Mersenne primes and the bailout bill

Here’s an interesting number: $11,315,000,000,000.  That’s the new limit on public debt proposed by today’s draft of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008.  That’s a pretty big number, slightly over (slightly?) 11 trillion dollars.

Here’s another one: 243,112,609-1.  The Guardian reports that researchers have found the largest-yet Mersenne prime, a number with nearly 13 million digits.  Mersenne primes are prime numbers that can also be expressed as 2n-1.  Seven is a Mersenne prime because it’s 2³ – 1.  According to Science News, only 46 Mersenne primes have been found so far.

Well, that puts everything into perspective.  The public debt is only 14 digits, a paltry figure compared to the newest Mersenne prime.  Even better, the $700 billion bailout package represents a mere (mere!!) 6.59% increase over the current statutory public debt limit of $10,615,000,000,000 under 31 U.S.C. § 3101(b).

Don’t you feel better now?  I know I do.

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