15 Jul 2011
Taken alone, pure mathematics and patent auctions are not things you associate with crayzee high-jinks. Taken together, they'd surely be enough to send you lolling into some kind of senseless stupor.
So imagine my amazement upon learning that the good-time guys and girls at Google came up with a thoroughly bonkers way of combining them.
According to Reuters, at an auction last week for a job-lot of Nortel patents (remember those guys?), onlookers were puzzled as Google bid a series of bizarrely precise numbers, including $1,902,160,540 and $2,614,972,128.
When the bid crept up to $3bn, Google charged in with a $3.14159bn offer. The more academically minded among you may have picked these numbers out as Brun's constant, the Meissel-Mertens constant and, my favourite mathematical constant (and when I say favourite, I mean the only one I've ever heard of), pi.
Apparently, those wacky search engine funsters have so much moolah that they can amuse themselves with some kind of eye-wateringly expensive parlour game where they chuck around billions of dollars based on arbitrary figures such as the distance between the earth and the sun.
I actually enjoy a similarly risky high-stakes game myself: I directly correlate my sales guys' commission to the Orient's fluctuating league position. Over the years, it's worked out pretty well for me.
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