Prime Numbers

We’re chatting at work today when Elvis says his kids are going to be in prime numbers next year. By this, he meant grade 3, 5 and 9. Sunny and I look up from our coffees and say that 9 isn’t a prime number. Elvis gets into a rant about how he can never remember what are and aren’t, and how can you count the past 100.

Me? “101, 103, 107, 111, 113, 121, 127…”

Elvis asks about 117, to which I explain the whole ‘if the numbers add up to a number divisible by three, then the number’s divisible by three.’ This is not a huge concept.

See, 18 is 3 times 6. 1 plus 8 is 9. 9 is 3 times 3. This is really only useful when you get to 117 and all (1+1+7=9) and you’re trying to figure out prime numbers or lowest common denominators.

But when Elvis and Sunny eyed me and started throwing out numbers, demanding to know if they were prime or not, and I answered, they wanted to know why I was geeking and not doing theoretical math.


My Dad’s better at math than I am, I’m just a cheerful hobbyist. I have moments of immaculate clarity, but for the most part I’m a slightly above average mathematician. Also, geeking pays better.

This brings me around to another chat I was having, recently, when a friend of mine argued that it was impossible for the charts we used in a game to be inaccurate as to locations. He said that since the game books stated that the people had been working on these charts for 100 years (give or take), and that since very experienced smart people worked on the charts, they were going to be right.

My argument is that it’s statistically impossible for anyone to be 100% accurate on anything. Just because we have the math to figure out the patterns doesn’t mean that we’re always right. And it also doesn’t mean that we’ve taken into account every variable.

We ended up agreeing to disagree, though privately I think we both feel the other is dead wrong.

The joke I used to tell was that even Einstein was wrong a few times! After all, he did get E=mc^2, but he started out with A and had to work up to E.