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Around Ireland Cavan maths

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Patrick Markey

It was a puzzle that had stumped the world’s greatest minds for 350 years

But a Cavan man has managed to solve the conundrum.

Running special software on 40 computers for two months, St. Patrick’s College lecturer John B. Cosgrave has cracked the vexing mathematics question, reports The Examiner newspaper.

So big is the number, the 10th largest known prime, that it would be a practical impossibility to write it down: it would occupy a blackboard measuring 10 to the power of 57,550 light years square. And that’s with four digits per inch.

"I’ve been trying to explain this to people over the last three weeks," Cosgrove said.

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"It’s there, it’s a thing, it is done."

Cosgrave said he fell in love with number theory while a boy in school, read some advanced texts on it, went to London University and got a doctorate.

Although first to the magic number, Cosgrove acknowledges a whole team of mathematicians linked by the Internet around the world. The 53-year-old shares the credit for last month’s breakthrough with French engineer Yves Gallot, who designed the computer program.

"Although they don’t know it, what they’re actually using is the realization of an application of this incredible piece of mathematics from the middle of the 17th century," Cosgrave said.

Trouble down under

The Aussies want Ireland’s Book of Kells for the millennium.

But they might not get them.

Fearing accidental damage to Ireland’s national object, officials in Dublin are reluctant to lend the treasure for an exhibition in Canbarra, reports the Irish Independent.

The Department of Arts and Heritage has confirmed Trinity College has requested one of the four volumes of the book for Australia’s National Museum.

Two experts from Trinity have been in Canberra to inspect the security arrangements and conditions in which the Book would be displayed.

While the keeper of the Book of Kells at Trinity, Dr. Bernard Meehan, was not available for comment last night, the two officials were satisfied with the arrangements.

But concerns that "this fragile and precious art object" could be inadvertently damaged in transit or while on display could scupper the loan plan, according to the paper.

Government officials are consulting a council of the national cultural institutions before making her decision.

The director of the National Gallery of Australia, Brian Kennedy, is a former assistant director of the National Gallery in Ireland. Kennedy hopes the display will mark the importance of the Irish Diaspora in Australia.

The Book of Kells was last outside the country during the l980s when it was on display in the United States.

Speak and be damned

It was only a few short sentences.

But that was enough to get one Connacht teen into a whole lot of trouble.

A student at an Irish college based in the Connemara Gaeltacht, the 15-year-old was kicked out of school recently. Not for swearing, cursing, but for having the temerity to speak English.

The Connacht Tribune reports that the school defended its policy of dismissing students for speaking in a language other than Irish. The headmaster of Colaiste Sheosaimh Teo in Cill Chiarain said there were no exceptions to the strict rule.The teen’s parents were shocked when their daughter was sent home during the course for speaking four sentences in English.

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