Some whole numbers can be divided up into smaller factors; for example 10 is 5 * 2. Other numbers can't, like 7 and 31. These are the prime numbers. Their strange properties have tantalised mathematicians ever since Euclid in the third century BC proved that there are an infinite number of them.
On the evening of January 6th, 1999, the Dublin mathematician John B. Cosgrave left his computer humming to itself over a problem in the theory of primes, and the next morning he found it had fortuitously identified a prime with exactly two thousand digits.
The excited e-mail he wrote to his young nephew and niece describing the discovery of 'the Millennium Prime' is the basis of this booklet. Tim Robinson contributes a preface in which he likens the sequence of primes to "a line of monoliths, each taller than the last, leading beyond all horizons," and concludes that "the mystery of primes is the prime mystery."
This elegant publication has been designed by Simon Cutts of Coracle Press. The spacious layout makes the explanation of the mathematics involved easy to follow. The cover, showing the immense prime number with its two thousand digits, is foil-blocked and laminated. This 48-page quality paperback will appeal to anyone with an eye to fine book production or an interest in science and its overlap with literature. It will make an unusual and memorable Millennium gift.
|A Prime for
the Millennium, John B. Cosgrave, ISBN 0 9530509 0 4
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