February 14, 2010 8:03 PM Subscribe

Whose prime is 27? I remember that 27 is called So-And-So's Prime because he said in a lecture, "take any prime, say, twenty-seven..." but I can't remember who said this (and googling only gives me pages about how 27 isn't a prime number).

posted by joannemerriam to Science & Nature (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

posted by joannemerriam to Science & Nature (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

I think that's the point. It's a verbal mistake someone made.

posted by drjimmy11 at 8:22 PM on February 14, 2010

The point is that some mathematicians, despite *studying* prime numbers, don't actually know which numbers are prime. If I'm right in attributing this to Grothendieck, it's worth pointing out that Grothendieck is well-known as a proponent of a very abstract approach to mathematics. More than that I won't say, despite being a mathematician, because I don't think I can competently explain it.

posted by madcaptenor at 8:28 PM on February 14, 2010

posted by madcaptenor at 8:28 PM on February 14, 2010

I'm not having that little o! of recognition for the name Grothendieck but that doesn't mean he's not the guy I'm thinking of. His prime being 57 works nearly as well for my purposes, which is to make a joke for a mathematician friend.

posted by joannemerriam at 8:42 PM on February 14, 2010

posted by joannemerriam at 8:42 PM on February 14, 2010

One striking characteristic of Grothendieck’s mode of thinking is that it seemed to rely so little on examples. This can be seen in the **legend of the so-called “Grothendieck prime**”.

In a mathematical conversation, someone suggested to Grothendieck that they should consider a particular prime number. “You mean an actual number?” Grothendieck asked. The other person replied, yes, an actual prime number. Grothendieck suggested, “All right,take 57.”

--From a blog.

posted by exphysicist345 at 10:15 PM on February 14, 2010

In a mathematical conversation, someone suggested to Grothendieck that they should consider a particular prime number. “You mean an actual number?” Grothendieck asked. The other person replied, yes, an actual prime number. Grothendieck suggested, “All right,take 57.”

--From a blog.

posted by exphysicist345 at 10:15 PM on February 14, 2010

[few comments removed - this is not a math joke thread]

posted by jessamyn at 6:56 AM on February 15, 2010

posted by jessamyn at 6:56 AM on February 15, 2010

Nthing that it's definitely Grothendieck and 57.

posted by madmethods at 11:39 AM on February 15, 2010

posted by madmethods at 11:39 AM on February 15, 2010

This thread is closed to new comments.

See the end of the first page of this article about Alexandre Grothendieck from the

Notices of the American Mathematical Society.posted by madcaptenor at 8:08 PM on February 14, 2010