original script.

Particularly mathematical New Years Honours 2018

When the UK Government announces a new list of honours, we (let’s be honest – sometimes) write up a list of those particularly mathematical entries. Here is the selection for the 2018 New Years Honours list.

  • Howard Groves, Member, Senior Mathematical Challenge Problems Group and Member, UK Mathematics Trust Challenges Sub Trust. OBE, for services to Education.
  • Christl Donnelly FRS, Professor of Statistical Epidemiology, Imperial College London. CBE, for services to Epidemiology and the Control of Infectious Diseases.
  • Ben Goldacre, Senior Clinical Research Fellow, Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, University of Oxford and author of Bad Science. MBE, for services to Evidence in Policy.
  • Andrew Morris, Professor of Medicine, Director of the Usher Institute of Population Health Sciences and Informatics, and Vice-Principal Data Science, University of Edinburgh. CBE, for services to Science in Scotland.
  • Stephen Sparks, lately Professorial Research Fellow, University of Bristol and former chair of ACME. Knighthood, for services to Volcanology and Geology. (Via The Mathematical Association.)
  • Bernard Silverman, lately Chief Scientific Adviser, Home Office and former President of the Royal Statistical Society (RSS). Knighthood, for public service and services to Science. (Via Hetan Shah.)
  • John Curtice, Professor of Politics, University of Strathclyde and Senior Research Fellow, NatCen Social Research, and Honorary Fellow, RSS. Knighthood, for services to the Social Sciences and Politics. (Via Hetan Shah.)
  • Diane Coyle, Professor of Economics, University of Manchester. CBE, for services to Economics and the Public Understanding of Economics. (Via Hetan Shah.)

Get the full list here. If you spot any others we should mention, please let us know in the comments.

Review: Geometry Snacks, by Ed Southall and Vincent Pantaloni

Geometry Snacks cover

Exams have a nasty habit of sucking the joy out of a subject. My interest in proper literature was dulled by A-Level English, and I celebrated my way out of several GCSE papers – in subjects I’d picked because I enjoyed them – saying “I’ll never have to do that again.”

Geometry is a topic that generally suffers badly from this – but fortunately, Ed Southall and Vincent Pantaloni’s Geometry Snacks is here to set that right.