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In the News, September 28, 2008

Hurricane Kyle

Hurricane Kyle is heading toward Nova Scotia and the Gulf of Maine. This marks Maine's first hurricane watch in 17 years. Kyle has passed over the Atlantic off New Jersey on a northward trek that threatened to bring flooding and damaging winds inland.


Tina Fey Does Sarah Again

Image: Tina Fey
Tina Fey reprised her role as Sarah Palin on "Saturday Night Live."

Last night's show brought back the season premiere duoof Fey and Amy Poehler, who opened the season with a memorable sketch featuring Fey as Palin and Poehler as Hillary Clinton.

This time around, Poehler played CBS's Katie Couric, parodying the interview with Palin.

When Poehler's Couric pushed Fey's Palin to specifically discuss how she would help facilitate democracy abroad, Fey gave in: "Katie, I'd like to use one of my lifelines. ... I want to phone a friend."

A 13 million-digit prime number

This may be over all of our heads but, let's go for it. Mathematicians at UCLA have discovered a 13 million-digit prime number. This discovery makes them eligible for a $100,000 prize.

The group found the 46th known Mersenne prime last month on a network of 75 computers running Windows XP. The number was verified by a different computer system running a different algorithm.

As learned in the 4th grade, primes are numbers like three, seven and 11 that are divisible by only two whole positive numbers: themselves and one. Mersenne primes -- named for their discoverer, 17th-century French mathematician Marin Mersenne -- are expressed as 2P-1, or two to the power of "P" minus one. P is itself a prime number. For the new prime, P is 43,112,609.

The $100,000 prize is being offered by the Electronic Frontier Foundation for finding the first Mersenne prime with more than 10 million digits. The foundation supports individual rights on the Internet and set up the prime number prize to promote cooperative computing using the Web.

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