|Your personal background.|
|I'm just a simple, crazy, fanatical high school student trying to make my way in the universe.|
And get into college.
And I wouldn't mind if I found a big ass prime number I can hang on my wall in the process.
Update: I GOT INTO COLLEGE!! #CaltechClassOf2024
|Your opinions about PrimeGrid|
|In January of 2016, a marvelous advancement in mathematics was made: the largest prime number known to humanity (at the time) was discovered. Weighing in at 22,338,618 DIGITS long and requiring a month of computing time to verify, this gargantuan number with no divisors except 1 and itself is exceptionally rare. It was also, in the grand scheme of things, one of the most useless discoveries in history…if you’re a heartless pragmatist. But for me and math enthusiasts worldwide, you could say it was “prime” time news. In a field as abstract and quantitative as mathematics, there aren’t a lot of “biggests” or “mosts”, so this real advancement in human knowledge was particularly significant to me.|
The search for mega primes was probably the first thing that inspired my love for pure science. I remember seeing the announcement video for the 2016 prime and being surprised that something new and exciting was happening in mathematics. It opened my eyes to the fact that math isn’t just a means to an end; sometimes it’s an end in its own right. So I immediately sent a fanboy “Congratulations!!!!” email to the discoverer of the prime, Dr. Curtis Cooper. That summer, I begged my dad endlessly to take a two-hour detour from our road trip to visit Dr. Cooper and his tiny desktop computer that made the discovery at the University of Central Missouri. I still have the picture of small me posing next to that computer with a crazed expression of wonder and excitement on my face. I like to think I’ve kept that disposition.
Since then, I’ve spent numerous hours researching everything from the math behind the Lucas-Lehmer primality test to the computing efficiencies of different CPU architectures. I’ve compiled tens of thousands of CPU hours with my own prime-searching operation on PrimeGrid.com. The noisy stack of old computers lighting up my living room uses a ridiculous amount of power, constantly testing candidates in hopes of catching the white whale. This hobby has become an obsession of mine. In the words of my PrimeGrid bio, “I'm just a simple, crazy, fanatical high school student trying to make my way in the universe. And get into college. And I wouldn't mind if I found a big-ass prime number I can hang on my wall in the process.”
So, if you’re a pragmatist like my parents (to them, the cost of the power bill from my computers outweighs their benefit), you probably define “useless” in terms of immediate impact on the real world. In that case, most discoveries in the field of pure mathematics could be viewed as useless. Admittedly, they usually have little to no tangible consequences. But that’s not what determines the value of knowledge. While record-breaking prime numbers may not save lives or revolutionize our understanding of the world, they still push the boundaries of how much we as humans can know. And, in my opinion, that’s far from useless.
We must know.
We will know.
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