A Prime Solution is Birthed
While eating dinner as a family, I decided to see what they thought of my latest discovery. “I think I solved prime.”
[Random family murmur]
“No, not like Optimus. Numbers, prime numbers.”
The statement was deserving of a singular response, which is what Husband and the kids dished out. “Baahahaha! [pause]. Oh, you’re being serious… bahahahahahah!”
Listen, I get it. Who am I? There are mathematicians who have been working on this problem since the first century. It was only in the late 70’s that these numerical bad-boys were harvested to scramble and unscramble coded messages online and securely transfer credit card numbers. What measly victory can I possibly contribute?
Looking for Prime
First of all, what is a prime number? It is an integer greater than one (I argue it includes ‘one’ but who am “I”) such that its only positive divisors are itself and one.
The thing is, people go looking for them. They stumble across them like kids playing ‘Marco-Polo’ in a pool. There is no way to find them by direct calculation. If you think you’ve found one, you must then verify it by checking it against all possible divisors.
A huge pain if you ask me! Imagine a kid finally stumbles upon Joey in the pool. Instead of opening their eyes and yelling, “I found Joey!”, they have to keep their eyes clenched shut and list every boy’s name imaginable, asking “Are you Bobby [no], are you Leroy [nope], are you Michael [negative], are you Bart [nah]…?” Kids don’t put up with shit like that because the game would take years and fingers prune up within hours.
So I thought to myself, ‘What if we could just open our eyes to see Joey and swim towards him?’ Is that cheating? Are there unwritten rules here that we want to keep looking for prime numbers; keep things all lottery-like so we can still offer prize money for finding the really big ones? The tragedy of solving all primes could be equivalent to cancelling the Annual Community Egg Hunt – forever!
A New Problem is Born
Let’s assume for a moment that my solution to finding prime numbers is legit. How do I ‘come out’ with this delicate information? A simple ad on Kijiji could suffice: ‘Offering: the Solution to Prime Numbers. Needs work. $1M O.B.O.’
Keep in mind, this isn’t just a $100 antique solid wood drawer set screaming for Chalk paint; solving every prime number could power Bitcoin, alter world events, and even add a button on the calculator!
With the potential to become a global game changer, I may require an agent to handle my PR before revealing too much too quickly. I need to consider how foreign military intelligence will respond before giving the world a sniff because I wouldn’t want my family to receive an exploding letter with a white powder substance in it. Any hinky activity in my backyard will be perceived as a potential threat, like if the mourning doves that normally nest within our eaves trough are lying stiffly on the ground. Those blasted birds have endured all manors of excessive precipitation and hail and only a deliberate attack could explain their sudden demise.
In full disclosure, I haven’t solved all prime numbers yet because I ran out of digital characters, but in theory the code could solve an infinite number of primes. I’d say I’m somewhere in between solving the back of a child’s cereal box and cracking the DeVinci Code. Hence ‘needs work’.
The real reason I’ve waited so long to share this discovery is that I don’t belong to any appropriate ‘math forums’ where people can casually unveil their discoveries, test theories, and discuss math. I only have a frequently idle mommy blog based on humour and satire. Who’s going to believe the newbie showing up late in a mini-van? Had I have shared my discovery right away in April 2018, it could have been accepted or rejected quickly and we could already have moved on with our lives. But I hesitated and now it feels a bit awkward here in 2021.
Burger Eating and the Full Weight of Prime
When you are at a fast food court and you notice someone is about to drip ketchup on themselves because their burger wrapper is struggling to support the pool of condiments that have accumulated outside of the bun, you have two choices: You either leap past rows of fellow lunchers to warn the eater of imminent disaster or you lay low for fear of sounding overly motherly or creepy. It’s more socially acceptable to just sit and stare from across the eatery, watching in slow-motion horror as the glob releases to permeate someone else’s crotch. You observe their moment of realization, panic, and disgust as they move through the emotions of burger failure and then feebly attempt to clean up the mess with a lone napkin in one hand and struggle to keep the burger erect in the other. As they smear the mess around, you are alone with your thoughts, ‘I could have prevented this.’
That scenario is not uncommon. The burger eater has a crisis they can laugh about years later, while you enjoy posting hashtags instantly. However, it is not socially acceptable to approach the person with stained pants after the fact and say something like, “You know, I was watching from over there [points] and I called this disaster 10 minutes ago. You had no idea, did you? You may want to try levelling out your burger and re-adjusting your grip between bites; goes a long way to preventing burger slip. And why didn’t you spread the foil wrap over your lap, are you that unbridled? Shame, let the ketchup fall.”
Worse still, would be finding out where they live and visiting them three years later to give them laundry advice. [Knock-knock] “Hello. We’ve never met, but I do remember you on that unfortunate day at Food Mania when you made a mess of yourself. I brought some vinegar and baking soda; tell me you still own the pants.”
The most convenient scenario is sitting right next to someone in those situations in real-time where you have the luxury of causally mentioning their unstructured burger without insult. A reassuring smile, a light chuckle, and then pretending to struggle with your own burger wrapper in solidarity. I’m way beyond that now. I missed my sharing window upon discovering a solution to finding prime numbers when it was still fresh and naturally exciting. Now I bear the weight of prime. Too embarrassed to post anything. Watching ketchup fall all around me, ruining countless pants.
Friday Night Foolscap
Why did I try to solve prime? The same reason people count the number of mosaic tiles in a bathroom stall; to pass time. My oldest child brought home a library book from his school called, “How to be a Math Genius”.
Flipping through it randomly one day, I read that no one had ever solved prime. Inspired, I grabbed a fresh pad of foolscap, sharpened an HB #2 and thought to myself, ‘Let’s give it a go!’ since I hadn’t done much math since the old uni-days. There are those who solve Sudoku puzzles, those who adult colour, those who go out, and the rest watch Netflix on a Friday night. I attempted to solve prime.
Some people resort to colouring in the Sudoku boxes if math is not their thing. I was planning to draw simple prime numbers using bubble font in various pencil crayon shades if things got tricky. Things did get tricky, but things got interesting too (thank goodness, I’m terrible at bubble font).
How did I solve prime? Sort of by accident using Excel. I coloured the cells of various rows and columns and then I saw things. Verifying what I saw had setbacks. First, I don’t know how to code. The only coding experience I had was in Visual Basic 6.0, which was loaded on my laptop from university and was buried deep in the basement. A faithful piece of equipment from another decade. This “laptop” outweighs most modern desktop computers and should only be carried on a full belly and inside a secure laptop carrier with double stitching and padded straps.
I expected the old beast would still power up for me considering we battled together in ages past. I still remember my first day back at university (cue twinkling noises and a spiralling mental picture). I didn’t have a place to stay yet, so I booked a room at the closest Comfort Inn about 2 km from campus. Like a mule, I threw all my textbooks into my backpack and hoisted the laptop onto my back, strapping the old beast around my neck and across my shoulders in order to set out for my ruck to class. Everest trekkers pack lighter. It took me the better part of an hour to arrive with multiple breaks and strap adjustment sessions. Running uphill backwards would have been less exhausting! I might as well have lugged an entire office on my back, but it was all worth the longest battery life she had in those days! She can’t hold a charge today any more than seniors can hold a fart; but with the abundance of public outlets these days, who really cares?
After getting the furniture dolly to carry the thing upstairs, I plugged in its giant AC adapter. The old girl powered up like an old Honda, except that Windows XP freaked out a little bit because it hadn’t turned on in over 10 years. A box came up “WTF year is this??!??” I immediately disabled the wifi, pretended it was 2004, and the operating system settled down. I got a strange feeling that one day I would become just like this old computer. “Settle down Grandma, you’re fine. Sure it’s 2018 if you want it to be. The year you solved prime.”
The Proof is in Notepad
I took a brief look at what other people posted when making primality discoveries and wrote something similar (I call it Millie Code):
The Millie Code was first detected by Millie’s mom at around 7:30 pm on the Friday evening of April 6, 2018, but was not fleshed out until after lunch and a hardy nap on Saturday April 7, 2018.
The primality discovery took a weekend. The program ran non-stop on a PC Laptop Computer with a processor older than Facebook. To prove that the program didn’t happen to calculate thousands of primes by chance, it was independently verified on a newer, but low budget computer never intended for programming, using the same Visual Basic executable program. It successfully calculated all primes to 104,723 in two hours and spit them out in Notepad.
Figure 3 shows a screen shot of the program calculating the first several prime numbers. The first column is the nth prime number (n). The second column is the value of the prime number prime(n). The other columns are my secrets that will be revealed to the successful bidder on Kijiji.
Figure 4 shows the end of the file where the 9999th prime number is calculated, which is 104723. This took two hours to compute.
Figure 5 shows my GUI for telling the program how many prime numbers to calculate. I think I spent more time trying to get the little rectangles to line up than I did solving prime.
Big deal, lots of prime numbers are sieved using code. Wait, calculated? Yes, calculated. I programmed my computer to calculate every consecutive prime from the preceding prime number. No more, ‘searching’ for prime numbers, no more throwing darts in the dark, no more yelling ‘Are you Bobby?’, no more prize money for large prime number discoveries. I almost forgot about the prize money!
That night’s family dinner conversation mainly centred around how each of us would spend the prize money. Roy decided he would like a cut of $100 in cold cash. Eric wanted his cut paid out in Trash Packs. I planned to buy new wiper blades for the mini-van.
I knew nothing of anyone’s work when I first took pencil to paper, but have since discovered a similar pattern in Wilson’s theorem discovered by Ibn al-Haytham circa 1000 A.D. Sure, he is known as “The Physicist” and paved the way for the modern science of physical optics, but did he solve prime in a weekend? It took over 700 years before someone finally announced his theorem (well stained pants!).
Wilson and my methods are quite different from what I recall. It’s been several years since I came up with mine and the Excel worksheet is still on the old XP gal. Needless to say, I’m not going to bother waking her right now. Anyway, I do not see any method for calculating the next prime number in his theorem without testing every number in between, so it appears my theory (code, more precisely) is superior. If he discovered the crumbs, I found the cookie. My “Millie Code”, the code that solves all prime numbers just announced, at least deserves an honourable mention on Wikipedia with a hyperlink to my blog.
What our theories do have in common is that they are both computationally cumbersome. Dead weight. They work, but they are slow. I’m not entirely sure of the root cause for my program’s slowness because the machine and programs that I used are archaic (over 15 years old). You can’t expect an old horse to keep pace with a Ferrari or a flying goose for that matter.
The Mystery of the Moustache
Why post about solving prime now? Blog readership. Some women post side boob, I show left-brain.
It’s safe to go public with Millie Code since I formulated a defense strategy against foreign intelligence agencies and any potential white powder incidents. Faces have been transformed by the moustache for centuries, but did you ever stop to think about why or how this works? The space between the upper lip and the nose is the most distinguishing feature humans have, a purely anecdotal statement based on the following pictures:
In Specimen A, Millie is pulling on her ears, crossing her eyes, and sticking out her tongue (the oldest funny-face in the book) and despite all that, she still looks like Millie. I on the other hand… I mean Specimen B, appear unrecognizable. Stare at it long enough and the image of a 70 year-old man jumps out at you like a Magic Eye poster. All because of a quick flip of the lip. Haha! A genius move. When word of my Prime Solver reaches foreign ears, this highly tactical maneuver will always be at my disposal, even with hands full of grocery bags. Not only will this disguise conceal my identity, it’ll act as a defensive tactic that will block my inhalers and heavily guard my nostrils against foreign spies trying to destroy me with their fancy powders. Fast forward to 2021 and COVID-19 prevention measures like face masks are on my side, which is great, but I’m thoroughly bummed that I trained in vain.
Biochemical threat issues aside, I should re-iterate that I’m smart and you should trust me on this. Not always “street”-smart or “common”-smart, but I’ve aced a few free online IQ tests in my day. My children confronted me with the latest one after they had each completed the test ahead of time and sat quite smugly on their high scores (Millie admitted to guessing on most questions and apparently still scored at a college graduate level).
Now it was time to test mommy. I complied and began answering the questions on the smart phone they had placed in my lap. Upon completing the test, round dots spun round and round as it calculated my result. The children nudged in close to me and I could feel six little eyes moving between the screen and me, trying to predict whether or not I was a fall-down or a hero. I could almost hear their thoughts, “Is she really an engineer or does she pretend to pack a lunch so she can push a cart through Wal-Mart? Sometimes she buys cereal we already have. Does she actually pay for all our toys?” The suspense was awful.
Their eyes widened, mouths gasped, and then they smiled. “Congratulations! Your IQ matches Einstein.”
Boom kids. Your mamma’s like Einstein, at least online. Given that their own results were only a fraction lower than mine, I won’t brag in public. But around the kids, I’ll take the genius status!
And I was extremely amused when Husband walked in the door and the kids yelled, “Daddy, you have to take the IQ Test. We’re all really smart and Mommy’s as smart as Einstein!” He wisely refused with the excuse that he needed to start the BBQ.
Upon showing Millie a photo of Einstein, a rather vain thought crossed my mind. Albert had a fairly large head. If my brain is larger than average, how will I age? I reached for a mirror, flipped my upper lip, and stared passed my reflection to see the 70 year-old man emerge. Nothing short of charming. In fact, with a wig added to my disguise I could pass for the Albert himself!
Millie Code must find the right hands for the sake of the advancement of scientific knowledge. Let’s be honest, if I’m right you’ll want to ride this train with me. Our family has already spent the potential prize money by booking an exotic all-inclusive family vacation, which was then cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions. Hopefully, by the time the creditors find us, Millie Code will finish computing a grand-prize worthy prime. And if not, don’t be surprised to see Einstein wearing a bikini on your next cruise.
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http://primes.utm.edu accessed September 3, 2018
https://www.uh.edu.engines/epi2575.htm accessed September 3, 2018
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilson%27s_theorem accessed September 8, 2018