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In 1903 a man gave a wordless lecture to a prestigious American society where he wrote a 12 digit number on a blackboard and multiplied it by a 9 digit number. When he had finished, he received a standing ovation. Who was he, what was the society, and why was he applauded?

Question #66314. Asked by darkpresence. (May 29 06 2:47 PM)

zbeckabee

'At the October 1903 meeting of the prestigious American Mathematical Society, the mathematician Frederick Nelson Cole was listed in the programme as presenting a paper with the rather unassuming title ‘On the factorisation of large numbers’. When called upon to speak, Cole walked up to the blackboard and, without saying a word, performed the calculation of 2 raised to the power of 67, following which he subtracted 1 from the result. Still saying nothing he moved to a clean part of the board and multiplied together the two numbers 193707721 and 761838257287.' (2) The answers to the two calculations were exactly the same. Cole returned to his seat still having not uttered any word, and for the first and only time on record, the entire audience at an American Mathematical Society meeting rose and gave a ‘speaker’ a standing ovation.

http://www.karinthy.hu/pages/ib/extended/essay/szenti/

 May 29 06, 3:41 PM
zbeckabee

By the way darkpresence...absolutely SPLENDID question!!!

 May 29 06, 3:42 PM
darkpresence

Well done zbeck and thank you, glad you enjoyed it. The number in question had been thought to be a prime number for 200 years, but Cole proved otherwise. The quest for ever-higher prime numbers has been somewhat deflated by the computer age, but it used to be quite a feat in the mathematical world.

 May 29 06, 3:49 PM
lanfranco

Perhaps it would be useful to explain that this issue involved whether a putative "Mersenne number" really was a prime.

The number in question was: 2^67-1, which came out to:

147573952589676412927

Cole proved that the number did have factors and was not a prime. He had, apparently, been working on the problem for many years:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mersenne_prime

 May 29 06, 6:00 PM

 Which number, when multiplied by itself, yields a perfect 17-digit palindromic sequence?

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