The Trinity Hall Prime – Numberphile


This picture, seen from far away, looks like a shape. And this is the coat of arms, or the Emblem, of Trinity Hall, this College, which is founded in 1350. 1350, by the way, is a significant date because it’s the year after 1349, and 1349 is the year of The Great Plague in London, one of the great plagues, and that wiped out the entire and laywer generation in London. And some people thought It was an act of God, but the founder of this college, Bishop Bateman, saw that the new generation of lawyers had to be retrained, and that’s why the 5 colleges were founded in the first place, but anyway, we don’t have to have that in recording- ____________ So we have a very strange object. This is the coat of arms of Trinity Hall. If you look closely it consists of eights and ones. Ohhhhhhh. (My God) There is a little bit of irregularity here but otherwise it’s followed by zero zero zero zero and, ends in a one. This turns out to be a prime and the number of digits in prime is 1350, which is the year of the foundation of the college. This was a gift from JF Mckee whom I didn’t know personally, but my senior colleague Tom Khanna did. He was a junior research fellow and was a postdoc of this college, who came maybe 20 years ago,
I am told by Tom and then when a fellow of the college leaves the college, it is traditional for that fellow to leave some gift to the College, and usually it has to do the subject. And he, rather enterprisingly, left this gift to the College. The coat of arms of Trinity House with lots and lots of zeros at the end, but with one and which is a prime. Now, how surprising is that? I’m really lost in awe of somebody who not only had this idea, but actually implemented this idea, and I think even today, It’s a bit difficult to check that this number is a prime I mean there are lots of Prime’s in the world of special types. For example, Mersenne primes and what-have-you. And for which, the y’know, algorithm for checking that they are prime, checking and primality is a very well-known piece of mathematics But this is a, fairly, sort of random prime. I mean it starts with eight, eight, eight, eight and then so on, and so, How do you discover such a thing is prime? And the purpose of his game of course was to hit the prime exactly at 1350. This is because it’s the year of the foundation of college So, you can’t really fine tune and with a number of digits. That’s why I think there’s an irregularity here in the beginning- zero followed by six, two, one. And, we are still looking for the special significance Of the number six to one. I’m sure there is some cosmic importance to this number as well. Brady: What’s your attachment to it? Tadashi: To be honest it’s sitting in the lunchroom, but I think most fellows don’t notice its presence. It’s just sitting there among some dictionaries and books on the side of the, erm, of the table and every once in a while when somebody like you, who has interest in science and who has a mischievous aspect to the personality, visit the college I love to show this to the people and they’re all kind of amazed. Again, not that somebody had an idea, but somebody actually implemented this whole thing is it’s really honorable(?) I think. Brady: Since recording with Tadashi, we’ve shed a bit more light on the identity of the mysterious prime number creator, JF McKee. It is in fact James McKee. Here he is around the time he was a research fellow in Pure Mathematics at Trinity Hall and here he is now where he’s a full professor at Royal Holloway. I did chat with him on the phone and by email, and if you’d like to find out more, have a look in the video description. *Tap, Tap* Tadashi: And the point farthest from the handle *Tap, Tap, Tap* *Tap* *Tap* Behave exactly the same way whereas 45 degrees off *Tap, Tap, Tap* *Higher Tap, Tap, Tap* *Tap, Tap, Tap* *Higher Tap, Tap, Tap* You get the hi-

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