Addicted to novelty since 2001

Prime Numbers and Pi

Prime Island is an imaginary place rendered based on large prime numbers. One Adrian J.F. Leatherland really likes messing about with “graphical investigations into the prime series”. He’s made some amazing looking virtual vistas. Here’s an explanation of how he’s done it and here’s something on why he’s done it. He’s got a good quote on his Web site: ‘Upon looking at these numbers, one has the feeling of being in the presence of the inexplicable secrets of creation.’

I’ve been interested in the inherit beauty in numbers for some time. Pi, is of course, the most popular choice. A while back I wrote a play, eerily similar to Darren Aronofsky’s great movie (though my writing preceded it), that was concerned with pi. Here’s a bit where the protagonist talks to Charles Babbage and Archimedes, two mathematicians from history. It was a bit wack, this play:

BEN: Pi is a transcendental number.  It transcends algebra.  It doesn’t matter if we’ve got ten digits or ten million…all we’re doing is converging on pi.  It’s like…bowling and never getting the head pin.

BABBAGE: Why do you suppose man has been struggling with pi for so long?

BEN: Well–

ARCH.: “And he made a molten sea.  Ten cubits from the one brim to the other.  It was round all about, and his height was five cubits.  And a line of thirty cubits did compass it about.”  Kings, chapter seven, verse twenty-three.

BABBAGE: That was about building the great temple of Solomon.  About 950 B.C.  Three thousand years ago.  You’ve seen graphs of pi… tables…comparative studies.  Did you ever notice anything odd?

BEN: Sometimes…

BABBAGE: Go on?

BEN: Sometimes…it seems peaks for too long, a group of high numbers in a row.  At around the three hundred millionth decimal place, there’s eight eights in a row.  Later, around half a billion, it goes one two three four five six seven eight nine.  I don’t know what it is…

BABBAGE: But it’s irrational…random.

BEN: It seems too perfectly random…like the number was designed to look random.  Because we have no true notion of what random is, we never have a yard stick against which to check it.  It’s like someone planned it that if we figured out a few billion numbers, it would appear to be such…perfect nonsense that we’d look no further.