Tuesday, April 18, 2006

RSA Challenge Numbers and Charity

Quick, factor the following number:


Stuck? Here's the answer:

2967592699 *

16041159971726177 *

9683406594781834082081 *


Thanks to IBM and a mathematical tool called a "Quadratic Sieve", the above took my computer a few seconds. While the number was relatively easy because it had four factors, RSA Challenge Numbers are much tougher. So tough, in fact, that RSA is paying money to those able to factor some of these numbers.

I won't get into the math behind them, but the IBM software linked above is built for a grid computing environment, making it easy to split the task. So here's my idea: why not have people donate their computing time to solve these numbers and give the money to charity? People are not always interested in giving money, and through this method, people just donate their computing time. Programs like this exist, but none that I know of that directly result in a donation (all others lead to research).

Just a thought - might be worth looking into this summer.


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