Science: The Longest Root

Since ancient times, mathematicians have been fascinated by the problem of determining the square root of 2 —that number which, when multiplied by itself, will equal 2. As early as 1750 B.C., the Babylonians computed a value that was accurate to five decimal places (1.41421). By 1967, researchers in England, working with a computer, had stretched the answer to 100,000 digits. Now a Columbia University mathematician has surpassed even that prodigious effort. In what may well be the lengthiest computation of a mathematical constant of all time, Jacques Dutka has calculated the square...

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