On the left, an Ancient Greek gold and carnelian finger ring with an intaglio of a bull, dated to the 4th century BCE. On the right, a gold Hellenistic snake ring, dated to the first century BCE. Both images were found on Christie’s.

Ancient Greek algorithm could be used to find inconceivably large prime numbers

Ancient Greek civilization might have fallen a few thousand years ago, but their philosophy, art and analytical tools remain useful today. In fact, one of the world’s top mathematicians believes that an algorithm that makes use of an ancient Greek device called the “sieve of Eratosthenes” could be the key to discovering all-new, inconceivably large prime numbers, reports Science Alert.

Prime numbers have always been a big deal to mathematicians, and ever since Euclid (another ancient Greek) proved the infinitude of the primes, the race has been on to discover the largest ones. There is even a hefty financial incentive for modern number hunters: a $150,000 prize for the person who finds the first 100-million-digit prime.

Getting a firm handle on the geography of Ancient Greece both answers and raises questions.

On the one hand, the logistics of all those huge military campaigns make a lot more sense once you realise that many of the great city-states were basically within walking distance of each other. In many cases, those logistics boil down to less “establish a supply train” and more “well, make sure you pack a snack”.

On the other hand, all those episodes where great heroes spend years lost in the wilderness or adrift at sea become more difficult to reconcile. It’s like… how can you possibly get that lost for that long? If you found a good-size hill to climb, you can practically see your destination from your starting point!

It is a puzzlement.