Largest-ever damages sought

Anton Purisma has launched a civil rights suit against an airport Au Bon Pain restaurant; he's asking for $2,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. That would be two undecillion dollars. Cory 25

Museum of Four in the Morning

"Four in the morning" appears with strange frequency in movies, TV, art, and culture. The Museum of Four In The Morning collects such references. Submit yours!

Dictionary of Numbers: browser extension humanizes the numbers on the Web

Dictionary of Numbers is a Chrome extension that watches your browsing activity for mentions of large numerical measurements and automatically inserts equivalences in real-world terms that are meant to clarify things. For example, a story about a 300,000 acre forest fire would be annotated to note that this is about the area of LA or Hong Kong; or that 315 million people is about the population of the USA.

I noticed that my friends who were good at math generally rely on "landmark quantities", quantities they know by heart because they relate to them in human terms. They know, for example, that there are about 315 million people in the United States and that the most damaging Atlantic hurricanes cost anywhere from $20 billion to $100 billion. When they explain things to me, they use these numbers to give me a better sense of context about the subject, turning abstract numbers into something more concrete.

When I realized they were doing this, I thought this process could be automated, that perhaps through contextual descriptions people could become more familiar with quantities and begin evaluating and reasoning about them. There are many ways of approaching this problem, but given that most of the words we read are probably inside web browsers,** It might be interesting to to develop a similar system for use in spoken lectures. I decided to build a Chrome extension that inserts human explanations of numbers into web pages.

Dictionary of Numbers

(via XKCD blog)

Another prime number down, infinity to go

There are 17 million digits in the largest prime number we know of, so far. Its discovery is part of an ongoing distributed computing project aimed at exposing the existence of ever larger prime numbers, largely because prime numbers are there — flagrantly going around, only being divisible by themselves and the number 1. We'll show them, won't we? The Electronic Frontier Foundation foundation, for instance, is currently offering a $150,000 bounty for the first folks to bring in a 100-million-digit prime.

More than 1000 shots fired in happiness in Birmingham, AL

One of the things I loved about the two years I lived in Birmingham, AL: Being in a place where people openly and un-ironically fired guns into the air in order to celebrate things. This was something new to me, despite being raised a good country family with high levels of gun ownership. But that was in Kansas. Viva la difference, southern US! For instance, on the 4th of July, 2012, the Birmingham police recorded 1,098 incidents of gunfire (they have a detection system that's able to distinguish between gunshots and fireworks). In 2011, there were only 75 gunshots recorded. In 2010, 495. Which leads me to wonder: Is this random, or is there some factor leading to an increase in celebratory gunfire over the last three years? What social and economic factors affect the number of bullets people are willing to pump into the air?(Via Stan Diel)