Some mathematics, pictured here being hard to illustrate in news coverage
As the heady excitement of the dawn of a forty-eight-Mersenne-prime world dims to a subdued, albeit slightly less factorable, normality, I have taken the opportunity to see what we can learn about the British press’s attitude and ability when it comes to the reporting of big numbers ending in a 1.
Overseas readers may not be aware that the UK’s public service broadcaster, the BBC, is funded by a mandatory annual £145.50 tax on all television-owning households. Therefore, it would be disappointing if some of these funds were not channeled into reporting the discovery in at least five or six separately-produced broadcasts across the organisation’s various radio and television outlets.
In a classic example of the intersection between maths and news, there’s been a new Mersenne prime discovered! Mersenne primes are numbers of the form $2^p – 1$, where $p$ is a prime number. They’re highly valued as a source of large prime numbers, since testing the primality of a (suspected) prime of this form is much easier than for general prime numbers.