Book Review: Prime Curios
At the Virginia Council of Teachers of Mathematics (VCTM) conference in Richmond last Friday, I had an incredibly fun time giving an hour-long presentation titled (what else?) Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks. It was a mixture of stand-up comedy, number tricks, and a brief explanation of why a laughing student is a learning student.
The joke that received the best response? I posted the following image…
…and then I said, “Holy shift! Look at the asymptote on that mother function!”
After my presentation, a gentleman approached me, turned to a page in a book, and read a joke to me:
What do you call someone who hunts for Mersenne primes only for the prize money?
He then handed me a copy of a fascinating little book, Prime Curios: The Dictionary of Prime Number Trivia.
Turns out, the gentleman was G. L. Honaker. He and Chris Caldwell, a professor of mathematics at University of Tennessee-Martin, are the authors of Prime Curios. Chris maintains The Prime Pages, a web site with 20,000 pages of prime number trivia.
The book contains quite a few nuggets worth mentioning:
- If you concatenate the positive odd integers from 1 to 97, the result is a prime number.
- The chance that no pair of 53 people in a room have the same birthday is approximately 1/53.
- The prime number 369,119 divides the sum of all prime numbers less than 369,119.
The book contains more curios like this… in fact, there are 2,148 more of them, according to the description on the back of the book. It’s a fun book, especially if you’re a big number dork like I am. Mathy folks might enjoy it, but for sure you should check out The Prime Pages.