Talcum Power

If primes are like diamonds, powers of 2 are like talc. Primes don’t crumble under division, because they can’t be divided by any number but themselves and one. Powers of 2 crumble more than any other numbers. The contrast is particularly strong when the primes are Mersenne primes, or equal to a power of 2 minus 1:

3 = 4-1 = 2^2 – 1.
4, 2, 1.

7 = 8-1 = 2^3 – 1.
8, 4, 2, 1.

31 = 32-1 = 2^5 – 1.
32, 16, 8, 4, 2, 1.

127 = 2^7 – 1.
128, 64, 32, 16, 8, 4, 2, 1.

8191 = 2^13 – 1.
8192, 4096, 2048, 1024, 512, 256, 128, 64, 32, 16, 8, 4, 2, 1.

131071 = 2^17 – 1.
131072, 65536, 32768, 16384, 8192, 4096, 2048, 1024, 512, 256, 128, 64, 32, 16, 8, 4, 2, 1.

524287 = 2^19 – 1.
524288, 262144, 131072, 65536, 32768, 16384, 8192, 4096, 2048, 1024, 512, 256, 128, 64, 32, 16, 8, 4, 2, 1.

2147483647 = 2^31 – 1.
2147483648, 1073741824, 536870912, 268435456, 134217728, 67108864, 33554432, 16777216, 8388608, 4194304, 2097152, 1048576, 524288, 262144, 131072, 65536, 32768, 16384, 8192, 4096, 2048, 1024, 512, 256, 128, 64, 32, 16, 8, 4, 2, 1.

Are Mersenne primes infinite? If they are, then there will be just as many Mersenne primes as powers of 2, even though very few powers of 2 create a Mersenne prime. That’s one of the paradoxes of infinity: an infinite part is equal to an infinite whole.

But are they infinite? No-one knows, though some of the greatest mathematicians in history have tried to find a proof or disproof of the conjecture. A simpler question about powers of 2 is this: Does every integer appear as part of a power of 2? I can’t find one that doesn’t:

0 is in 1024 = 2^10.
1 is in 16 = 2^4.
2 is in 32 = 2^5.
3 is in 32 = 2^5.
4 = 2^2.
5 is in 256 = 2^8.
6 is in 16 = 2^4.
7 is in 32768 = 2^15.
8 = 2^3.
9 is in 4096 = 2^12.
10 is in 1024 = 2^10.
11 is in 1099511627776 = 2^40.
12 is in 128 = 2^7.
13 is in 131072 = 2^17.
14 is in 262144 = 2^18.
15 is in 2097152 = 2^21.
16 = 2^4.
17 is in 134217728 = 2^27.
18 is in 1073741824 = 2^30.
19 is in 8192 = 2^13.
20 is in 2048 = 2^11.

666 is in 182687704666362864775460604089535377456991567872 = 2^157.
1066 is in 43556142965880123323311949751266331066368 = 2^135.
1492 is in 356811923176489970264571492362373784095686656 = 2^148.
2014 is in 3705346855594118253554271520278013051304639509300498049262642688253220148477952 = 2^261.

I’ve tested much higher than that, but testing is no good: where’s a proof? I don’t have one, though I conjecture that all integers do appear as part or whole of a power of 2. Nor do I have a proof for another conjecture: that all integers appear infinitely often as part or whole of powers of 2. Or indeed, of powers of 3, 4, 5 or any other number except powers of 10.

I conjecture that this would apply in all bases too: In any base b all n appear infinitely often as part or whole of powers of any number except those equal to a power of b.

1 is in 11 = 2^2 in base 3.
2 is in 22 = 2^3 in base 3.
10 is in 1012 = 2^5 in base 3.
11 = 2^2 in base 3.
12 is in 121 = 2^4 in base 3.
20 is in 11202 = 2^7 in base 3.
21 is in 121 = 2^4 in base 3.
22 = 2^3 in base 3.
100 is in 100111 = 2^8 in base 3.
101 is in 1012 = 2^5 in base 3.
102 is in 2210212 = 2^11 in base 3.
110 is in 1101221 = 2^10 in base 3.
111 is in 100111 = 2^8 in base 3.
112 is in 11202 = 2^7 in base 3.
120 is in 11202 = 2^7 in base 3.
121 = 2^4 in base 3.
122 is in 1101221 = 2^10 in base 3.
200 is in 200222 = 2^9 in base 3.
201 is in 12121201 = 2^12 in base 3.
202 is in 11202 = 2^7 in base 3.

1 is in 13 = 2^3 in base 5.
2 is in 112 = 2^5 in base 5.
3 is in 13 = 2^3 in base 5.
4 = 2^2 in base 5.
10 is in 1003 = 2^7 in base 5.
11 is in 112 = 2^5 in base 5.
12 is in 112 = 2^5 in base 5.
13 = 2^3 in base 5.
14 is in 31143 = 2^11 in base 5.
20 is in 2011 = 2^8 in base 5.
21 is in 4044121 = 2^16 in base 5.
22 is in 224 = 2^6 in base 5.
23 is in 112341 = 2^12 in base 5.
24 is in 224 = 2^6 in base 5.
30 is in 13044 = 2^10 in base 5.
31 = 2^4 in base 5.
32 is in 230232 = 2^13 in base 5.
33 is in 2022033 = 2^15 in base 5.
34 is in 112341 = 2^12 in base 5.
40 is in 4022 = 2^9 in base 5.

1 is in 12 = 2^3 in base 6.
2 is in 12 = 2^3 in base 6.
3 is in 332 = 2^7 in base 6.
4 = 2^2 in base 6.
5 is in 52 = 2^5 in base 6.
10 is in 1104 = 2^8 in base 6.
11 is in 1104 = 2^8 in base 6.
12 = 2^3 in base 6.
13 is in 13252 = 2^11 in base 6.
14 is in 144 = 2^6 in base 6.
15 is in 101532 = 2^13 in base 6.
20 is in 203504 = 2^14 in base 6.
21 is in 2212 = 2^9 in base 6.
22 is in 2212 = 2^9 in base 6.
23 is in 1223224 = 2^16 in base 6.
24 = 2^4 in base 6.
25 is in 13252 = 2^11 in base 6.
30 is in 30544 = 2^12 in base 6.
31 is in 15123132 = 2^19 in base 6.
32 is in 332 = 2^7 in base 6.

1 is in 11 = 2^3 in base 7.
2 is in 22 = 2^4 in base 7.
3 is in 1331 = 2^9 in base 7.
4 = 2^2 in base 7.
5 is in 514 = 2^8 in base 7.
6 is in 2662 = 2^10 in base 7.
10 is in 1054064 = 2^17 in base 7.
11 = 2^3 in base 7.
12 is in 121 = 2^6 in base 7.
13 is in 1331 = 2^9 in base 7.
14 is in 514 = 2^8 in base 7.
15 is in 35415440431 = 2^30 in base 7.
16 is in 164351 = 2^15 in base 7.
20 is in 362032 = 2^16 in base 7.
21 is in 121 = 2^6 in base 7.
22 = 2^4 in base 7.
23 is in 4312352 = 2^19 in base 7.
24 is in 242 = 2^7 in base 7.
25 is in 11625034 = 2^20 in base 7.
26 is in 2662 = 2^10 in base 7.

1 is in 17 = 2^4 in base 9.
2 is in 152 = 2^7 in base 9.
3 is in 35 = 2^5 in base 9.
4 = 2^2 in base 9.
5 is in 35 = 2^5 in base 9.
6 is in 628 = 2^9 in base 9.
7 is in 17 = 2^4 in base 9.
8 = 2^3 in base 9.
10 is in 108807 = 2^16 in base 9.
11 is in 34511011 = 2^24 in base 9.
12 is in 12212 = 2^13 in base 9.
13 is in 1357 = 2^10 in base 9.
14 is in 314 = 2^8 in base 9.
15 is in 152 = 2^7 in base 9.
16 is in 878162 = 2^19 in base 9.
17 = 2^4 in base 9.
18 is in 218715 = 2^17 in base 9.
20 is in 70122022 = 2^25 in base 9.
21 is in 12212 = 2^13 in base 9.
22 is in 12212 = 2^13 in base 9.

The Brain in Train

I feel odd when I consider this possibility: that all my thoughts are strictly determined, no more under my control than a straw in a gale or a stone in an avalanche. It seems paradoxical to have strictly determined thoughts about strictly determined thoughts. But is it? And is strict determinism fatal for finding the truth? I don’t think so. In fact, I think that strict determinism is essential for truth. But irrelevant associations get in the way of our understanding this. If our thoughts are determined, they seem like automatic trains running on rigid tracks. We might want to go to the station marked “Truth”, but if the switches are set wrong, the train will never get there. Or it will thunder through and never stop.


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Neuclid on the Block

How many blows does it take to demolish a wall with a hammer? It depends on the wall and the hammer, of course. If the wall is reality and the hammer is mathematics, you can do it in three blows, like this:

α’. Σημεῖόν ἐστιν, οὗ μέρος οὐθέν.
β’. Γραμμὴ δὲ μῆκος ἀπλατές.
γ’. Γραμμῆς δὲ πέρατα σημεῖα.

1. A point is that of which there is no part.
2. A line is a length without breadth.
3. The extremities of a line are points.

That is the astonishing, world-shattering opening in one of the strangest – and sanest – books ever written. It’s twenty-three centuries old, was written by an Alexandrian mathematician called Euclid (fl. 300 B.C.), and has been pored over by everyone from Abraham Lincoln to Bertrand Russell by way of Edna St. Vincent Millay. Its title is highly appropriate: Στοιχεῖα, or Elements. Physical reality is composed of chemical elements; mathematical reality is composed of logical elements. The second reality is much bigger – infinitely bigger, in fact. In his Elements, Euclid slipped the bonds of time, space and matter by demolishing the walls of reality with a mathematical hammer and escaping into a world of pure abstraction.

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