Thursday, 14 July 2011

Google bids Pi for Nortel patents

Those nerdy Google engineers. Recently the company and others like Apple and Microsoft were in a bidding war for the spoils of the bankrupt Nortel Networks. At one point, Google bid $3.14159 billion. What? *chuckles* Well, for heaven's sake and obvious to any math whiz, that's the number Pi, that is, the mathematical constant whose value is the ratio of any circle's circumference to its diameter. Now that's hilarious. Here's a company, a huge company, bidding in a manner that you can only label as tongue in cheek. Just how geeky is it to be bidding, and I mean legitimately bidding, in an auction using a mathematical constant?

But that wasn't all. During the auction which saw Google squared off against a six-strong consortium including Apple, Microsoft, BlackBerry maker RIM and Sony, the search engine company put up other oddball amounts like $1,902,160,540 and $2,614,972,128. Not recognizable? They are respectively Brun's constant (the number obtained by adding the reciprocals of the odd twin primes) and the Meissel-Mertens constant, another prime-related number. I'm sorry. This is truly nerdy but considering the size of the dollar offers, this is quite funny.

Apparently this isn't the first time the company has shown a penchant for obscure mathematical jokes. In 2004 when it filed its initial public offering, it tried to raise $2,718,281,828, a multiple of e, the exponential constant. Let's not forget that the company's founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are both computer scientists.

In the end, Google lost out in the bidding when the consortium won with a $4.5 billion bid. Reports said that Google had set a ceiling on its bidding at $4 billion but those reports also stated the Google did have $36.7 billion in cash so could have gone higher. The pundits can sort out the reasoning why.

Whatever the case, it is amusing to see these odd bids. Those computer people can have such a wicked (and nerdy) sense of humour!

Published on Jul 1, 2011 by Euronews
Nortel's patents sold to group including Apple, RIM
Apple and Research In Motion are part of a winning consortium of six companies buying bankrupt Nortel Networks' remaining portfolio of 6,000 patents and patent applications. The group includes Microsoft, EMC, Sweden's Ericsson and Sony.


Reuters - July 1/2011
Dealtalk: Google bid "pi" for Nortel patents and lost

Guardian - July 2/2011
Easy as pi: how Google bid against Apple and Microsoft for patents

Wikipedia: Pi
π (sometimes written pi) is a mathematical constant whose value is the ratio of any circle's circumference to its diameter; this is the same value as the ratio of a circle's area to the square of its radius. π is approximately equal to 3.14159 in the usual decimal positional notation. Many formulae from mathematics, science, and engineering involve π, which makes it one of the most important mathematical constants.

Wikipedia: Brun's theorem
In mathematics, Brun's theorem is a result in number theory proved by Viggo Brun in 1919. It states that the sum of the reciprocals of the twin primes (pairs of prime numbers which differ by 2) is convergent with a finite value known as Brun's constant, usually denoted by B2. It has historical importance in the introduction of sieve methods.

By calculating the twin primes up to 1014 (and discovering the Pentium FDIV bug along the way), Thomas R. Nicely heuristically estimated Brun's constant to be 1.902160578.

Wikipedia: Meissel–Mertens constant
The Meissel–Mertens constant (named after Ernst Meissel and Franz Mertens), also referred to as Mertens constant, Kronecker's constant, Hadamard–de la Vallée-Poussin constant or prime reciprocal constant, is a mathematical constant in number theory, defined as the limiting difference between the harmonic series summed only over the primes and the natural logarithm of the natural logarithm.

The value of M is approximately 0.2614972128476427837554268386086958590516...


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