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Perfect Number Quotes (6 quotes)

230(231-1) ... is the greatest perfect number known at present, and probably the greatest that ever will be discovered; for; as they are merely curious without being useful, it is not likely that any person will attempt to find a number beyond it.
In An Elementary Investigation of the Theory of Numbers (1811), 43. The stated number, which evaluates as 2305843008139952128 was discovered by Euler in 1772 as the eighth known perfect number. It has 19 digits. By 2013, the 48th perfect number found had 34850340 digits.
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It is profitable nevertheless to permit ourselves to talk about 'meaningless' terms in the narrow sense if the preconditions to which all profitable operations are subject are so intuitive and so universally accepted as to form an almost unconscious part of the background of the public using the term. Physicists of the present day do constitute a homogenous public of this character; it is in the air that certain sorts of operation are valueless for achieving certain sorts of result. If one wants to know how many planets there are one counts them but does not ask a philosopher what is the perfect number.
Reflections of a Physicist (1950), 6.
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The theory of numbers is particularly liable to the accusation that some of its problems are the wrong sort of questions to ask. I do not myself think the danger is serious; either a reasonable amount of concentration leads to new ideas or methods of obvious interest, or else one just leaves the problem alone. “Perfect numbers” certainly never did any good, but then they never did any particular harm.
In A Mathematician’s Miscellany (1953). Reissued as Bιla Bollobαs (ed.), Littlewood’s Miscellany (1986), 74.
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These works [the creation of the world] are recorded to have been completed in six days … because six is a perfect number … [and] the perfection of the works was signified by the number six.
From De Civitate Dei (early 400s), as translated by Marcus Dods, collected in The Works of Aurelius Augustine (1871), Vol. 1: 'Of the Perfection of the Number Six, which is the First of the Numbers Which is Composed of its Aliquot Parts', The City of God, Book 11, sect. 30, 474. Also seen translated as “Six is a number perfect in itself, and not because God created the world in six days; rather the contrary is true. God created the world in six days because this number is perfect, and it would remain perfect, even if the work of the six days did not exist.” [Note: 6 can be exactly divided (excluding itself) by 1, 2 or 3. It is a perfect number because those possible divisors also add up to a sum of 6.]
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[The screw machine] was on the principle of the guage or sliding lathe now in every workshop throughout the world; the perfection of which consists in that most faithful agent gravity, making the joint, and that almighty perfect number three, which is in harmony itself. I was young when I learned that principle. I had never seen my grandmother putting a chip under a three-legged milking-stool; but she always had to put a chip under a four-legged table, to keep it steady. I cut screws of all dimensions by this machine, and did them perfectly. (1846)
Quoted in ASME International and Heritage Committee, Landmarks in Mechanical Engineering.
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~~[Orphan]~~ Perfect numbers like perfect men are very rare.
Appears without citation in Howard W. Eves, Mathematical Circles Squared (1972), 7, and it is noted with the fact that only 12 perfect numbers were known in Descartes’ time. Webmaster regards this as an orphan (better regarded as anonymous), and has so far been unable to trace a primary source in the work of Descartes. Can you help?
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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