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Mathematician Discovers World's Longest Integer

Exclusive Interview With Figure Head

RSG: I’m interviewing Professor Karlheinz von Phulstrup of Harvard University’s Department Of Abstract Mathematics. Doctor von Phulstrup has dedicated his life to the study of integers and recently announced a large breakthrough. Doctor, can you quickly remind our readers what an ”integer” is?

KvP: I’d rather not. 

RSG: OK. Well, as I recall, an integer is a number like 1, 7, or 272. A numeral that has no digits to the right of the decimal point.
KvP: No decimal. That’s the point. 

RSG: Heh, heh, nice one. I see what you did there. Now can you describe your discovery in a way the layman can understand? 
KvP: Probably not. 

RSG: Come on, Professor. This is Harvard. Give it the old college try. 
KvP (sighs): An integer is a whole number. That don’t mean it’s got a hole in it. It ain’t a donut, it’s a number. An integer don’t have any fractional parts. Not like a donut that you took a bite out.  Fractional parts are those little twiddly bits to the right of the decimal. They called rational numbers, but I never seen it that way. I prefer integers because they well behaved. 

RSG: Not like “Pi?” Pi goes on forever, right? 
KvP: Not if it’s Apple Pie – that goes right down the pie hole. 

RSG: Heh, heh. That’s a good one. 
KvP:  PI’s irrational. Completely meshugah. Listen: 3.14159-- 

RSG: Yes. The area of a circle is Pi r-squared, right? 
KvP: Not the kind I eat. Here’s some more digits for you:  265358979323846264338327950288419716939937510— 

RSG: Impressive, yes, Pi goes on forever. I learned that on Star Trek. 
KvP (increasingly animated):  I got a million of them! I could throw Pi in your face!  … 582097494459230781640628620899862803482534—  

RSG: Delicious. But seriously, that’s probably enough for now. 
KvP: What? I’m just getting started … 21170— 

RSG:  That’s quite enough, thank you! Now, as I understand it, you have discovered the largest integer ever. 
KvP: Could be. I think I have. Yes, that was me. You see, I just take the number Pi out to infinite digits and then remove the decimal point. That makes the biggest integer and snags me a Nobel Prize!  

RSG: Erase the decimal from a number with infinite digits? It can’t be that easy, Doctor. 
KvP: Easy? Who are you, my father? Of course, it looks easy when you aren’t the one whose noggin did all the thinking! My father insisted I become a doctor, but he never said what kind. I could have gone to Wall Street, you know. 679 

RSG: Professor, I mean no disrespect, but couldn’t I just add any other integer to your number and get a bigger integer? There’s really no such thing as the world’s biggest integer. 
KvP: Who we got here, Groucho Marx or something? Did my father send you?  Interview over! Out! Out of my office! 

Photo by: Takashi Hososhima flickr photostream, Some Rights Reserved, The Sage nor this article endorsed

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