20080109, 16:01  #1 
(loop (#_fork))
Feb 2006
Cambridge, England
7×911 Posts 
Why do we bother?
Perhaps it's more a sign that it's January (though the days are perceptibly lightening) and that I'm rather stalled at work, but I'm increasingly coming to agree that an awful lot of the calculations done or coordinated by this site are not worth the candle.
I don't know of any interesting mathematical directions presently held back for lack of large primes or of factorisations  nobody as far as I know was yearning to compute in GF(2^1039)* and held back through a lack of knowledge of its group structure. I suppose, actually, I'd be hardput to name an interesting contemporary mathematical direction; Euler swept through number theory and removed the lowhanging fruit, Gauss swept through and removed the next layer up, Hilbert and his contemporaries swept through, Grothendieck and his contemporaries swept through regions that were already incomprehensible and left them much more so. Then again, I bounced off padic analysis and fell to the floor in math grad school, in much the same way that people say they bounced off algebra and gave up math in high school. Though I have the computers now, and to have a computer and not turn it on seems somehow more wasteful than to have it and to keep it running producing results which are demonstrably results, if not results than anyone other than me is excited to obtain. 
20080109, 16:28  #2 
"Brian"
Jul 2007
The Netherlands
3269_{10} Posts 
Is there any ultimate point in doing anything in life?
Leaving that question aside for the pointless rhetoric that it is, I can say that I participate in the GIMPS project because it is a chance to contribute in a project which involves participation of many thousands worldwide for the same goals and to a degree which we seldom see in any other field. That is really something. I also see distributed computing projects like GIMPS as a form of exploration and discovery: as a community we are contributing to this exploration. I wonder how many times these mersenne numbers have been investigated by other civilisations elsewhere in the universe. Last fiddled with by BrianE on 20080109 at 16:33 Reason: corrected typo 
20080109, 16:30  #3 
"Lucan"
Dec 2006
England
2×3×13×83 Posts 

20080109, 17:16  #4 
"Lucan"
Dec 2006
England
2·3·13·83 Posts 

20080109, 17:48  #5  
∂^{2}ω=0
Sep 2002
República de California
2×5,791 Posts 
Quote:
As to the worth of DC projects, I can't really answer for "Joe User". For me, it's the deep and nontrivial math, algorithmic and coding issues involved in largeinteger arithmetic that make it interesting. Well, that, and the irresistible allure us prime geeks seem to have for the chicks. I literally have to turn them away from my door: "Must all of you continue to pester me for sex? Can't you see that I'm trying to debug some assembly code here?" You know how it is...it's flattering, but when the Red Entryway Light is off I expect to be left alone, dammit. 

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