Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The largest prime number?

I don't think so. A friend emailed me a link to a Yahoo article headlined Mo. Researchers Find Largest Prime Number. Since this friend is a wonderful writer but not even a wannabe mathematician, I refrained from answering with the very simple proof of the infinity of primes and went off to read the article. At least the first sentence is "Researchers at a Missouri university have identified the largest known prime number, officials said Tuesday. " (Emphasis mine) It would have been nice if the headline was written with a little more care. I wonder how many people read the headline but not the article and now think that there is a finite amount of prime numbers and the largest (translate last) has been found?


Teresa said...

Heh - you have voiced the complaint that most of us have with the media - misleading headlines to get attention.

BUT - in this case - we may be giving the media a little too much credit for intelligence... they probably don't see the difference at all between the headline and the statement in the body of the story. *grin*

Nope - if I see a headline that I think is just strange - it generally happens that the story says something completely different when you really look at it. Unfortunately, most people rarely look beyond the headline and first paragraph of any news item. Thus we have legions of badly informed people.

Teresa said...

Drats! Forgot to add... if the news media actually get the story right in the first place. Lately it's been more often than not that they totally make things up. If it were me, I'd be looking for corroboration on this story from another source. LOL!

MathCogIdiocy said...

I read about this before the end of the semester when I was scanning journals in the college library. It must have been a really slow news day though for the AP to even bother reporting on a prime number. :)