A Billboard That Gives Extra Credit

We’ve heard it can be a good thing if an ad makes you work a bit, but this is ridiculous.

Drivers on Highway 101 in Silicon Valley recently noticed a terrifying addition to the landscape—a billboard that read, cryptically, “{First 10-digit prime found in consecutive digits of e}.com.” Evidently it was a math problem, and not an easy one. But what could it mean?

When it comes to übermath, Shoptalk doesn’t know his asymptote from a hole in the graph (that’s a lame math joke we learned from Mr. Logsdon in high school). Suffice it to say that e is the limit of (1 + 1/n)n as n tends to infinity, and its value is somewhere around 2.718281828459045235. We have no clue how to find the first 10- digit prime number in consecutive digits of e, but luckily some whizzes we found online did (one after writing “a little python script”). Adding “.dom” to the answer led them to a Web site where an even tougher math problem lay in wait. The hardy souls who figured out that one were sent to yet another site, where they learned the intent of the ad campaign. It’s a recruitment effort by Google to find engineers—the second Web page is a company job-application site.

“We’ve always worked hard to hire the smartest engineers we can find, and we thought this would be a cool way to find a few more. Perhaps including you,” Google wrote last week when it owned up to the campaign on its blog.

Our only hope is that Google’s next ad puzzle is a crossword and that they’ll be looking for writers.