In case your calendar app's busted, today is March 14, otherwise written 3/14 or 3.14. What we're trying to say is, it's Pi Day! It's a day to celebrate the mathematical constant Pi, if you're into such numbers geekery. And if not, use it as an excuse to cheat on your diet and feast on an assortment of pies. That's what the students at Caltech in Pasadena did last night at 1:59 AM.
Facebook is a great place to follow the lives of friends, and family, but it’s also an amazing repository of your personal information. Even casual users would be surprised how much data they have poured into the service over the years, and now you finally have a way to put it into perspective. Wolfram Alpha, the world’s greatest computational knowledge engine, has launched a service that will reduce your Facebook social life to a series of mathematical charts.
A pair of Pi lovers named Alexander J. Yee and Shigeru Kondo have calculated the mathematical constant out to 10 trillion digits. It took over a year -- 371 days -- on Kondo's desktop, not a supercomputer, to accomplish the feat, and it wasn't easy getting there. Kondo battled multiple hard drive failures, and each time an HDD would go belly up, he would have to roll back the computation to a previous checkpoint. Kondo says this added up to 180 days of lost time.
Anyone that has ever used the internet has experienced the scourge that is spam bots. If you want to protect your favorite site from spammers, the folks at Croatia's Ruđer Bošković Institute have the answer. It is absolutely guaranteed to keep non-humans out. The site presents visitors with a bit of advanced math they must work out.
Attention math nerds everywhere. Everyone's computational knowledge engine, Wolfram Alpha, has just opened up version 2.0 of their developer API. This version brings many improvements to help you cheat at math and statistics even faster. For instance, API 2.0 supports asynchronous operation, so data that is simpler will be returned immediately, while data that requires more computation will be delivered later. Best of all, it's now free.
Developers just need to sign up to get an API key to start working with Wolfram Alpha. There is extensive documentation for devs as well. All data is returned in XML by default, but plain text, HTML, or images can be specified. This is a smart way of returning results that should be well-suited to any number of applications. If you build anything great with Wolfram Alpha, make sure to clue us in.
How lucky is Nicholas Sze, a researcher who works for Yahoo? The dude just calculated the 2,000,000,000,000,000th digit of Pi (and then some), and will never again have to worry about coming up with a pick-up line to land the ladies. Well, that's assuming the girl he's hitting on has a serious hankering for math.
In case you're keeping track, not only did Sze break the previous record, he utterly destroyed it by more than doubling the calculation. Using Yahoo's Hadoop cloud computing technology, it took Sze 23 days on 1,000 of Yahoo's computers to set the new record. That much computing power is equivalent to over 500 years of a single computer's capability.
Sze's calculation made use of a method called MapReduce. What this Google-developed method entails is dividing up big problems into smaller sub-problems and then combining the answer to solve intractable mathematical equations.
"Interestingly, by some algebraic manipulations, [our] formula can compute Pi with some bits skipped; in other words, it allows computing specific bits of Pi," Sze explains.
Everyone’s favorite computational knowledge engine, Wolfram|Alpha, has rolled out a new feature. Now, when entering an equation for Wolfram|Alpha to solve, users can press the “Show steps” link. It does just what it sounds like; it provides a step-by-step method for obtaining the solution. The Wolfram|Alpha blog post says, ““Show steps” feature allows you to learn basic mathematics on your own, or it can simply be a nice way to check your work!” This effectively makes it the machine we all wished we had while learning algebra in junior high school.
The option works for equations of many difficulty levels from simple algebra, all the way to complex integrals and derivatives. No more can math teachers assure honest homework by requiring students to show their work. But this is actually a very useful tool for honest students to more effectively learn mathematics. Go forth and use it wisely.
Don't fret if you missed out on one of the many celebrations around the globe toasting 1234567890 Day, we hear the Unix crowd can get a bit rowdy anyway. Now there's another reason to shed that pocket protector and let loose with your friends - Square Root Day!
You only have nine chances every century to celebrate Square Root Day, with this one falling on 3/3/09 (do the math).
"These days are like calendar comets, you wait and wait and wait for them, then they brighten up your day -- and poof -- they're gone," said Ron Gordonn, a Redwood City teacher.
While we can't understand why there wouldn't already be excitement over the holiday, Gordon started a contest to get people buzzing about the event. The winner, determined by who has the biggest Square Root Day event, will receive (wait for it...) $339.
Miss your chance to celebrate and you'll have to wait until April 4, 2016 for the next Square Root Day.
You'll often hear enthusiasts describe an overclock as being Prime stable, meaning the system is able to pass the Prime95 stress test for an extended length of time without any errors. But even though it's become a common a torture test, Prime95 was designed primarily as part of a bigger project - the pursuit of prime numbers.
Today the distributed computing project called GIMPS, or Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search, has confirmed it has discovered the largest prime number ever at almost 13 million digits long. The number in question is 243,112,609-1, or listed out in millions of digits is, well, let's not do that. The discovery means the project can now claim a $100,000 bounty offered by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which was offered to the first to find a prime number in excess of 10 million digits.
Fun fact: Only 45 Mersenne primes have ever been found, with the GIMPS project responsible for 12 of them. A Mersenne prime is one that can take the form of 2n-1 rather than writing out all the digits.
Fun fact 2: The prime number in question was discovered by a UCLA computer, with the GIMPS software installed and maintained by Edson Smith. Don't be surprised to see this appear in a future edition of Trivial Pursuit.